When Wildling was a baby, Will and I agreed that we were going to teach her the real names for things, not made up words or baby-talk. For example, she has always known that she has a vagina, not a hoo-ha or whatever other silly words people use. Part of the reason we do this is because when I was a child, my parents liked to use substitute words, and I often ended up embarrassed by it. Sometimes it was over something really silly – like hairbands. Seriously. You know those elastic bands that people use to put their hair in a ponytail? My mom taught me that they were called ‘bingers.’ It’s embarrassing to ask someone if you can borrow a binger, and they have no idea what you’re talking about, and then, of course, because kids are kids, they make fun of you for it. As another example, I don’t think I heard the word ‘fart’ until elementary school, because my parents called them ‘ducks.’ I never knew that ‘ducks’ weren’t the universal term.
Speaking of ‘ducks,’ or ‘farts’ as the rest of the English speaking population would say, yy mother was actually horribly offended when we used the word ‘fart’ in front of toddler Wildling. She insisted we call them ‘puffy pooters’ instead, because that is so much less offensive and feminine for our delicate little girl. We laughed and ignored her, of course. She brought it up a few times, but … no. They are farts, or, sometimes, ‘stinky butts,’ as in “Mama, did you hear that? I made a stinky butt!”
Puffy pooters weren’t the main point of contention, though. My father goes by the name of Bubba to his grandkids, because that’s how my oldest nephew pronounced ‘grandpa’ when he was about fifteen months old. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t have a problem with nicknames. However, I personally, hate the name Bubba (no offense to my southern readers), and I really don’t like the idea that a mispronunciation of a word by a very small child dictates what everyone else has to use forever. I didn’t want my children calling their grandfather Bubba. We eventually compromised with ‘Grandpa Bubba,’ which makes me cringe, but at least I can tolerate it.
We did allow an alternate word for one body part. When Wildling was learning to talk, one of her favorite books was the Belly Button Book, which is a simple little childrens book about hippos and their belly buttons. The baby hippo calls belly buttons “bee-bo,” which Wildling thought was cute and repeated. She knew the word belly button, but she also used bee-bo. Of course, she did this in front of my parents, who were, as usual, quick to point out my perceived hypocrisy. “I thought you were teaching her the real words, but she just said bee-bo. What happened to your grand plans?”
We have held to goal of teaching her real words, and if she chooses to use an alternative word while knowing the real one, we’re ok with that. And it’s good that we’re ok with that, because omigod she calls peace signs ‘monkey windows’ and it is just too adorable to correct. Monkey windows! She loves monkey windows. She’ll point them out when she sees them. Best of all, my mother signs every card she sends with what she thinks of as a peace sign, but her beloved granddaughter perceives it as a monkey window.