Playful, elegant, and not above the judicious use of the word “shit."

Age of euphemisms

We’ve been introducing the concept of the toilet to Leta for a while now mostly by letting her follow us right into the bathroom to watch as we go potty. You don’t really think about these things until you’re trying to teach another person, but she has to be introduced to the concept of pulling her pants down, to toilet paper, to wiping and flushing. This is also that monumental turning point in her life when she learns that Mama has a bunky, and Daddy? Well, Daddy has a Snuffleupagus.

We had struggled with what we were going to teach her to call her parts, and before you freak out and call the police because we’re encouraging our child to nickname her vagina, don’t I know that now that I’ve allowed such aberrant behavior she’s going to grow up and nickname the severed limbs in her deep freezer, let me assure you that we’ve gone ahead and taught her the correct anatomical designations as well. It’s not like we’re calling it her Wallace or her Supreme Chancellor Palpatine.

We decided on bunky because it was cute, and there was no possibility of it being confused with any other inanimate object. I mentioned here once that we were considering bunky, and I got a frantic email from one of my readers begging me not to choose bunky, please, don’t do it, Bunky was her mother’s name. WHAT ARE THE CHANCES OF THAT? And why did she have to tell me because now when I hear it all I can think of is an imaginary silver-haired woman wearing a floral apron and garden clogs, not that her mother was that sort of domestic type, I don’t know, I’ll never know, she could be a ball-breaking attorney who wears Jimmy Choos, Ball-Breaker Bunky, but that image lodged itself into my brain and now whenever I talk to Leta about my bunky I can’t help but envision a vagina preparing a pot roast and then sewing the button back on a festive Christmas sweater.

Often while I’m using the bathroom Leta will stand in front of me with a wad of toilet paper she’s torn off the roll. She rocks back and forth from one leg to the other in impatient anticipation of The Best Part, the wiping bunky part, which is awesome because it means I’m almost done and she is this much closer to Sesame Street. “All done?” she asks, and without waiting for me to give an answer she hands me the wad and says, “Wipe bucky, huh?” This amuses me more than it should because there is a very outspoken reader of this website who goes by the name Bucky Four-Eyes, and the fact that my daughter is invoking her name when referring to a vagina is as perfectly reasonable as if she were mentioning God’s name in a prayer.

To take her toilet lessons a step further we had my mother bring over a training potty on Sunday afternoon. We hoped that if Leta thought it was a present from Grandmommy she would be more fascinated with it, and that she would approach it with as much excitement as she would an interaction with Grandmommy. My mother is going to be aghast that we’re teaching Leta to associate the toilet with the Avon World Sales Leader, and at the same time proud of me for my motivational management technique.

Leta loved her new potty and has wanted to carry it with her everywhere she goes. In fact, when we told her we weren’t going to take the potty with us to the grocery store she was as upset as if I had told her she had one month to live. Yesterday morning she grabbed me by the hand and led me to the bathroom where her potty was sitting next to the bathtub. “Want potty,” she said and tugged on it to indicate that she wanted it relocated. I picked it up and asked her where she wanted it and then followed her into the living room where she pointed to a spot in the middle of the floor. I expected that parenthood would entail a lot of humiliating moments, but never did I once suspect that I would be reduced to the job of Potty Butler.

After I set it down, I walked back into the kitchen to grab my cup of coffee, and when I returned I found her sitting on her potty watching television, lid up. As if it were a La-Z-Boy. This makes sense because her father takes so long to use the bathroom you’d think he was in there watching “Matlock.” She’s catching on.

  • babbling

    as usual I don’t have much constructive advice, because I normally just babble. I can say this though. We never had many “accidents” here because we tried to offer up the option of the potty, and still wait until there was self-interest and a desire. Seemed less stress that way. Our daughter has a “who who” still at 12 years old. Our sons, 16 and 7, have “turtles”. Little heads poking out of,,,,,,well anyhow.

  • My mom insisted that she teach my youngest son about the potty and all the business thereabouts. She tried in vain to teach him “bowel movement.” Now he wanders around the house saying he needs to “bumblefritz” and where oh where is his potty.

    I LOVE potty training.

  • kat

    “Correct anatomical designations” come with their own set of problems, as illustrated by this blog entry: http://thebigyellowhouse.blogspot.com/2005/10/its-very-very-fragile.html. I am DREADING potty training…

  • TxSuzyQ

    HA! Bunky…Bucky… both are very cute and funny at the same time.

    Bucky the Beaver! Is it me or has no one else put this together yet? Gahhh you people just aren’t on top of it today. Good lord please don’t make me come back and explain it too! =]

  • ottergal

    I don’t need to have kids… I can live it all through blogs like this. 🙂

    Although I don’t remember naming any parts until I got older, many of my friends now call a penise “batch”, “junk” or “stuff”. And vaginas are “jo-jines” or, thanks to my most recent ex boyfriend “happy fun land”. I guess I don’t suggest that’s a good term to start with. And no, that’s not why he’s my ex although that should probably be enough right there.

    My mom likes to tell everyone that when I was being potty trained and would have issues “going” that I would scream from the bathroom “Prunes! I need prunes!” Strange that they never approached me about using that in any advertising campaign…

    Thanks mom.

  • One of my friends always called hers “virginia”. I can’t listen to that “Meet Virginia” song now without laughing.

    ~Jenny

  • Kathleen

    I applaud your approach to potty training!

    I’m starting to potty train my son… well, actually I’m at the stage where I’ve got a couple of potty seats (one upstairs, one downstairs), I’m reading material every day, and weeping silently at night with the fear that somehow I’m going to do it wrong or backwards. It was so much easier house training my dog.

    Good luck. Please keep posting potty training steps so I can try what you try.

  • So she’s calling it “bucky”, eh? I have to admit, when I first read that, I immediately thought, “Bucky the Beaver!” And boy did that thought go into the gutter.

    My son is a few months younger than Leta, and we just started potty training him. We settled on calling his boy parts “pee-pee” and “bottom”, which are nice all-purpose androgynous names.

    But I must admit…my husband and I had a lot of fun trying to decide on what to tell my son to call the little soldier. At the top of the (absolutely ludicrous) list: “Napoleon”, “proud jutting manhood” and “hot beef injection.”

  • So often when I read you, I just think, “My God, what a fabulous writer.” I don’t think I’ll ever stop being impressed by your ability to use words–even when writing about a potty.

    I adore the picture of Leta on the potty. So cute!

  • Fog Spinner

    We went with the un-original Pee Pee in our house.

    We used gummi stuff for potty training. They are usually fat free and we found some great realistic bugs at a candy store. (We have a boy) We put the gummi’s in a jar on the back of the toliet and he ONLY got one when he went potty. At first he got them anytime he tried to go potty, but after a little while it was only when he actually went.

    We started potty training him when he starting removing his diaper and throwing it away at about 2. If he can do that, and put his pants back on…. he was so ready to poop in the toilet! It didn’t take us long, and was really handy that he had never been a baby to have a wet diaper in the morning. So that meant no bedwetting.

    Our son is 10 now… and potty training is hardly memorable anymore. 🙂

  • My sister taught her kids that their behinds were a “bucket”…you have officially out weirded my sister, and let me tell ya, that takes talent.

  • ylime

    I love that you made reference to Coldplay’s song “Green Eyes” for today’s photo post. It’s probably my favorite song of theirs EVER…mostly because my fiance learned how to play that song for me. As awful as it sounds, I *jokingly* told him not to propose to me until he could play me that song. That was his way of asking me to marry him. Cheesy, huh? *swoon*

  • Pascha

    My niece was five when, because of her constant barrage of questions, she knew that girls got their periods, why it happened, and that you use a pad or tampon for such occasions. She also knew what semen was, that it goes into the egg (and if it doesn’t happen you get your period), and that’s how babies are made.

    She’s eight now, and if you say penis or vagina in front of her, she giggles maniacally like I did the first time I saw a boob in National Geographic.

    I always said private parts when I was a kid. My parents were Jehovah’s Witnesses, and you don’t say dirty words like penis or vagina, or god forbid talk about what they do.

  • jill

    My mom and her sisters grew up calling the package their muscle. I thought it fabulous…and then I realized, this was Newfoundland, and they probably meant mussel. Both are yummy delicacies, no?

  • We called it a “peeper”.

  • eskimo pie

    Could the sequel to “This Website Sux Sweaty Goat Balls” be (drumroll….) “Supreme Chancellor Palpatine”? I just like the sound of it. Man, you make me laugh! Thanks for that – for writing and for taking the risk of saying what you think and feel. You’re good at this.

    Ellen

  • My sister taught her kids that their behinds were a “bucket”…you have officially out weirded my sister, and let me tell ya, that takes talent.

  • startledmeercat

    Bunky is so cute. So glad you didn’t go with ‘cheesebuger’ like you discussed many posts ago. I mean, how would she react in a fast food joint when asked if she wanted fries to go with her cheeseburger?? I can hear it now…. ‘Mommy, why did that person ask if my cheeseburger wants fries?’

  • Deb

    Isn’t she going to be surprised when she watches Sesame Street and sees Mr. Snuffleupagas?????

    He was my favorite when I watched….now it somehow seems…..dirty…..

  • tk

    Oh yeah, being that I have no children of my own I never, ever imagined that I’d be having to participate in any potty training activities. However, when I was staying with my best friend for two weeks during the time her little girl was being potty trained somehow I ended up having to take her to the bathroom. Her mom was outside hanging laundry and I was inside with the kids. She came running up to me and told me she had to go potty – and it wasn’t just to pee. While I was slightly mortified at the idea of having to wipe a child’s butt (not that I’ve never done that before, I grew up being the neighbourhood babysitter and have changed hundreds of diapers in my time… and lets face it, this would not be nearly as messy as wiping up a pooh explosion off the whole lower half of a squirming baby), I was a little pleased with the fact that she’d made me the fill-in mommy figure. I used to want children, then I decided that I didn’t want children. But moments like that one, or playing with some of my friends little babies or reading some of your stories about Leta and seeing some of those photos and videos of her, I think the clock has once again started ticking…. even if that means I have to potty train somebody. Damn it!

    TK

  • I’ve talked to a few parents who’re absolutely nuts about making their children call things by their proper names, including genitals. Aww come on, lighten up 🙂 our vocabulary grows as we get older. I think I was in junior high before I even knew what the word “genital” meant. I don’t *think* it stunted my emotional or intellectual growth. But maybe I’d be getting all A’s in grad school instead of B’s with the occational smattering of A’s by professors with low standards. I guess it depends on whether you think grad school grades matter, as to whether you want to make Leta call her bunky by it’s “propper” name when running around on a sugar high at family reunions. Priorities.

  • tk

    Snuffleupagus huh? You ARE one lucky woman!

    (sorry, couldn’t resist)

    Yeah, kids and body parts. We were sitting at Easter dinner at the in-laws a few weeks back when out of the blue my four year old nephew decided to announce to the table that his daddy has a “hairy pee pee”. Being the inappropriate childless person that I am I just about choked on my mashed potatoes when I couldn’t stop laughing. Fortunately I was not the only one that laughed, but his mother was completely mortified. His dad just kept on eating…

    TK

  • It’s not like we’re calling it her Wallace or her Supreme Chancellor Palpatine.

    That is one of the funniest things you have ever written. And THAT’S saying something.

  • In France the nickname would be foufounette.
    (in case of you would need it)

  • ChickNurse

    Just want to warn you about that specific potty. The bucket on the potty is too far forward adn when if whe sits all the way to the back (like she is in the pic) the poop will miss the bucket and it will make a mess both on the potty and her. I know this becasue we have the same one. My son never pooped on it because he was scared of the whole “shit everywhere” situation. This is of course just my humble opinion and experience.

  • I think I’d better stick to calling it “bunky” because “Bucky loves bunky” seems a whole lot less egotistical than “Bucky loves bucky”, you know?

  • There is an entire TOWN in Louisiana named Bunkie. Just thought I would let you know.

  • Kimmik

    In our house, the boys have a winky and the girls have a woo. My son is 5 now and he knows its also called a penis, but we still use winky around the house. We are also on the verge of potty training my 2 yr old daughter and I dread it.

  • bonkersmomof4

    Girl parts and boy parts works fine for us, except my 8 year old boy has taught my 4 year old girl to call the boy parts a “weiner” which I hate to hear coming from that cute little mouth. Especially when it is referring to the baby’s boy parts.

    Growing up, we did not discuss or even refer to private parts, unless it was a medical emergency. Nor did we discuss any function that should be done involving a toilet. So I feel rather liberal in instructing my kids to call it boy parts and girl parts. Sad.

  • Shellybzla

    I love bunky! I mean, I’m straight and everything and I don’t “love” bunky per se, but I do love the word bunky.

    My daughter and I have knishes, although my 5 year old son insists on calling them baa-ginas. As for boy parts, well, they’re simply penises. Proud to be a penis, I guess.

  • Stop it, stop it, stop it!

    I’m afraid I’m getting chromosomal aphasia from all the cuteness. Not that there’s anything wrong with growing lady parts, oh no. It’s just that I’m a little too old and set in my ways to be giving up the Y.

    I have to admit I hadn’t considered this particular childrearing topic before, and now I’ve got the FEAR again.

    Thanks. Really.

  • Ang

    BUNKY?! I love it. That’s my stepfather’s name. Hilarious… My cousin calls it her v-g…

  • andrea

    I am mortified at “cookie”, “no-no”, or the sound a chicken makes?!
    Christ on a bike, its a Vulva.

  • Oh, and we didn’t do ‘names’ – though my aunt calls it a Chachi – and that just gives me Happy Days flashbacks in the worst kind of Jonie loves Chachi way.

    My Meredith at age 3 informed everyone at Walk*mart that ‘Boys have penises and girls have CHINAS.’ Yes dah’lin they are so wonderful, important and empowering that we named a country after it.

  • NinasMom

    I used to teach preschool and take it from me…keep it simple. Pee-Pee is a nice one (mommy’s pee-pee, daddy’s pee-pee, gotta go pee-pee) and allows them to make the association of the part and the act. I’m potty training my daughter right now (Jenn, you’re right–the potty seat is way easier) and it’s working great.

  • jessa

    bunky? cute.

    my mother in law calls it shame-shame. shame shame? how about proud proud?

    I call it her pe-gina (penis and pegina) although I don’t call daddy’s thingy a penis, it’s a turkey. go figure.

  • Here … here’s a new line – I’ve read you for years, rarely comment (or maybe never), but I LOVE the picture of Leta today. I have 3 blue-eyed children – beautiful blue eyes that I truly enjoy capturing on film, but her green eyes captured me in this picture. It has to be the best one yet. Okay

  • What, no ‘hoo-ha’ nicknames?
    I knew a girl who called hers a ‘muh-nine-uh’.
    I told the girls the real names for their girly bits, but then I also started calling it their choo-choo as well.
    Something about saying, in a perfectly calm and sane way, the word ‘vagina’ to a three-year-old just makes me utterly uncomfortable. And to say it over and over again? Naaah.

  • I was very open with my kids about their genitals but, now they are in their teens. We’re not allowed to refer to “it” or point in the direction of any private parts unless it involves pooping and farting.

    More interesting story, my sister nick-named daughters privates her “bock-bock”, yes just like imitating a chicken.

    curious, really curious.

  • Just to let you know that this morning I woke up with the word “snuffleupagus” repeating over and over in my head. THANKS.

  • Jill

    Fucking great. “Bunky” was my Dad’s nickname for me when I was little and he still calls me that sometimes. Awesome.

  • banjeroo

    A friend took a “Human Sexuality” course in university, taught by a sex therapist/psychologist who related to the class a story about her five-year-old son in the schoolyard. He’d been taught about body parts in perfect anatomical terms. So one day the little guy came home and announced that a little girl’s skirt had been flipped up when she was on a swing, and that other kids had started teasing her that they’d “seen her vagina”. Telling his mom, he was clearly unimpressed and she was curious about his reaction. “Can you believe it mom? I mean, even if they saw anything, it would have been her LABIA. [Dramatic sigh]. But don’t worry mom, I didn’t tell them that I knew the RIGHT word.”

    Anyway, have fun with the potty training! (I’m sure whatever you call things, Leta will be just fine.)

  • Do not take Leta to go play Utah’s favorite feminine pasttime…

    Lord know what will happen when someone yells “BUNKO!”

  • cs

    My oldest daughter managed to bastardize vagina to the politically incorrect name of ‘china. And to make sure there isn’t any confusion, it is china butt vs back butt. And so it’s been passed on to my youngest daughter also.

    And in regards to merseydotes comment: I’m not sure as to why the ability to tell your children that their body parts are private is lost when you name them either properly or with nicknames? Also if my kids are any indication, the pointing and asking of questions makes it pretty obvious that they are well aware that there is a difference between boys and girls.

  • we call it a chichi. as in chichanicha. to call it a vagina would be inaccurate. the vingina is inside and when we speak of a girl’s parts we usually mean the outside and the outside? is called? a chichanicha. duh.

  • Too funny! When my daughter was asking about body parts when she was little, my husband was baffled as to what to tell her. I told him to tell her the right names for things. She has adopted “pee thang” all on her own though.

  • merseydotes

    Dude, are we the only parents in the world who saw through the false dichotomy of EITHER penis/vagina OR bunky/snuffy/po-po/woo-woo/stinger/flower/etc???

    Private girl parts.

    Private boy parts.

    That’s what we say.

    The word “private” teaches that the stuff between someone’s legs is theirs and theirs alone – which will be helpful in a few years when we have to warn a preschool/elementary-school-aged Petunia about the guys on Dateline’s To Catch a Predator.

    The words “girl” and “boy” teach that there are two kinds of private parts in the world, and they are different. (My apologies to all hermaphrodites for not capturing your genitalia by this distinction.)

    The word “parts” indicates that, in fact, genitals are not one single thing (thank you, kelly!) but a melange of various wonderful reproductive and excretory organs, which will be enumerated in painful detail in junior high health class someday.

    Together, the words “private girl parts” are commonsense and descriptive enough that any preschool teacher, babysitter, sucker-family-member-who-is-fool-enough-to-voluntarily-take-my-kid-to-the-potty, etc can understand what my daughter is talking about without an interpreter.

    SHEESH.

  • Yellowmug

    My parents decided to teach me the real names. Imagine the horror when I thought vagina was pronounced “lasagna.” Hey! Vagina is a hard word for a kid!

    For years I said pizza was my favorite food because I was too ashamed to tell people it was lasagna.

  • Adorable! I’ve seen this quite often with other children. How cute! Potty training is lotsa fun too 🙂

  • Tara

    I’d already sprayed my caramel latte all across the computer screen over the onslaught of Snuffleupagus, Supreme Chancellor Palpatine and Grandma Bunky, and then you hit me with Bucky.

    My very serious, very dry-humored manager’s nickname (not that he’s aware of it) is Bucky. Now think of the images I’ll have every time I see him. God, I’ll never have a straight face in a team meeting again!

    Oh, and my parents didn’t refer to those body parts at all. If it hadn’t been for “Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret,” I’d probably still be trying to figure that stuff out on my own.

    My son, on the other hand, will need an early education, since he’s already got 4 or 5 serious girlfriends at the tender age of 1. We’re wondering if we should start packing condoms in his diaper bag for daycare.