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Below-the-Belt Body Part Talk

Erin Zammett Ruddy

Nora, my two and half year old, is beyond her years in many ways which, when it comes to certain topics, can be disturbing. This PG-13 conversation took place at bedtime the other night as I was trying to leave her room. I’m not sure I handled it properly—would love to hear your thoughts. Here goes:

Nora: Can you give me Gnomeo, I want to touch his penis.

Me: Nora, we don’t touch private parts, right? We keep our hands to ourselves and we never touch other people’s private parts.

Nora: But he’s not real mom, so it’s OK, I can touch his penis.

Me: Um, well…

Nora: Mom, can you put batteries in Gnomeo so I can see his penis.

Me: Nor, he’s a stuffed gnome, he doesn’t take batteries. And he doesn’t even have a penis. And can we stop saying penis?

Nora: Yes he does mom, look (spreading Gnomeo’s stuffed legs) it’s really teeny teeny teeny tiny and it’s right there.

Me: OK, Nora, but I need you to know that it’s not OK to touch anyone else’s private parts and no one should touch yours. Do you understand?

Nora: I understand. But I can touch my private parts and you can touch yours and Ali can touch his and Daddy can touch his, right? His penis?

Me: Yes, sure Nor. But let’s not talk about penises anymore, OK? I’m going to leave now—sleep tight, I love you and I’ll see you in the morning.

Nora: I love you and I like you, mom!

Never a dull moment with that one. The only thing I could think to do here was to turn all this penis talk into one of those teaching moments we're supposed to have as parents. To reiterate the hands-to-yourself rule we preach. I know she's just curious and she likes to point out who has what in terms of body parts so it's not like I'm worried about her being penis-obsessed or anything (she actually hasn't mentioned genitalia again since this night, thankfully). But I'm curious how would you have handled this. Do your kids like to talk about body parts? Have you ever had a conversation like this? Fun times!