A while back, probably 8 months or more now, Kaylee was in her bedroom getting dressed for the day. I was sitting on the floor with her, helping whenever she would actually let me. As she pulled off her pajama top and waited for me to turn her shirt turned around so she could put it on herself, she noticed her nipples for the very first time.
She was quite distressed to discover them. She looked over at me with a pained expression on her face, pointed to them and asked, “Are these ouchies?” In her short experience in life anything that was small and pink on her pale little body had always been an ouchie so it made sense that she would assume these small pink bumps were ouchies as well. But I assured her they weren’t ouchies and that they were supposed to be there.
Now, at this point let me go back and talk about the boys reactions to the same part of their bodies. Brendan, as far as I can recall never noticed his nipples, and to date has never asked about them. I suppose it’s possible that he did and I just missed it, but I’m pretty confident that he hasn’t. Cameron, on the other hand, did ask about his but when I gave him the whole “they’re supposed to be there” speech he accepted it and moved on. He hasn’t asked about them since then either.
Not Kaylee. Nope, that wasn’t good enough for her. Okay fine, she accepted they were supposed to be a part of her body, but now she needed to know what they were. So I told her, they were nipples. I didn’t see any harm whatsoever in teaching her that. While I wouldn’t recommend that my children go to school and shout that word for everyone to hear, I also don’t think of it as a dirty word and I am comfortable with them learning what they are and asking me questions about them.
Evidently at her ripe old age of 2, the princess mis-heard how I pronounced the word. She called them her elbows. Since then it’s been a lesson in hilarity. If you ever ask Kaylee where her elbows are she will point to the upper part of her chest or tell you that they are under her shirt. Depending on her comfort level with you and her boldness that day she will occasionally try to show them to you. Though we have tried hard to curb this last practice, telling her that elbows should be hidden by clothing at all times.
Since teaching her that, the question doesn’t come up much at home. Our boys don’t walk around without shirts very often, though in recent months Cameron has begun to prefer sleeping in pajama pants without a shirt. We allow him to when the weather is warm but with sub-zero temperatures abounding lately he’s been confined to a shirt as well. The only time she would see the boys shirtless on a consistent basis would be when they wore their swimming suits and for whatever reason she didn’t find that odd and never commented on it.
That changed recently. My parents house hockey players for our local team. On game day, the boys generally nap for a couple hours before they have to leave for the rink before coming down for an early dinner of chicken and spaghetti. It’s pretty rare that the kids and I are over at their house during that time, but once in a while it just works out that we are. After getting up from their nap the guys will generally come down to eat before getting dressed for the game. Meaning they usually come down in pajama pants, sometimes with a t-shirt sometimes without.
As I said, we ended up being at the house just as the boys were coming down to eat. One of their players this year has taken a real shine to Kaylee and her to him. He has little sisters at home so it’s a pretty natural fit. As she saw him walking down the stairs with no shirt on she announced to the entire house that he had his elbows out.
This comment was met with a whole lot of laughter by those of us who were in on the joke. The poor guy, having never heard about this subject, was totally in the dark until we filled him in. In the course of filling him in he wanted to know why we hadn’t just told them what they’re really called. I explained that we had, many times, tried to correct her but she insisted that they were called elbows.
A few days later the subject came up again while at my in-laws. I’m pretty sure Kaylee was asked where her elbows were by close to a dozen members of the family because we just find it so hilarious to have her tell us. At some point in the conversation, the question came up again why we didn’t just teach her what they’re really called. Again, I stated that we had and she insisted they were elbows. Then the question came up about what she called her elbows.
Well, she calls her elbows…elbows. She knows that elbows really are which is why it’s so funny that she calls her nipples elbows too. Because even though both are called elbows she point to her nipples 100% of the time when asked to identify elbows. So my mother in law got her attention and pointed to her own elbow and asked Kaylee what it was called. Kaylee looked at her and said clear as day, “Those are arms grandma.”
A few days later I was back in Kaylee’s room sitting on the floor getting her dressed again. I decided it was time for an anatomy lesson again. I picked up Kaylee’s arm, pointed to the elbow and asked her what it was. She proudly told me it was her elbow. So I pointed to her chest, and said, “if those are elbows then what are these?” She smiled and said, “they’re nipples mommy.” I was flabbergasted. She finally understood that they were nipples and not elbows? When did this happen?
So I went one step further and asked her why, if she knew they were called nipples, did she call them elbows. She cocked her head to the side, gave me a very strange look, and said, “Because it’s funny.” Of course, now why didn’t I think of that? It amazes me that my 3 year old has picked up on the nuances of humor enough to know that saying the wrong word for something will guarantee her a laugh.