On an entirely different note, I want to say a huge thank you to everyone who left comments on my post about anatomy. Some of the things you said have really really helped me to think about how we talk about bodies in our house. If you're interested, here are some of my updated thoughts -shamelessly stealing from all your incredibly helpful comments (and if you haven't read them - do! People are smart. I'll wait).
First up, I realised why talking about girls is comparatively hard. For boys, everything is simple. They've got one piece of equipment that does everything. What do you see when you look between a boy's legs? A pen*s! What does a boy use to wee with? A pen*s! Which part of his body is used in the act of babymaking? A pen*s!
One thing, three functions.And I think that's why it's so hard to immediately answer the question boy is to girl as pen*s is to ________________. Because - what function are we talking about? If we're going for anatomical correctness, I guess the equivalents are, in order, v*lva, ur*thra, vag*na. We ladies certainly are complicated creatures. (Fancy on the inside! Thanks to Amy for that hilarious quote).
So that's three options, so far. I'm thinking we've got a good few years where weeing is much, much, much more relevant to our little girl than s*x. So surely, if we want to just be accurate, the word we should go for is probably ur*thra. But! Even once we've sorted out which function we're talking about, there's a lot more to consider. I hadn't really thought about most of these until y'all raised them. From what people wrote, and from my own feelings, I think there are three ways of choosing what to say. Because seriously, nobody says ur*thra. Do they?
Firstly, What is the correct anatomical term? Secondly, What word will help them to be comfortable talking about their body - both for toilet training now, s*x education later, and also to help them be confident in speaking up if anybody was to touch them inappropriately? And thirdly - What word is everyone else using?
Big lightbulb moment for me - sometimes these three questions have different answers. I've been feeling like there should be one word that is somehow the 'right' choice, but thinking about all these options has made me think that probably, that's not the case. The English language is full of synonyms - we use different words in different situations, even when we are talking about the same thing. Why should this be any different? In my house, growing up, the focus was very much on anatomical correctness. I think the logic was: if something is correct, how can it be embarrassing? But anybody who has stayed silent rather than say the word v*lva out loud knows that the answer is well, some words are just made for cringing. And I didn't really feel like I was 'allowed' to say anything else. So while it's been driving me crazy that people say vag*ina when they are talking about the whole area - girls do not wee out of their vag*nas! And that's not what you see, either! - I'm realising that probably, that's the word that other children my daughter's age are going to know. And no, I don't want her having long discussions about that area of her body for a good few years yet (and that specific area - not until she's married, please) but I don't want her to be confused because she thinks that other girls have something in their underwear that is different from what she has in hers. And therefore, I want her to know that word too.
So. My takeaway from all of this has been that we are going to deliberately use a whole lot of words. V*lva - because that's what you see. Vag*na - because that's what she will be hearing from other kids (although I'm yet to actually make myself say this in context. Call me old fashioned, but I don't really think little tiny girls should need to know they have one of these. If someone touches them inappropriately, it's wrongwrongwrong LONG before it specifically gets to touching that particular part). Private parts - because that's what they are. And if a cute word makes her comfortable, we'll use that too.
So again - thank you very much for leaving such incredibly helpful comments. On behalf of myself, my daughter and her future therapist - it's much appreciated!