Thursday, July 23, 2009

Noticing Gender Differences

Another sensitive topic here. We've been bathing Little Bean (4) and Miss O (3) together since Miss O was born, mostly out of convenience (and because they like to play together). But recently, both of them have been asking and noticing more about each other's bodies during bath time or when one of them is going potty. I've always been very matter of fact about things when they ask questions. I try to be honest, but not reveal more than is needed. Two incidents lately have shocked and surprised me, and I wasn't sure how to react to them.

1) The other day after a bath, Miss O was hanging out in Little Bean's room while he was getting dressed, and Bean went over to her, squeezed her chest and said, "Look, Miss O, you are growing a chest, just like mom!". I was totally an innocent comment, but I didn't feel comfortable with him feeling free to touch her there.

2) The kids have an obsession with playing house, and often play 'baby and mommy' or 'baby and daddy'. Once, when they were really little (Miss O was still in diapers), I caught Little Bean opening her diaper while playing, and it really weirded me out, so I have always told them not to change each other's "diapers" when playing house. I told them that today, and a few minutes later, I walked in, and Miss O was like, "Mom, Bean showed me his peeper and I didn't like that!". Little Bean immediately followed that with, "I touched Miss O's pee pee spot and she touched my peeper". When I took them aside separately, Miss O said (and showed) me where Little Bean touched her, but said she didn't touch him. Little Bean insisted that she did, but seemed confused when I asked him to explain how the situation played out. So, I'm not really sure what really happened. Sigh...I really didn't know how to react.

I know that:

1) I don't want them to ever feel ashamed of their own bodies or to think that touching any part of their own bodies is shameful or wrong

2) I don't want them thinking it's okay to touch other people's private parts or that it's okay for other people to touch their private parts.

But my problem is that I didn't know what to say to make both of those points clear without making them feel bad. I'm also wondering if I should start bathing them separately or if it's still alright for them to see each other naked. DH doesn't like either of them to see him using the restroom or naked, while I am okay with the restroom and if it's the same gender, being naked. But with each other, we really haven't imposed any privacy, unless they ask for privacy, which they sometimes do.

In the above to instances, I ended up just taking them aside separately and trying to explain how they should not touch other's private parts and how they shouldn't let anyone touch theirs unless it's a trusted adult, and only then if it's for help with the potty. I also said that it isn't wrong for them to touch themselves if they are curious, but they should do it when they are alone. I didn't know how to explain why this is though. I don't know if it was awkward for them or not, or if I said the right things in the end. I know I can't watch them every second and keep up with the rest of my responsibilities in the home, so it's important to me that they can be trusted alone together, so I am hoping I made things clear to them about what is appropriate and what isn't.

What would you do in this situation? And when should they stop bathing together (or is that even related to this)?


Jenny said...

This is certainly a very "curious" age group take a deep breath :) I would say the shower/bath days together are coming to a quick end (unfortunately, I know it is sooo much easier). If it were me I would probably try to find some kind of book at the library (something simple, not to detailed, just enough to say "Im a Girl" "Im a Boy" the end. Not sure if that helped any...good luck!

Anonymous said...

Boy am I glad that you get to go first on all of these issues.

Annette said...

I think you addressed it well. Like Jenny, it does seem like it's time to end the bath fun.

One thing I would do is check back in with them in another week or month to make sure noone's been touching. Though it's innocent now, some other "friend" may not be so innocent. But doing this while not making them feel like they are in trouble may be tough.

Or you could continue with the baths as is, and address it again soon.

So it's not punishment, but just addressing the need, you could ease off the together baths. If they take three baths a week, this week two could be together. In two more weeks you could drop it down to one.

I wouldn't have shared such a personal thing with others, most likely! Isn't it funny that I think that way when really, this is just one more common issue that parents have!

Sherry said...

The personal safety curriculum used by the last preschool where I worked used this statement: "No one should touch your private body parts, except to keep you clean or healthy." I thought that was a pretty good phrase because it covers bathing, toilet help, doctors, and any medically necessary treatments that could arise.

We have the book Amazing You!: Getting Smart About Your Private Parts. It covered all my son's questions. I didn't really like that it illustrated sperm and eggs by giving them faces, but other than that it met our preschool-level needs.

I have no idea about the bath thing. Good luck. :)

Jennifer said...

Thanks for the comments, everyone.

Jenny--I may have to look into some books next time we are at the library.

Annette--I debated whether or not to share, but in the end, I realized that this is nothing to be ashamed of, it's just something kids do, and I wanted to know what others have done in response. I'm well aware that other kids could do this in an inappropriate way, and I want to be sure I am doing everything I can to prepare them and prevent that from happening. KWIM? That's a great idea to check back with them in a few weeks. I think I will do that.

Sherry--I really like that way of explaining it. I will have to remember that! I'm not ready to explain about the reproductive side of body parts yet, they haven't even thought of that yet.

At any rate, I'm not looking forward to separate baths; that will be so inconvenient for me! Ah well!

Lea said...

Isn't it funny how something so innocent to them is so difficult for us? You want to handle it just right and not scar them for life (laughing). My sons have tried to grab each other when teasing but I think that only happened once or twice a while back.

We went canoeing a few weeks back. Before we went out, my husband and I each took a son with us to the bathroom. The stall in the ladies room was VERY small and I was wearing a one piece (believe me, if I had thought of this, he would have been with his daddy!) so he was basically standing up against the side of me with his face right next to my chest. When he saw my chest, his eyes got really big and he stared for a minute and then pointed and asked "what's that?". I said "shhh", because I was afraid he was going to say something really loud and embarrassing, and then just told him the body part (whispering) and got dressed as fast as possible. It was pretty funny but I will try hard to avoid that situation in the future.

Lea said...

I just reread my post and am worried it may not come across right.

When I said "you want to handle it just right and not scar them for life", I was referring to us mom's, that we all try hard to handle it just right and worry about saying something or doing something wrong. I was not telling you to handle it right or you would scar them. Hopefully that makes sense:).

Jennifer said...

Lea--lol, it makes perfect sense, I knew what you meant! It's true, to them, it was no big deal, to me, I was freaking out on the inside thinking of all the horrible possibilities and wanting to address it in the "right" way.

The kids have commented on my body before, but that doesn't bother me as much (though I could see how it would in a public restroom!). I just tell them what it is and leave it at that. It was the actual touching that really bothered me. Come to think of it, if they were just talking about it (like saying "boys have peepers, girls have pee pee spots" kind of thing)I probably wouldn't have been so disturbed. Thanks for commenting!

Christy said...

I think you addressed it well too! As you know my son and daughter are 19 months apart and so I definitely have encountered similar situations. I stopped bathing them together a few months ago because I thought it was getting a little too close for comfort. I know it is curiosity and very normal for the age. They often see each other naked and that is okay with me right now but I'm not bathing them together anymore.

Too Many Hats said...

I would stop bathing them together too. It sounds like you handled it well. I would revisit the "rules" with each seperatly in a week or so, just as a reminder.

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