Anatomy Lesson

When we began teaching Nellie her body parts, we agreed that we wouldn’t “rename” any part of her anatomy. We taught her eye, nose, mouth, elbow, so when the time came that she asked, we decided we wouldn’t find cutesy names for genitalia. I’ve never quite understood why people are uncomfortable with the words “penis” and “vagina”. For crying out loud: that’s what they’re called! Why is an adult human calling a penis a “wee wee” more socially acceptable than calling it what it is? I’m not going to teach my daughter that her knee is a “leg bendy-thing” or that her mouth is a “chompy place”, or that her ear is a “hear-y hole”. So why would I teach her that her vagina was anything but a vagina?

I digress. Nellie learned what a penis was when she walked in on Josh coming out of the shower one day. When she pointed at Josh and asked what THAT was, we answered her honestly. We told her it was daddy’s penis. She tilted her head to the side and asked, “I has penis?” We told her that no, she is a girl like mommy, and that she has a vagina. She accepted our answer and bounced off to do whatever it is toddlers do.

A couple of weeks ago, I took her swimming. When we came home, I stripped off her bathing suit (or “baby suit” as Nellie calls it) and pulled her swim diaper down. I threw it in the trash and her suit in the washing machine, and walked into the bathroom. I was sitting on the toilet when my naked bundle of joy came running in.

Me: “What’s up, kiddo?”

My delightful flurry of curls and cute bent her legs at the “leg bendy-thing”, pointed between her legs, and yelled,


She swatted her hands at the empty space between her legs where her imaginary penis was.

Once I’d picked myself up from the floor where I’d fallen off the toilet laughing, I composed myself.
Me: “No, sweetheart. You have a vagina, like mommy.”
Nellie: “NOPE. I HAS A PENIS.”
Me: “Remember how we talked about this? DADDY has a penis, because he is a boy. Mommy and Nellie have a vagina, because they are girls.”
Nellie: “I HAS A PENIS.”
Me: “Vagina, Nellie. You have a vagina.”

She stood up straight, looking at me thoughtfully. She nodded slowly, absorbing my words. She spoke, affirming to herself what she’d finally worked out in her head:

Nellie: “I has a pin-gina.”
Me: “Yes, Nellie has a vagina,” I echoed once I’d collected myself from another fit of giggles on the floor.
Nellie: “Bye!” she ran out of the bathroom, leaving me sitting there and shaking my head, still laughing.

So, my daughter has a pin-gina.  Pin-gina isn’t 100% accurate, but at least she’s getting the right idea.

How do you feel about teaching children about their bodies and using anatomical terms? Am I the only person whose kid has a pin-gina?


  1. Bahahahaha! This cracked me up. Theo and Dexter love their little penises. So much that sometimes Theo would like to check out Dexter’s in the bathtub. So naturally I have to tell him not to touch anyone’s penis but his own. He says “don’t touch Dexter’s peanuts?” Close enough.

  2. Kathryn Lyons says:

    I’m all for the correct anatomical terms for everything. It gets quite awkward when Cade announces to her entire church nursery the difference between girls and boys, however. XD

  3. I think what the commented above said is the main reason for why parents don’t always teach their children the correct anatomical names – what would you prefer they yell out in public? That’s why with some parents, the more obscure, the better.

    With us, Ava calls hers her “nina” (rhymes with gina, not neena), and that basically was what she could say at the time that we told her what she had. And that works just fine for me :)
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  4. Min has a "been-gina". I'm all about teaching them the right terms. I think that's one step against associating shame with our body parts!

  5. Yes, children tell the whole world about their anatomy.
    But I’d rather my son say PENIS loud and clear vs. a wee wee.
    We’re potty training so there’s a lot of emphasis on his penis lately and he seems to enjoy that.
    Kudos to your family for teaching her the proper names of her parts and not to be embarrassed.
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