Her Bad Mother

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Where Dora Don't Go

WonderBaby has discovered her nether regions.

She's known that they were there for some time, of course, but she hadn't really done any, um, exploring. But she's recently discovered what a fascinating area it is, and has been checking it out at every opportunity.

The character of her exploration, however, is not the idle tourism of which I've sometimes heard other parents speak. It is not the casual, inattentive perusal of parts hitherto unknown, the distracted poke or prod, the almost accidental discovery of something only mildly interesting. No, WonderBaby's discovery of her nether regions has the character of World Historical Discovery of Continents, Peoples and Artifacts. It is Pytheas, Marco Polo, Columbus, Ponce De Leon, Indiana Jones and Jean Luc-Picard. It is Thule, Xanadu, the undiscovered Americas, the Fountain of Youth, the Holy Grail, the Next Frontier. It is accompanied by hoots and hollers, exultant cheers and the unrestrained brandishing of flags.

It really is quite something to witness. It goes something like this:

(Tear off diaper. Probe unexplored regions.)

Lo! What is this? A cavern? A tunnel? A secret passageway to Teletubbylandia? Whatever could it be? Wherever does it go?

(Rubber Ducky is dispatched to investigate.)

Lo! Ducky cannot proceed! What prevents his passage?

(Run to Mommy.)

"Mommy look!"

(Squat. Point.)


(Attempt to get hand into hole.)


(Withdraw hand, which, for better or for worse, does not fit.)

(Demand explanation from Mommy.)

"Whassat?!?! Whas DIS?!?! HOLE?!?"

(Mommy has lost her words.)


With all of the authority of Columbus proclaiming Cuba to be India, she decides that it is, indeed, a hole, and proceeds to investigate, by standing with legs splayed and head bowed in an ineffectual effort to get a firsthand look. There are more hollers and shouts and proclamations of discovery, and then, finally, she loses interest until the next time she rips off the tearaway pants that are her diapers and discovers - LO! - that there is still - OMG MOMMY LOOK! - a hole there. At which point we repeat the same scene.

It's a scene that is, for me, at once heart-lifting and heart-lightening and all-out discomfiting. It's funny, obviously. And touching: her discovery of herself as a living, breathing, sensual being is a wonder to behold, a reminder of the miracle that is life. But it's disconcerting, too - largely because, I think, I (we?) have forgotten how simple and natural it is to take joy in the miracle of our physical beings. For WonderBaby, the discovery of her nether regions is exciting - but so too was the discovery of her elbow, and the daily re-discovery of the elbow, and the ongoing experience of discovering what the elbow does and how the elbow works and oh, look! Everybody else has elbows, too! The hole is pretty cool, but oh man have you seen the elbow?!? And - wait what's this? - THE BELLY-BUTTON!

(Ah, the navel. It is by far her favourite body part and it is an ongoing source of great delight for Wonderbaby to discover that other people have belly-buttons, too. If you meet her, she will invariably shout Button! and lift her shirt or her dress to display it, proudly. And then she will expect you to do the same. This goes over very well at parties.)

(We are very much hoping that she does not invent a similar game for The Hole. That might not go over quite so well at parties. Well, at least not at the sorts of parties we attend. It would, however, have brought down the house at BlogHer.)

Wonderbaby's body is, for Wonderbaby, a vast, underexplored landscape, full of fascinating turns and corners, peaks and valleys. There is nothing dark or scary or shameful there - it is all miracle. It is all wonderful. It is all fun. If I get discomfitted - beyond the mild maternal discomfort at the prospect of Wonderbaby exposing herself under inappropriate circumstances - it is because I have forgotten the joys - those simple, natural joys - of the body as simply body. It is because I have lost those joys, perhaps, beneath the many, many layers of maps of shame, imposed by a culture that regards the body solely as an object, something separate from our natural being, something to be sexualized, commodified, or mortified.

This, then, is just one more lesson from my child: reject the maps. Be your own explorer. Exult in what you discover. Visit - and celebrate - the elbow, and the button, and the hole, and all your other parts, and then visit them again, and again, and again.

Just be careful about sending Ducky in. Ducky doesn't know his way around. Dora might, though.

Made in China.


Other stuff that does a body good:

1) The Purse-Voyeur master list is up. Let me know if I've missed yours.

2) My Baby Can Read. Sort of. Mostly, she just dances.

3) BlogHers Act Canada is narrowing down its list of environmental causes and needs your opinion.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Okay, aside from how great the post is, I about fell over laughing when I saw that hideous Dora thing.
My daughter only expressed a mild and brief interest in what was lurking in her..um...nether regions.....and for that, I am thankful.

1:34 PM  
Blogger The City Gal said...

One of Globe and Mail columnists wrote something like this about a month ago:

I was in the bathroom (doing my business) when my 3yr old son came in and wanted to potty. Soon after he started, he started playing with his penis. Then he asked me if I had a penis. I told him no. Then he asked why. I told him because I have a vagina. HE got very excited and asked if he could see the "bagina". I said no. Then he asked if he could touch the "bagina" and I said no. Now, when we have guests over, he likes to share some thoughts about the "bagina" with everyone!

I think it is funny, but also confusing and leaves you lost for words! But then again, it's part of the discovery journey of life.

BTW, what is that Dora thing? Is it what I think it is?

1:35 PM  
Blogger Amy said...

I"m sorry, I am too distracted by the disturbing (possible lead-paint laced) Dora, uh, paraphernalia, to leave a real comment.

So I'll say just this: word.

1:35 PM  
Blogger Her Bad Mother said...

It's not what you think it is. I know: disappointing.

It's an aquapet. A game thing. Push buttons and see Dora flit about. (Which sounds about the same thing, so...)

1:38 PM  
Blogger Nicole said...

My son is 7 1/2 months old and spends his entire bath every night exploring (and tugging and pulling and feeling, it actually looks like it would be quite painful) his nether regions. He no longer has any interest in any other bath toy.

OH, I don't know if you have this book or have seen it before but Sandra Boyton has a board book called The Belly Button Book. It's all about Hippos that love their "belly b's,"

1:43 PM  
Blogger Laural Dawn said...

Hmmm ...
It would be rather frightening if your daughter met my son because they could have quite the conversation. He is absolutely obsessed with his body right now.
(yes, the wonder, I agree, but it's getting really annoying and frustrating).

1:43 PM  
Blogger AndreAnna said...

I hope you never delete your blog so she can one day read this when she has her own daughter! What a great post.

I just finished my bag post

(was too long to link, sorry!!

1:51 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Zen...well, I guess I have to admit she's a Girl now...Zen Girl came into my room yesterday, stark naked (not an uncommon state around here). She then lay down on the bed, spread her legs wide, and said, "look at what I can do, Mama!" You can imagine what she could do.

Luckily, this is my SECOND daughter, so I politely, calmly, firmly told her that that was fabulous, but that it something to be done in her own bed when she is alone. I was congratulating myself on my excellent parenting when she stumped me with, "Why?"

Wonder Baby would quite like The Belly Button Book by Boynton, I think.

1:54 PM  
Blogger flutter said...

I'm on board, as long as that wasn't one of the Doras that was recalled, because NO ONE needs a nether region full of lead. Just sayin'.

2:06 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It might have been born as a Dora aquapet but I'm sure it will see some spelunking in its time (recalls notwithstanding).

My son, surprisingly, does not seem to be as into his penis (yet) as he was into his belly button...and everyone else's belly button.

2:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I never know what to comment on your posts because they're so smart and well-written, and well, I am not. I am just your not-so-secret admirer, here admiring you.

Man, I hope I spelled everything right :)

2:24 PM  
Blogger motherbumper said...

I know there is a Diego joke in there somewhere...

2:35 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What is that toy at the end? Please tell me that its photoshopped? LOL

What a great post. Ava is the same way. She points and talks to it.

2:52 PM  
Blogger Tere said...

Max has the same attitude and does the exact same thing RE: belly buttons.

But he calls it (shouts) "pipi", which is the non-scientific Spanish word for "penis".

2:56 PM  
Blogger Girlplustwo said...

Ah yes. After much discussing we actually gave M a hand mirror and she squatted over it and checked things out. Much discovery. Much trepidation. But right now it's all so glorious and lovely that i will do all i can to keep it so.

3:19 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

We have entered a land where my daughter grabs on for dear life and yells "I have a fantastic vagina!!!!"-I'm so proud of been telling everyone.

3:24 PM  
Blogger b*babbler said...

Some toy designer has a very disturbing sense of humour. I can only imagine what the companion Diego piece might look like.

3:25 PM  
Blogger Julie Pippert said...


Do you even want to know what happens next?

Child + Hole + Curiosity + Objects.

Have fun!




3:26 PM  
Blogger Lisa said...

I once was telling a guy friend about how my son had discovered his private parts. I cracked a joke about how I was surprised the love for the penis happens at such a young age. And he, who has girls said, "Are you kidding? Girls are just as bad." I think I might have stood there open-mouthed for a bit.

But your little woman is very lucky to have such a wonderful mom. My mom STILL can't say "vagina" or even any sort of slang for female genitalia. Its as if that part of a woman's body doesn't exist.

Heck, she still doesn't even say "Pregnant" because that word would imply someone has had sex. She says, "expecting."

So my hat is off to you and other moms who have a much healthier attitude.

3:31 PM  
Blogger nonlineargirl said...

My gal has been exploring (and discussing) her "'gina" for a while. Yesterday (while enjoying pants-free time in the backyard) she said "I have a 'gina." "Yup." "Mama have a 'gina?" "Yes, I do." "See it?"

That's where I draw the line. Naked toddler in the backyard is one thing, but naked mama is quite another.

3:34 PM  
Blogger painted maypole said...

hellOOOOOOOO Dora!
(or should I say Hola?)

3:38 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's an 'aquapet'. Which I really can't explain, either.

3:40 PM  
Blogger Heather said...

Oh my, that was hilariously funny and sweet at the same time. The aquapet is sooo disturbing.

3:45 PM  
Blogger Kyla said...

I'm sure your post was perfectly lovely, but I can't remember a thing about it after seeing Dora. And now I can't think of a way to comment on it without gaining you legions of dirty googlers!

Let's just say, I didn't know that Dora was angling to replace Mr. Rabbit. ;)

3:49 PM  
Blogger Namito said...

Giving Dora the Explorer a whole new meaning...

3:52 PM  
Blogger Jenifer said...

Neither of my girls have gone exploring as of yet. You certainly have wonderful attitude towards letting her discover her body for herself. I think I am as open-minded, I really hope so!

3:59 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Dora. A girl's best friend.

Oh. yeaaaaah.

4:02 PM  
Blogger Lara said...

okay, i don't have time to read the other comments (so sorry!), so forgive me if i'm repeating.

honestly? my first thought when you talked about her exploring was to give her a mirror. i say let her explore. let her look and see what it's all about. you can have talks with her about how it's something for home and not for other people's houses or school or anything. but still, i say if she's wondering about it, help her find out more.

4:06 PM  
Blogger Her Bad Mother said...

Oh, the mirror will come. For now, though, she does pretty well getting her head between her legs. She's pretty bendy. We should all be so lucky.

4:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You're too funny! And uh.. in a way I"m glad I don't have a girl.

(but... and you can shun me as a nerd if you'd like.. Columbus called Dominican Republic India first)

4:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'll be very disappointed in you if you don't write a book very soon. Your writing is so funny, witty, but at the same time serious and with great life lessons.

I've got a similar thing going on at home right now. When my 3.5 year old son Daniel is in the bathrrom or comes out of the shower, my 1 year old rushes in. Not to great him but to pull his penis. Hard. It happens every time. It happens every time but my son is starting to get a bi annoyed now since it hurts...


4:37 PM  
Blogger Mom101 said...

Yeah, Thalia's big on the gina these days. She really enjoys telling people that mommy has one. Newsflash.

But actually finding the hole? I'm impressed with your little explorer. It sort of gives new meaning to the lyric, Grab a backpack! Let's go! You can lead the way-ayyyyy!

4:40 PM  
Blogger kittenpie said...

Okay, knowing how she is about the elbow - I see some interesting moments ahead. Look out, Courtney Love, the word Hole is being reclaimed by a new blonde in town.

Pumpkinpie has been of course curious about why we have our stuff and Misterpie has his, and has done some distracted handling of it during stories, usually, though I've suggested that that is a private activity. One day, though, she came up to me, seated in the bathroom, and contemplated me for a second before she reached out one tiny finger and poked me in my business. "FUR!" she exclaimed. Seemed a little rude to me, given all the maintenance I put into it...

4:45 PM  
Blogger Her Bad Mother said...

Madame M - if I started shunning nerds I'd have an identity crisis (besides - it's not like he thought that Cuba *wasn't* part of the so-called Indies. Semantics, semantics - or sloppy geographic history - call it what you will ;))

4:53 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your perspective is very interesting about this and that toy is COMEDY. I wonder if your perspective, or ones perspective would differ any between having a boy or a girl. My son's been exploring his parts for months now and it makes me insanely uncomfortable! I know it's so normal and wonderful for him, but it's hard for me to watch. Like Nicole, it looks like it hurts.

4:56 PM  
Blogger S said...

Thank you for this. I am still laughing. Let's just say that of my two boys, one is all over his privates and the other doesn't know he has any.

And I am sparing them by not revealing which is which, needless to say. ;)

4:56 PM  
Blogger heartshapedhedges said...

OMG, I was sitting here for quite some time repeating loudly, "WHAT THE HECK IS THAT?" while doing mental acrobats trying to figure out WHAT that could be....

so glad to read that it is just a wonderpet...

kinda reminds me of the time that they had to redesign the castle on the original Little Mermaid VCR case....because the artist that drew the first, obviously, was thinking naughty thoughts.

anyone remember that??

5:13 PM  
Blogger Julie Marsh said...

Thank you. I giggled myself silly.

And I remembered how a little person at my house used to ask to see hers in the mirror.

5:24 PM  
Blogger Cat said...

During diaper changes our little girl points and then says "penis". Then she asks if she can "pull it." She waits until she's all cleaned up, then pulls all the skin she can. I correct her with "vagina", she laughs and says, "no not giners, PENIS."

Yep, she has an older brother.

5:38 PM  
Blogger Mom2Amara said...

I remember when I wrote about Amara's SpongeBob aquapet. Honestly, a Sponge and it's phallic nature...strange strange toy.

5:56 PM  
Blogger crazymumma said...

oh wondergirl, cause you are a girl now that you have found your bits.

welcome. its still a freakin' mystery to me.

6:07 PM  
Blogger Zellmer said...

My daughter tries to shove ducky up there, too.

Ducky, you are quite the womanizer.

6:20 PM  
Blogger tracey.becker1@gmail.com said...

Whoa, Dora. Explain to me, how THAT design got through the testing phase? And nobody saw that it looked suspicious??

Wonderbaby cracks me up. Corinne just grabs during the diaper change and says "TICKLE! Ha!" over and over. Yes. FUN.

6:28 PM  
Blogger karla said...

What a beautiful post wrapped in humour and insight.

6:38 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You know (and I know this is going to sound off base but really I have a point) one of the reasons I love watching So You Think You Can Dance is I love watching the dancers. Not just in their dance modes, but how truly comfortable they are in their bodies. You can see how it affects their behavior and their outlook, that comfort. The dancers all tend to be very physical, they are always touching or hugging each other, and there is nothing shameful or sexual in the touching. When I watch dancers it just seems so joyous and natural and how it should be, to just rejoice in physicality as part of who we are.

Do you know what I mean? It's the way kids are with their bodies, too.

7:35 PM  
Blogger Phoenix said...

That Dora scares me.

I'm cracking up at this post and the comments. Mom-101's is still craking my ass up.

ps. i did the bag meme today.

7:44 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

another amazing post. my daughter has been poking around for awhile. I've tried to explain that it's fine her to explore, but in private, maybe not while everyone is in the living room together. she usually shrugs and tells me she is 'busy' or 'working'.

great dora find too... hahahhahaha

8:40 PM  
Blogger Mimi said...

I was all very thinky and thoughtful and um, and aha until I got to Dora. Then I got the giggles.

Munchkin is currently all about grabbing her useless little baby nipples in the tub, and pinching herself and then looking at her hands in surprise. All in good time ...

8:44 PM  
Blogger Blog Antagonist said...

My boys are 9 and 12 now, and not long ago, Husband oh so gently reminded me that I needed to start respecting closed doors. And my first thought was "AAAAAAAAAAAAAGHHH".

We forget that children are sexual beings, just like us. What feels good for us, feels good for them. You described it beautifully. Good for you for not going all histrionic.

10:14 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Cordy has yet to go spelunking to that region of her body. Right now she's very focused on mouths, and she likes to put her hands in my my mouth to open it wide enough to look at my teeth.

Good luck with that obsession! I'm sure it's only a matter of time before Cordy starts asking questions.

10:19 PM  
Blogger Lawyer Mama said...

OK, what the hell *is* that Dora dildo thing?

10:20 PM  
Blogger Liv said...

hee hee. Peep has been spied rolling around in happy ways... I think she knows not where the happiness comes from.

10:25 PM  
Blogger Run ANC said...

Dora's having waaay too much fun in that contraption, methinks.

Here's to the land of discovery! May it never cease to amaze.

10:27 PM  
Blogger PunditMom said...

I love "Be your own explorer."

I wish I had had that advice much younger!

10:51 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

BUT does it plug into your iPod or your electric Toothbrush?

You should be proud for encouraging WB to sing the body electric.

We all need a bit more of that (and way less of the Dora Dildo, methinks).

(Kristen, Motherhood Uncensored, Go-to-Parent for Dildos)

12:08 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Laughing uproariously, but at the same time feeling quite left out. I was always at work when my kids were WB's age, and I missed all the discovery.

Now that I work from home, I am present for the wonders of puberty...and am blessed with 2 boys and a girl, so I'm pretty sure I'll have all the laughs and angst a mother can stand.

1:02 AM  
Blogger ms blue said...

The body is outright fascinating when you bury those maps of shame.

I love watching small children point to their body parts, discover the matching word and then point to your body part. It's like they are asking hey you got one of these? In their discovery they seem to celebrate the similarities.

3:14 AM  
Blogger JChevais said...

What... in the name of all that is holy... is that Dora thing? Ages 5 and up? Huh?

4:55 AM  
Blogger BOSSY said...

Wait - there's a hole down there?

9:17 AM  
Blogger Chicky Chicky Baby said...

My puritan/strict Catholic roots scream out in protest every time Chicky goes spelunking, but my evolved self beats it back with a stick. However, I think I might print out this post and tape it to my fridge as a reminder that personal exploration is okay.

Get back, thee repressed Catholic childhood, get back!

9:57 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That's how I feel about it too...

9:58 AM  
Blogger Her Bad Mother said...

Chicky! Spelunking - mwah ha ha ha ha!!!!

10:10 AM  
Blogger Arizaphale said...

I loved this post. I just want to do a 'snap ' with 'non linear girl' as my babe at about 5 asked about the 'hole' where babies come out. Amazed that there was an extra hole 'in the middle' she asked "do IIII have one?"
(Yes dear)
"Do youuuuuuu have one?"
(errr yes)
"Can I have a look?"
and just as nonlineargirl said, I felt my liberal parenting meet its boundaries. I gave her a mirror in the bath!!!
Her other memorable moment was as a younger babe (about 2.5) when I came upon her in the bath being very quiet and with both hands under water.
"What are you doing pet?"
"I'm tickling myself."
"Uh-----huh.....is it nice?"
(sly grin) "Yes"
(deep inhalation) "Well....I'll just leave you to it then."
Having come from a majorly inhibited parenting regime I feel proud of the concept that my daughter is comfortable with her body. Occasionally it comes back to 'bite me' as recently, (aged 11) when she arrived in the kitchen one morning in her dressing gown and said "Look Mum" (opening the gown in flasher proportions)
"Furry bottom,furry bottom!!!!"
and ran away giggling her head off.
Still, I don't think she does it in public :-D

10:14 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Um. Read this: http://buggydoo.blogspot.com/2007/06/contest-humiliating-moments-in.html
and then read the best of the replies at http://buggydoo.blogspot.com/2007/07/contest-finalists-get-your-vote-on.html
Then be afraid, be very very afraid.

11:45 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There's nothing like watching your boys (8 and 11) constantly have their hands down their pants, then give your husband the eye to tell them to stop it, and find HIM with his hands down his pants.

12:53 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My 2 year old is becoming quite the contortionist trying to get at her nether regions during bath time and diaper changes. The simple curiosity and wonder is so touching, like you said.

Ms. Chicky and I have a lot in common! I just might have to print this out as a reminder to myself too.

1:42 PM  
Blogger ewe are here said...

This is absolutely hysterical. You go, Wonderbaby!

When my 2 year old discovered his boy bits, he was absolutely fascinated with them every time the nappie came off. The novelty seems to have worn off now, though.

When our friends' boy (same age) 'discovered' his bits in his first year, his mom reported that his father was verrrrry proud of him over it. Still can't quite figure that one out...

3:33 PM  
Blogger Rocks In My Dryer said...

Oh my word! This has me rolling in the floor, as the mother of a two-year-old daughter with a new found fascination for women's "boombies". She starts Mother's Day Out in a couple of weeks, and I'm scared to death she'll be poking on her teachers! ;)

3:46 PM  
Blogger Damselfly said...

That Dora thing whatever it is, oh my goodness....

Wonderbaby lessons are good.

4:25 PM  
Blogger OhTheJoys said...

I could be down with a little hot Dora action...

4:49 PM  
Blogger Her Bad Mother said...

OTJ - I would have pegged you as more into Diego. Or Boots.

4:59 PM  
Blogger Maternal Mirth said...

I have boys. They explored. But they stopped when they found out they could pee outside. All further expeditions were halted in order to mark their territory over much of the Southwest.


7:23 PM  
Blogger Alex Elliot said...

All I can say is you're a terrific mother! I find it interesting as a mother how much more accepting moms of boys seem to be about the "explorations" than the moms of girls. Maybe it's just who I know. At least I hope, anyhow. I have two boys. We have, I kid you not, what we call Authorized Penis Time in our house. Bath time, diaper changes, bathroom time, and bedroom time all qualify.

9:08 PM  
Blogger josetteplank.com said...

Oh yes. What Julie said.

I'm all for anatomical correctness, but I was never one for "boys have a penis and girls have a vagina". At that point, my girls were just interested in where the pee came from, so I'd say "vulva" and "urethra", because that's just a tiny hole. I knew that once they knew that there was yet another hole down there, they would do the same thing as when they found their bellybutton, their ear canal, their nostril or any other orifice: they'd shove a raisin in it.

Anyway, this was, as always, a lovely piece of writing and rumination. A+.

9:27 PM  
Blogger Her Bad Mother said...

Oh, sweet Jozet! An A+ from you is an A+++++.

9:53 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That's how you know you have a girl. Boys discover their nether regions long before they are old enough to put two words together.

That Dora thing is fantastic. I think I got one for my bachelorette party.

10:21 AM  
Blogger moosh in indy. said...

I'm trying to think of something so witty, but it's proving hard, it should be so easy, damn PMS.
I did love this however.

7:34 PM  
Blogger Ruth Dynamite said...

I must have one of these aquapets. Must. Have.

5:22 PM  
Blogger Not Afraid to Use It said...

The whole "who has what?" has become a daily topic of discussion here at the house. Between her fascination that she and I have the same parts, and her brother and her pappa have different ones it seems that is all we talk about.

I don't know that our neighbors necessarily appreciate the shouts of LABIA! PENIS! CAN I TOUCH IT?!?!?!?! all day long. As long as no one calls DFACS...

2:48 PM  

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