Monica Bielanko
That's What She Said
Just A Junk Drawer Dream
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He's Wearing A Peenus! And I Have A Bachina!

Today she took the steps of the YMCA that houses her little pre-school class like a grown-up. Right foot on one step, left foot on the next. None of this step-together-step-together nonsense for her.

And part of me died.

But two minutes later, for only the second time ever, she started sobbing when I attempted to leave her with her class who was in the midst of pledging allegiance to the flag and my little girl was back, needing mom more than ever.

We're having full conversations now. Awesome stuff. About her friends in class "Timmy hit me!", the books she likes, her favorite dinosaurs (Pteradactyl, for the record. Last week was a T-Rex week) She's having conversations with her dad too, but apparently some of those aren't quite as joyous, for him, anyway.

Yesterday, as we climbed those same steps to the YMCA a man and his child were right behind us and, as the man struggled to pretend he couldn't hear us, our conversation went thusly:

Violet: Look mom, it's a boy!

Me: Yep. You're right. He's a boy.

Violet: (Pointing) He's wearing a pee-nus!

Me: (Hurrying her along) Yes.

Violet: I have a ba-china! (Pronounced buh-chyna)

Me: (Quietly, yet still answering so as not to dim her enthusiasm for anatomy and whatnot) Yes. That's right.

Violet (Loudly) Boys wear a pee-nus and girls have a ba-china.

Me: (No response)


Me: Yes, Violet. Yes! You got it.

Bachina. Her interpretation of vagina which I said to her once after she pointed to herself and asked what it was. Previously I had wondered what I'd say when this time came. As I've mentioned, I'm not a fan of cutesy little names for body parts. I remember reading a string of comments somewhere in which several people said their parents called their private parts everyday words, I think one woman’s parents called her vagina a ‘doughnut’ and she said doughnuts were forever ruined for her. Can you imagine? A life in which doughnuts are gross? A live not worth living, I say. Completely and utterly tragic. Even more completely and utterly tragic in a totally different way: my grandma called penises "shamers". As in - "When you're in the tub make sure you warsh yer shamer real good". Shamer. Yeah. That should give you some kind of clue as to my sexual hang-ups stemming from Mormonism.

The doughnut story (and the shamer business) is the reason I went with penis and vagina when asked by Violet about Henry's foreign bits and then her own. But still, the terms sound so clinical, which is why I don't really correct Violet when she says bachina. It's a made up word that is a mispronunciation of the original word that eventually she'll begin pronouncing correctly. Or not. Maybe we'll make a life joke out of it, you know? Of course, she may ultimately develop a bad association with vagina and China but, well, the country has a terrible record of treating anything with vaginas horribly so perhaps that isn't too far off anyway.

What about you? What do your kids call their parts? What did your parents call yours?

Reader Comments (26)

We say vagina and penis. Would it be bad if we trained her to say "Girls have a vagina, boys have a penis" and raise her fists on her first day of school like in Kindergarten Cop?

July 17, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterStacy

My cousin is a pediatrician who, unfortunately, works a lot with child abuse cases. She encouraged us to teach our kids the real words, as cutesy words do not hold up in court. If a kid was being abused but said, "my dad ate my donut" it would be pretty difficult to prosecute. Admittedly, though, we use both real and cutesy. My son once whispered to my husband, "does Mommy peepee out of her butt? She doesn't have leenee!"

July 17, 2012 | Unregistered Commentersteph

WEll, I'm all for teaching them correct terminology and teaching them about sex and sexuality, in age-appropriate terms, from day one. Why? Because there is nothing cute about a teenager who doesn't know the correct terms for their body parts, knows nothing about sex or birth control and ends up uncomfortable in their own skin because their own parents are too uncomfortable with penis and vagina and have hangups about their own sexuality. Not teaching the correct words is shaming. Do you want your child to grow up ashamed to have a penis or vagina? NO. You don't. Too many people are far too hung up on this stuff. The reason kids use those words for fun and to be silly is because they know other people will react. If folks stopped over reacting and instead chilled out? Vagina wouldn't have any more weight than shin or knee or nose or ear. Of course, people have funny looking ears. But my point? Sex is sex. People do it, just like breathing. No shame in it.

July 17, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterThe Domestic Goddess

We definitely use the right words in this house. But cute words can be funny too. For example, my three year old said, "this is my penis but I can call it a ding ding for a joke, right mom?". Of course, because ding ding is hilarious!!

July 17, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLeah

I called mine a Duhtee. No idea why. But I also learned the proper names at a very young age as well.

July 17, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLiz

Actually, girl parts are super-confusing. External genitalia is not a vagina. We don't urinate from our vaginas nor are labia vaginal in any way. So it is hard. I tell my three year old daughter she has a vulva, the collective name for external genitalia. And she hates saying the word. Why are private part names all so horrible? Scrotum anyone?

July 17, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMelissa

Steph - I am a social worker who used to interview kids in those cases, and that's exactly what I was going to say. Not only does it not hold up in court, but interviewers have a hell of a time figuring out what the child is talking about when they are describing incidents. Sorry to freak anyone out, but you wanna know what actually did (or hopefully, did not) happen with your kid.

After doing that work for five years, my future children will learn the correct names for all private and private-related parts and be able to label them on a chart with correct spelling (ok, maybe not that last part).

July 17, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterStefanie

We definitely use the correct terms, but in everyday conversations I just refer to my little girls private parts as her private parts. It's much simpler for us than having to use the clinical terms all the time. It's not cutesy but it's still very obvious what we're referring to and if we asked her what her private parts are called she would know that it's her vagina.

July 17, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJen

Youngest (a girl, 4) spent a good part of last weekend asking everyone if they have a baby in their "bajima". (on the heels of a lovely "how does the baby get out of the mommy" convo) Luckily she didn't ask anyone she doesn't know.
They know the proper words.
My younger son (10, also has autism) will remind me almost daily that "Hey Mom you know sometimes people call testicles BALLS. That's funny"

July 17, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterHeather

I surprised myself by using "penis" and "vagina" when my son started pointing out his own (and then his little sister's). So he knows he and Daddy "have a pee-nis" and Mommy and sister "has a va-china." I'm like a commenter above, girl parts that are visible aren't a vagina, but I guess at their ages (2 and almost 1), it's the simplest. I thought I'd come up with something else to call it when the time came, but out came the official terminology. Much better, I'd say, than my mother's, The Queen of Cute Genitalia Names, selections: coochie, poo-poo, cotchamolly, molly, pee-pee... Yeah, vagina and penis in my house.

Incidentally, I work in a medical office where a parent once called in and told the receptionist that her daughter had a problem with her "cookie box." That is just wrong.

July 17, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterlydia

I have always tried to use the correct names, but when they say them wrong it is often so adorable that we all end up saying it. My first daughter, very proper, always used the correct names. My second daughter is a much sillier child (and also likes to talk about her private parts quite often) has had many names for her vagina, including my personal fave: "Bajingo". Currently, at age 6, she has informed us that her vagina is called "Venus" and her butt is called "Fred". Ummm, OK?

July 17, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMaggie

We called vaginas "muffins." So that donut story hits home. Everytime I go into Starbucks I shudder at all the muffins.

July 17, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterErica Guaca

My mom taught us the correct names for everything but for some reason my sister and I refused to use them and called all genitalia, boy or girl, a pee-pee. I'm not sure where we got that from, but my mom would say penis and vagina and we'd say pee-pee.

July 17, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterWidelawns

If people are making the effort to use the 'proper' names for kids' genitals.... perhaps vagina should be replaced with LABIA. No one can really see the vagina unless they're looking inside the body--- right? labia labia labia

July 17, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKaren

Haha funny conversation you had. I guess we're not doing the best job as parents. We've used the clinical words before with the kids but in everyday conversation they say 'dinky' or 'girl parts' but they're still under I think we'll probably get more specific and clinical as they get older. I was taught 'private parts' growing up and I'm no worse for it. The clinical names are just so unpleasant sounding. I agree: scrotum, vulva. :/ blah

July 17, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJess

We tend to call it all "privates" too. Although when my daughter starts asking more I plan to use the real words and not something cutesy. Although when she was around 2 or 3 (she'll be 5 in August) she called everything a butt. Which made it really embarrassing in a crowded public restroom when she shouted out "mommy why does your butt have hair on it and mine doesn't?"

July 18, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLolaK

My lovely militant feminist mama friends are all aboard the labia/penis train. I once referred to a vagina, instead of the proper term, and was schooled/shamed by my friend's three year old son. It was AH-MAZ-ING.

When we were growing up, my mama called the labia a paduker (my brother had a winkie) while my friends called their lady parts a petpet, a shluka, and many many others. However, my FAVORITE, hands down, is the "front butt".

July 18, 2012 | Unregistered Commentergin

This post made me laugh! When my son was 3 or 4 He was riding in the back seat with a little girl I used to baby sit and her mom babysat my kids. I turned down the radio so I couild hear their convo. Right when I turned it down Abby said to Hagen, nuh uh Hagen, boys have PEANUTS and girls have CHINAS.... I about died! Kids are so funny! They are now 13 and 12 and have never lived that convo down!! Thank you for sharing your funny story!

July 18, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAndrea Tischner

After my coworker told the story of how her daughters call it a taco, we went with the real words. I think (hope) that being upfront with my kids about what parts are called and what they are for will help them be more comfortable in their bodies some day. I thought my grandmother was going to faint the first time my then 3-year-old daughter asked her about her bazina. We have gotten some comments from the teachers at preschool about it, apparently they find it weird and told my daughter vagina was a bad word. I guess it all comes down to lots of education on our part.

July 18, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKendra

We totally use the real words at our house too! When I was little, I couldn't say "vagina" and called it "Virginia." People would ask me to repeat all the time (I know now because it was funny and they wanted to hear me say it) and I would think "man, these people are stupid that they can't remember this word!" I did eventually grow out of it and have no negative feelings/associations with the state or name of Virginia as a result. :)

July 18, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterTherese

My daughter who is 14 now use to call it Ba-gina. Just make sure you eventually correct her pronunciation. My daughter was very upset with me when she realized the pronunciation was Va-gina around the age of 7. She was horrified she had been mispronouncing it all along.

July 18, 2012 | Unregistered Commenteramyd

In Canada, there is a city called Regina. Rhymes with Vagina. HILARITY ensured whenever we drove through Regina as a child.

July 18, 2012 | Unregistered Commentergin

...and this is what i mean about the record response(s) on the jewelry giveaway post... come on, people, just 22 comments on this post until now? i mean, this is a much better post, and a more sincere one, after all...
anyway, at four, my daughter, an only child, still knows her (lower?) private parts as, simply and collectively, "bum"... come to think of it, she should be more specific by now... i mean, obviously, younger kids speak better privatepartese... can somebody lend me a rosetta stone dvd for that language, please?

July 18, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterfahrenheit

My sister always uses the correct terms for body parts with my nephew, but his translations are hilarious. According to him, boys have tentacles (aka testicles) and have eruptions (erections). We are trying hard to encourage no shame in his body... but its hard to keep a straight face when he talks about his tentacles.

July 18, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterCaitlyn

Yeah, I still have hangups with all of those terms. Didn't help that no one - absolutely no one - in my family even alluded to sex. It's a rare day to see my parents even get within three feet of each other and when they do, my mother looks extremely uncomfortable.

My therapist is getting rich as a result of my parents and my whacko repressive Mormon up-bringing!

July 18, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterpostmormongirl

For me, having kids means that there will always be someone around who behaves less appropriately than me. Makes me happy. :)

July 19, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterTricia

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