In the weeks following Christmas, I generally find myself confined indoors with my small, frisky charges due to arctic weather, and whichever horrific strain of Bovine Projectile Diarrhea Virus that happens to be plaguing our small corner of the world each year. Just when you think you’ve had everything…there is always something new and exciting to catch, and no better incubators on earth, than our darling, little walking petri dishes.
On one such frigid January day several years ago, my charge, the disturbingly bright 2 1/2 year old daughter of a prominent Gastrointinestinologist, is stuck inside with her blissfully average Nanny (me). Together, we have been reading age-appropriate books regarding the upcoming birth of her baby brother. Preparation for the impending arrival has been ongoing for months, and as we finish the final book, the tot looks at me thoughtfully, and says, “You know Nanny, this book is wrong. Mommy doesn’t have a baby in her tummy.”
“She doesn’t?” I ask, a little confused.
“No, she says. He’s in her UTERUS!”
“Well,” I say, making wide, sweeping gestures in the front of my body. “He’s in her general tummy area, right?”
“Wrong!” She states, pointedly. “Food goes in your tummy. Babies go in your uterus.”
I sigh loudly. Working with the offspring of Physicians can sometimes pose interesting challenges. This child does not appreciate the infantile explanation of child birth offered by the age appropriate book, and I did not come prepared today with a powerpoint presentation: The Anatomy and Physiology of Pregnancy and Birth. It is clearly time to move on to another activity. Something physical sounds good, as it affords fewer opportunities for argument. I quickly locate her parent’s large exercise ball, and begin to roll and bounce the child on top of it, in as many positions as we can imagine. She stands, kneels and lays across the wildly bouncing ball. Since she is only 2, we are also using the activity to learn the names of more obscure body parts (ear lobes, elbows, wrists, eyelids, ankles, etc.). For example, I might say, “lie down and put your left ear lobe on the ball.” Then, she would have to figure out the correct part and way to position herself before bouncing. The exercise is a big hit. She spends nearly an hour screeching and giggling between breathless cries of “More, Nanny! More!”
I place her on the ground to catch her breath, and ask, “What part of your body would you like to bounce on the ball next?” She thinks for a moment, and then pats the top of the big ball with her tiny, cherub-like hand, and says, “I would like to put my Labia up here.” However, she is 2 1/2, so the words actually come out: “I would wike to put my wabia up here.”
I am not exactly sure I have heard her correctly. In fact, I am praying I have not heard her correctly. Being blissfully average, I ask her to clarify. “Excuse me?” I ask. She is annoyed, as evidenced by her hands-on-hips, eye-rolling stance.
“I said, I would wike my WABIA up her PWEASE!” No mistaking her this time.
“Don’t react,” I tell myself, as I place her in a sitting position atop the ball. I slowly begin to bounce her, as she happily sings a song she has made up: “I wike to bounce, I wike to bounce, I wike to bounce on my wabia.” My Knees buckle a bit and my head is feeling dizzy. I desperately need my happy place. It is then I realize, I have never heard the word “Labia” spoken aloud, even from my Gynecologist. How is it, that I have made it all the way into my forties, without ever having heard this word spoken aloud? Hearing it pronounced as loudly and casually as the word “cheeseburger,” and by a tiny person who resembles a beautiful garden fairy, renders even the mouthiest among us completely speechless.
Her shouts wake me from my self-induced coma. I have stopped bouncing. How long have I been standing here, eyes staring blankly, mouth slightly agape? She is annoyed again. “Are you going to bounce me or not?” I’m thinking as fast as I can, and lightly suggest another activity…ANY other activity. “I know,” she shouts happily, hopping off the ball and bounding down the stairs. “Play-Doh! Mommy showed me how to make a wot of weally neat, new fings!”
“Oh great,” I say under my breath. “Thanks a bunch, Mommy.” I have a sneaking suspicion that I might be in trouble with this next activity as well and would just like to state for the record…There is absolutely no way I am spending the next hour making a Play-Doh wabia!