Front to back, front to back. It became like a mantra - always wipe from front to back, we were told by many a woman, be it friend, family member, social worker or doctor as we were going through the adoption placement of our infant daughter.
Yes, two gay men with a daughter. Truth be told, my knowledge of a vagina was like my knowledge of standard transmission in a car: I knew it in theory but I had never driven one.
We are men and know ourselves fairly intimately, I’d say. And we already had a son and he matched us in external parts. We knew what to expect and what was what. Everything is just out there. Easy to wipe or hose down if necessary. With a girl, we were venturing into rather unknown territory. So we were super careful at first, which is not a bad thing of course, and repeated our mantra until it became automatic with experience.
We always have to be mindful that we’re a household of men, or were until our daughter arrived. Oh, right, I thought, when I saw her one day approach the toilet, pull down her pants, hold on to her bellybutton (an outie at the time) and wait for something to happen. Nothing happened so she shrugged her shoulders, pulled up her pants and walked away.
People ask, “what about when she gets her period? Or needs to buy a bra?” First of all, we just finished potty training – so one thing at a time, please. Secondly, it’s mostly other men who ask, because the women in our lives know we’ll be looking to them for help and support. And then we’ll approach everything with open minds and healthy attitudes.
Yes, our daughter has a vagina. We decided early on to use anatomically correct terms with our children and not use a cutesie name like “vajayjay” or “front bum” or be too euphemistic like "down there." When she first started talking, she pronounced it "guy-na" then "bagina" (the v sound being hard for a two year old). Now, however, she says it right.
As I know all too well, like during the following conversation she had with me:
"Daddy, you're a boy, right?"
"You have a penis."
"I'm a girl."
"I have a vagina."
A natural discussion, this first vagina dialogue. One that just happened to take place in full voice. On a streetcar. At rush hour.
It's all part of being a parent – of a boy or girl, as body parts are fascinating for little ones. I appreciated her honesty and lack of shame. Important lessons and values we hope she’ll continue to model for us.