Why I’m Teaching My Daughter To Call Her “Cookie” Its Proper Name

 I didn’t want a pet name or something cute; I wanted something smarter, something stronger, and something that didn’t compare her sexual identity to a baked-freaking-good.

It happened in a blur: One minute my daughter was babbling and singing during her diaper change, and the next she was spreading her labia aside and, um, exploring. I froze. What should I say? What should I do? What happens next?

Let’s be honest: I knew this would come up eventually, but I didn’t expect it before her second birthday — and certainly not at 18 or 19 months. I thought I had more time to prepare my sex positive spiel. I thought I had more time, time to talk to friends and read books, to formulate my plan of attack. I thought I had more time to figure out what the hell I was going to call “it.”

Was it her cookie? Her hoo-ha? Her pee pee? Her cupcake? Her “front butt”? Or was it simply “her privates”? (I shit you not, all of these names came up in forums as I frantically searched for the right, age-appropriate answer.)

While in that moment I told my daughter to “stop playing with her ‘little girl parts,’” I knew I had to come up with something better. I didn’t want a pet name or something cute; I wanted something smarter, something stronger, and something that didn’t compare her sexual identity to a baked-freaking-good.

And so I settled on two words, two words which could explain exactly what she was “exploring”: vagina and urethra. Sure, these are big, technical names for a two-year-old to understand, but they two very big, and very important, body parts.

I know what you are thinking: There is no way in hell you taught your two-year-old to say urethra, and you’d be right; I haven’t. Right now we refer to the entire area as her genitals and — when she explores — we do address her vagina directly. Why? To take the shame out of it. To take the guilt out of it. To take the absurdity out of it and to put the positivity back in it. To make it as comfortable of a word as “pony,” “book,” or “bath.”

To start the conversation.

But as she gets older we — well, I —  will explain more. (I’m still fairly certain this is a conversation my husband will never be comfortable with.) I will explain that vaginas are where tampons go in and babies go out. I will explain vaginas are just one aspect of her genital region. And I will explain some people are uncomfortable talking about vaginas — some people are put off by the word vagina — but she shouldn’t be. It is natural and, like her hands and feet, it is a part of who she is.

I will also start the sex talk.

At the same time, I will talk to her about her urethra: the small and nearly invisible hole where urine comes from. I will let her know pee passes through this hole much in the same way shit passes through her anus because, well, I just assume we will talk about the anus while we’re at it. And I’ll probably throw the terms labia and vulva in there for good measure. Why? Not to overload her or overburden her, but to teach her. If she can learn about American history — about civil wars and slavery, revolutions, rebellions, and terrorist attacks — she can sure as shit learn about her body in an empowering and educational way.

That said, will they stick? Will these words be the way she refers to her own genitals? Maybe, maybe not. I confess I rarely refer to anything “down there” by its specific name, and I never say urethra…I just say I have to pee. (I know, I know: I’m the epitome of class.) The point is not what she chooses to call it — or if she speaks about it at all. The point is that I am speaking about it. I am allowing her a safe place to speak about it, and I am allowing her to know the facts.

The point is not what she says or what she calls it but that she is comfortable: comfortable with her body and with herself.

And as long as she knows what “it” is I’ve done my job. As long as she has an idea what to call it, if and when she needs to, she will be alright.