My three-year-old daughter is the Mel Brooks of our family. If there’s an opportunity to fart loudly in public she’ll take it, giggling hysterically all the way. If someone else passes gas she will not hesitate to loudly identify the perpetrator. ”Poop!” she’ll yell as she runs to the bathroom, announcing her imminent bowel movement to the world. ”Pee pee poo poo poopy head POO!!!” And it is not uncommon for her to transform innocent childhood ditties into toilet-laced anthems: ”Tinkle tinkle stinkypants…” she’ll sing, ideally to an audience of complete strangers.
My son, at five, is similarly intrigued with bodily functions, but his interest usually manifests as nonchalant exhibitionism. At a recent swimming play date he wandered around naked for long stretches, oblivious to everyone else’s relative modesty. I’m constantly reminding him not to grope his private parts, and he’ll say, regardless of his surroundings, ”But, Mama, I need to get my penis down.” Wince.
It was not my intention to raise a miniature Andrew Dice Clay or streaker-in-waiting. I’ve gone out of my way not to saddle my kids with the painful self-consciousness I felt as a kid. My husband and I deal with their body curiosity head on, using straightforward language and facts rather than cutesy euphemisms or a strategy of avoidance. Now I wonder if we’ve gone too far.
I sometimes overhear the unguarded conversations of micro-skirt-wearing teens on public transit, sentences studded with obscenities and blunt, almost aggressive sexuality. I’m not being nostalgic when I say that that’s not how I spoke when I was that age. My friends and I weren’t more articulate or mature ”” no doubt our conversations were just as full of bluffs and posturing ”” but we weren’t crude to the point of cringeworthiness.
Is this the natural result of raising a child to embrace his or her physicality? Will my sweet, innocent kids get it out of their systems and learn to use toilet talk sparingly and appropriately? Or is my daughter going to grow up pointing to Blazing Saddles and Jackass as her cultural references?
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