WonderBaby has discovered her nether regions.
She’s known that they were there for some time, of course, but she hadn’t really done any, um, exploring. But she’s recently discovered what a fascinating area it is, and has been checking it out at every opportunity.
The character of her exploration, however, is not the idle tourism of which I’ve sometimes heard other parents speak. It is not the casual, inattentive perusal of parts hitherto unknown, the distracted poke or prod, the almost accidental discovery of something only mildly interesting. No, WonderBaby’s discovery of her nether regions has the character of World Historical Discovery of Continents, Peoples and Artifacts. It is Pytheas, Marco Polo, Columbus, Ponce De Leon, Indiana Jones and Jean Luc-Picard. It is Thule, Xanadu, the undiscovered Americas, the Fountain of Youth, the Holy Grail, the Next Frontier. It is accompanied by hoots and hollers, exultant cheers and the unrestrained brandishing of flags.
It really is quite something to witness. It goes something like this:
(Tear off diaper. Probe unexplored regions.)
Lo! What is this? A cavern? A tunnel? A secret passageway to Teletubbylandia? Whatever could it be? Wherever does it go?
(Rubber Ducky is dispatched to investigate.)
Lo! Ducky cannot proceed! What prevents his passage?
(Run to Mommy.)
(Attempt to get hand into hole.)
(Withdraw hand, which, for better or for worse, does not fit.)
(Demand explanation from Mommy.)
“Whassat?!?! Whas DIS?!?! HOLE?!?”
(Mommy has lost her words.)
With all of the authority of Columbus proclaiming Cuba to be India, she decides that it is, indeed, a hole, and proceeds to investigate, by standing with legs splayed and head bowed in an ineffectual effort to get a firsthand look. There are more hollers and shouts and proclamations of discovery, and then, finally, she loses interest until the next time she rips off the tearaway pants that are her diapers and discovers – LO! - that there is still – OMG MOMMY LOOK! – a hole there. At which point we repeat the same scene.
It’s a scene that is, for me, at once heart-lifting and heart-lightening and all-out discomfiting. It’s funny, obviously. And touching: her discovery of herself as a living, breathing, sensual being is a wonder to behold, a reminder of the miracle that is life. But it’s disconcerting, too – largely because, I think, I (we?) have forgotten how simple and natural it is to take joy in the miracle of our physical beings. For WonderBaby, the discovery of her nether regions is exciting – but so too was the discovery of her elbow, and the daily re-discovery of the elbow, and the ongoing experience of discovering what the elbow does and how the elbow works and oh, look! Everybody else has elbows, too! The hole is pretty cool, but oh man have you seen the elbow?!? And – wait what’s this? – THE BELLY-BUTTON!
(Ah, the navel. It is by far her favourite body part and it is an ongoing source of great delight for Wonderbaby to discover that other people have belly-buttons, too. If you meet her, she will invariably shout Button! and lift her shirt or her dress to display it, proudly. And then she will expect you to do the same. This goes over very well at parties.)
(We are very much hoping that she does not invent a similar game for The Hole. That might not go over quite so well at parties. Well, at least not at the sorts of parties we attend. It would, however, have brought down the house at BlogHer.)
Wonderbaby’s body is, for Wonderbaby, a vast, underexplored landscape, full of fascinating turns and corners, peaks and valleys. There is nothing dark or scary or shameful there - it is all miracle. It is all wonderful. It is all fun. If I get discomfitted – beyond the mild maternal discomfort at the prospect of Wonderbaby exposing herself under inappropriate circumstances – it is because I have forgotten the joys – those simple, natural joys – of the body as simply body. It is because I have lost those joys, perhaps, beneath the many, many layers of maps of shame, imposed by a culture that regards the body solely as an object, something separate from our natural being, something to be sexualized, commodified, or mortified.
This, then, is just one more lesson from my child: reject the maps. Be your own explorer. Exult in what you discover. Visit – and celebrate – the elbow, and the button, and the hole, and all your other parts, and then visit them again, and again, and again.
Just be careful about sending Ducky in. Ducky doesn’t know his way around. Dora might, though.
Other stuff that does a body good:
1) The Purse-Voyeur master list is up. Let me know if I’ve missed yours.
2) My Baby Can Read. Sort of. Mostly, she just dances.