Ok here we go again. Brace yourselves mamas and papas because today’s topic is surely considered taboo especially for our South Asian culture and will force your daadi (grandmother) to wash your mouth with soap. The other day my 3-year-old was at a desi wedding, a bundle of cute in her desi attire, running around in front of the stage where the bride sat.
A group of aunties were admiring her carefree play until I caught one of them gasp, followed by a “Chee Chee! (voicing disgust)” with a disapproving look.
I looked at my daughter who was holding on to her private area while dashing about. I took her to the side.
“What’s the matter?”
“My vagina.” (Loud enough for the aunty to hear who almost fainted.)
I whisked her to the bathroom to adjust her clothes which were irritating her; proud she was able to communicate her distress to me. Yes folks, I have taught my 3-year-old the anatomically correct name of her private part. This is not commonly done amongst the desi parents I know in fact I don’t recall knowing the correct term myself till grade school. So what has brought on this bout of ‘madness’ and ‘vulgar parenting’?
I recently came across a slew of articles discussing child safety and advice to protect them from every parent’s nightmare, the pedophile. The essence of the message was by teaching our children the actual name of these delicate areas we are empowering them. If you give them so called child-friendly names such as cookie, cupcake, flower, wee-wee, pee-pee, or (if you are desi) completely ignore the general area altogether, you are making the child feel it is something to be ashamed of (by avoiding the real name).
The reasoning that stuck with me is this. Pedophiles are known cowards, they pride in being able to lure young kids by using these cutesy pie names, making it almost wholesome. The moment a child says vagina or penis it presents the situation as REAL, making them self-aware, on alert which will likely scare the pedophile off, saving the child.
My intention is not to scare you but to highlight a serious matter. As I watch my young daughter grow I have to be able to see how the most innocent of her actions can be misconstrued as something other by perverse minds. As parents the only way to protect our children is to be cognizant of the reality of pedophilia especially with sex crimes and human trafficking becoming more rampant and arm our kids with knowledge.
This of course doesn’t mean depriving them of their childhood. Let them enjoy their innocence but do not at any cost adopt the out of sight out of mind thinking, just because it is an uncomfortable issue. For most South Asians, especially the older generation, sex is not a topic to be spoken of ever (despite probably having one of the highest rates of procreation in history- don’t quote me, but just look at our population growth!) hence a lot of shame by association has been passed along with this behind closed doors approach.
But toddlers do not know about sex, nor do they need to be taught that at this age. What they DO need to know is what their private parts are called. So they can communicate with us clearly and with confidence if there is anything wrong. It is an old school thinking that if you teach your daughter to say vagina it will inevitably result in pre-marital sex, leading to dishonour and chastity not worth a dowry!
Let’s break the cycle now and not pass on this cultural baggage onto our children. The toddler age is where they are discovering their body parts, let them explore without causing harm to themselves, without it being a source of embarrassment and without letting them think there is something dirty about just another body part.
If you don’t make an issue of this now, they will have a positive image of their body; they won’t feel the need to be unusually curious or obsessed with it later on. From healthy attitudes stem healthy actions.
Have you taught your kids the correct biological names of the parts of their body? Do you consider it a ‘taboo’? Share your thoughts with us!
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