Body Parts

Over the last couple of months the boy has become quite the talker. He’s always been verbal, but he’s starting to make three and four-word sentences in order to communicate everything he sees to everyone within earshot. He’s particularly interested in trees, leaves, and parts of the body. Sometimes he’ll sit down and point at his knee and say what it is in both English and Japanese, then move on to other easily recognizable bits. Eyes, ears, nose, mouth, teeth, tongue, neck, shoulder, chest, tummy, belly button, hips, bum … and then he’ll ask me a question.

これ何?1

While I generally answer every question he asks, I don’t know how I should teach him to describe his penis or scrotum. Do I use the proper words? Do I use the childish forms? Do I use colloquial terms? Do I continue to avoid answering the question like my parents did for years on end?

The boy can clearly point and describe his ankle, heel, sole, and toes on his feet, yet he doesn’t have the vocabulary to describe all the parts of his body that he’s aware of because I have some deep-seated squirmishness about … what, exactly?

It’s absurd, and I recognize this every time he asks the question. Part of me would like to answer so that he’s better equipped to describe injuries or follow-up questions, or simply to not feel weird about himself. We don’t avoid nudity around each other, as I’ve changed thousands of diapers and given him hundreds of baths. He has seen me go into, and come out of the shower, so he knows that we both have the same basic parts.

Am I avoiding the question because he already likes to shout words like NECK! and SHOULDER! and ELBOW! when we’re out in the park or at a busy mall? I’ll admit that I would be embarrassed if he were walking around a store shouting PENIS! while pointing at himself because he doesn’t yet have the social awareness that some things are better left unsaid in public, and often better said with fewer than 120 decibels.

These are certainly all my problem. A neurosis that accomplishes little beyond (potentially) saving me a moment of public embarrassment and having strangers judge me either as an uncouth father or a threat to my child’s safety. But this asinine anxiety over body parts is clearly something that the boy will pick up on. I should fix my own head on this matter before I inadvertently mess up his.

If only all the world’s problems were as seemingly inconsequential as this one ….


  1. Translated, he’s asking “What’s this?”. I don’t know why he doesn’t ask questions in English given all the other things he can do with the language. That said, he still has time to learn ?