Wednesday, September 10, 2003

The Care and Keeping of You is an excellent book and I highly recommend it to all young girls. However (and this is not necessarily a bad thing), it has taught my eight-year-old the "V" word.

The "V" word is one of the hazards of being a mother of girls, as well as being a girl yourself. There is no neutral alternative to the "V" word either, and believe me I've searched for it my entire life. You either come across sounding like a semi-verbal two-year-old or the business end of 1-900-HOT-SEXX.

One of the things I contemplated upon first becoming a mother was how I would call all parts of the anatomy by their proper medical terms and approach all discussions of natural bodily issues with frank, unembarrassed honesty so that my children would grow up free of shame.

For the first years of my daughter's life, I pointedly avoided any nonsense names for the nether regions. In fact, I avoided any names at all. I realized this was a problem when daughter, a well-spoken six-year-old, got kicked in the crotch by another kid and yelled, "Ow, my pancreas!"

By then it was too late to introduce baby names, and I was going to have to teach myself how to say the "V" word without flinching. I asked her again where it hurt, and then said, trying for nonchalant: "You know, it's called your V. . . "

"My what?"

"You know! Your Vuh. . . Um. The thing that's connected to your bladder."

"Oh. Okay."

Later, I overheard her threatening the kid that if he ever kicked her in the bladder again, she'd rip out his pancreas. We were not quite there yet.

I bought her the above book recently because it is published by American Girl, the wholesome alternative to Barbie and pop culture for the 7-12 female demographic. It contains friendly, illustrated discussions of the proper way to brush your teeth, how to eat a balanced diet, and other wholesome, healthy things.

I stopped by daughter's room one evening while she was lounging on her bed turning the pages. I plopped down next to her and glanced at the headline on the page she was reading.


"Christ!" I shouted, and grabbed the book out of her hands.

I was slightly relieved to find that it was referring, Judy Bloom-style, to that time of the month… or as we like to say, her first visit from Aunt Flo. Healthy, normal body discussion, I told myself.

I handed the book back, and she continued reading. At one point, she pointed to a word and asked, "What's this word? Vaaaa...?"

"Yeah, that. It's the thing connected to your bladder."

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