Access to Private Parts

When my son was 3½, he went to a local summer camp a few mornings a week, which precipitated the talk about “private parts.”

The camp included indoor and outdoor play, the latter of which featured running through sprinklers and playing in water tables. Parents were directed to send their 3-year-old children with their bathing suits on underneath their clothes. Then, when the wet kids returned to their classrooms, counselors would help them change into clean underpants, t-shirts and shorts.

Because my son didn’t know how to completely change his own clothes, he would need the assistance of a counselor, hence the need for a chat.

I explained that his penis and “tush” are his private parts, and no one but Mama and Daddy are allowed to see them. I explained that sometimes doctors need to make sure his private parts are healthy, but only if either his Daddy or I am with him. Then, every day after camp, I would ask him who helped him change—and it was always the female counselor—and if his parts had remained private, and he’d say they had.

Today, my son, now 5, joined me at my high-risk pregnancy practice for the first time since September, when he’d accompanied me to my appointment at which I learned via ultrasound that one of my twins, one of my son’s brothers, had died.

I wasn’t supposed to have an appointment today, but I was horrifically sick last night with symptoms that could indicate pre-term labor—severe cramping, diarrhea, vaginal discharge and contractions. Although I followed the recommendations of my practice, which included lying down and staying hydrated, and my symptoms ended late last night, I checked in this morning to see if the doctors wanted me to come in, which they did.

My son stood next to me for my first ultrasound in which the technician was checking my amniotic fluid level. It’s just fine.

But, unable to see if my cervix is dilated, thinning or funneling, she said she needed to check with the doctors to see if she should also perform a trans-vaginal ultrasound. While she was out of the room, I explained to my son that if the technician did have to do another ultrasound, he wasn’t allowed to see my vagina, so he’d either have to sit in the chair across the room or stand right next to my head.

“Why?”

“Because you can’t see my vagina.”

“Why?”

“Because it’s my private part.”

He was silent for a moment, then said, “But I’m family.”

“I know, sweetie, but you still can’t see.”

“That lady isn’t allowed to see your vagina either,” he said, protectively.

Next up is a talk about how parents need to have access to their small children’s private parts because of changing diapers, putting on their clothing and bathing them. But, once children are old enough to be independent, that access ends. And, because I only require medical evaluation of my “privates,” they stay private, except to the medical professionals.

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