Man, I struggled with what to call this post. Here are a couple of titles I contemplated:
1) Self-exploration and my 5 year old
2) Your hoo-hoo is supposed to look like that
3) For the love of Pete, don’t scratch yourself down there!
I struggled even more with whether or not to write this post at all, but I wouldn’t be true to myself if I didn’t.
For the last two weeks, my eldest daughter has been complaining that her privates “burn” and “itch” and would emphasize this by screeching bloody murder while doing an awkward dance in which her legs would twist about each other and simultaneously flailing her arms uncontrollably. Of course, her malady only manifested itself when it was time to go to bed – and I of course ignored her incessant cries because of the timing. However, 3 intermittent midnight trips to inform me that her ‘hoo-hoo’ indeed burned convinced me to take her to the doctor, which I did begrudgingly yesterday. I cannot abide another night of lost sleep.
As a mom, there are things that I am prepared to deal with in terms of child rearing. I’m ready for the day that some big-headed boy breaks my baby’s heart; I’m ready for the day that she struggles with whether to keep her virginity or give it up to the first guy who makes her think she’s in love; I’m ready for the day she calls me to tell me how much she hates/loves her new job and blames/thanks me for making her takes certain courses in school. These are things that new parents discuss amongst ourselves. No one ever told me that 5 year-olds touch themselves…and that it is normal. These are not things that are discussed at Kidz n’ Koffee play dates.
“It’s normal?” I asked her pediatrician incredulously. I was watching her examine my baby as she pointed out lacerations on the delicate pink skin inside her labial folds, the result of any number of possible things including over-aggressive scratching, an injury from her bike or a yeast infection from long hours in the pool.
“Yes. Completely,” she reiterated.
She instructed me to put an ointment she’d prescribed between her legs 3 times a day, restrict her to showers from now on, and sent us on our way. That night, as I dressed my baby in her nightie, she peered down between her legs and began to ask me questions. Questions I was not comfortable with. Questions I was not ready to answer.
“Mommy, what’s this?”
“This” was her urethral opening.
“It’s where your pee comes out,” I replied.
“And what’s this hole??”
That “hole” was her vagina. Ugh.
“It’s…uh…just a hole.” ( I wasn’t prepared to inform her that she would one day be tasked with squeezing a baby the size and weight of a bowling ball from that little hole.)
Then she started to thumb things down there. Suddenly, she squealed in horror.
“Look Mommy!!! My skin is all red down there! Is it because my hoo-hoo burned?”
By then I was just dismayed. I resisted the urge to rip off my own panties, part my sweaty legs and show her that my skin was red/pink too… It was ok!
Deep breaths, Malaka. Deep breaths.
“That’s normal, Na. It’s supposed to look like that.”
That’s when I cut her off. I mean, what else could there be to ask?
“Lets get to bed. Good night baby! I love you!”
I fled the room, praying that that would be the last conversation I’d have to have with anyone else about their privates. And then it dawned on me: She has two younger siblings and one yet to be born. Ughhh…
I once read somewhere that you’re supposed to answer your child’s questions about their privates as honestly and without as much drama as possible. This promotes “confidence” and keeps them from developing the notion that said privates are “dirty”. What I don’t recall from this particle article is exactly how one is to go about discussing hoo-hoos and ding-dongs with their kid. I suppose I could start there – by calling things by their proper names. As in: “Son, this is your penis” and “Daughter, this is your…your errr…Just don’t let anybody touch that – ever!!! Ya heard?!?!?”