My five-year-old saw a vulva at preschool. And it scarred him. Not because it was the first one he’s seen (his best friend is a little girl, and they’ve been two naked peas in a pod since they were 10 months old), but because it was At. School.
Now, lest you think I send my child to some completely depraved preschool with no adult supervision, this was just an accidental peep show. A little girl with shorts way too small and apparently a preference for going commando. Showing off by putting her legs over her head to join some “stinky butt” silliness one boy had started while they waited on a hallway couch for a turn at the bathroom. And there it was – the inappropriate glimpse that made N afraid of this girl for the rest of time.
Something you should know about N: he cannot stand unpredictability. And flashing your junk when you’re being too goofy at school is pretty much the height of unpredictability in his five-year-old mind. Plus there was a series of not-listening incidents (gasp!), and a little bit of craziness during class time for the two weeks prior. Which is funny considering N is the definition of crazy not-listening at home. But not school. School is where you behave the way your mother actually taught you. Where you show the world you actually do understand what it means to be respectful and well-behaved. Where you keep your legs below your ears and your body parts in your pants.
The first I heard of this whole thing was from my mom. While hanging out at her house one afternoon shortly after the incident, he told Grandma there was a girl at school that he was afraid to talk to. We assumed he had a crush. So of course I pestered him a bit. “Are you afraid because you like her?” No. “Are you afraid because she was mean to you?” No. “Are you afraid because she said something that you didn’t like?” No.
And then he hid under a blanket and said she did something that made him really uncomfortable and afraid and sick to his stomach, and he didn’t want to tell me. Which meant he HAD to tell me immediately, and I would do anything to get it out of him, because at this point I was certain he had been molested in a closet and would need years of counseling to recover. So after some major “you can tell Mama, I won’t be mad,” with my heart pounding and worst-case scenarios racing through my mind, he blurted out the story in a speedy whisper. Ending with “And we saw the side of her bottom, and even her vagina! And it was just so….so inappropriate!”
I stifled a relieved laugh and agreed with him. That was pretty inappropriate! And it’s good to tell Mama when things give you an uncomfortable sick-to-your-stomach feeling. But maybe we need to work a little on handling life’s unpredictability. Because if he can’t handle a precocious little girl at preschool, he’s got a long, long life ahead of him.
As a side note, this was just one more time I’m so glad I’ve taught my children to see bodies as a normal thing and to talk about body parts properly. We could talk about the parts he saw without being uncomfortable using the correct words, and his only shame came from being scared of what she would do next, not because he was exposed to half a vulva. Because bodies are just bodies in our house, as I really think it should be.