Did you ever “play doctor” when you were a kid?  Ever get caught?

I love this exchange between a mother and her doctor published by Carnal Nation about young kids’ sexuality.

The door was closed.
Did you knock?
No. She’s never closed her door before.
Oh. I guess the closed door meant something to her.
They jumped when I walked in.
Well, you interrupted them.
They looked guilty.
Since your attitude was that you “caught” them, I guess they felt “caught.

The full exchange is here: http://carnalnation.com/content/58503/98/catching-your-kid-playing-doctor

The brilliant thing about this conversation is the way it puts kids behavior into a conscious context.  5 year olds know things.  They learn and understand the world based on millions of sources of input, including TV, advertising, conversation they overhear from parents (and their parents’ friends!), and through playmates.  Children do not remain blank slates forever, and parents do not selectively insert ideas and practices into their absorbent brains as they so choose.

So it’s perfectly normal that children play doctor, that they are curious about social rules that have been instilled in them without any explanation.  “No, don’t touch Jimmy there.”  Well, why not? “Because he’s a boy, and we don’t touch little boys there.”

Face it, parents are really bad at giving explanation for these seemingly senseless social rules that they inflict on their children, so their kids are bound to utilize their own means for understanding them.  Well, if doctors can look and touch little boys there, maybe I just have to be a doctor and I’ll figure out what’s so weird about that. The game is a research method- a tool for understanding biological and social ideas that are very difficult and awkward to spell out to a small child.

Playing doctor might be sexual…and it might not be.  The curiosity of young children knows no bounds, and maybe discoveries from playing doctor lead to other “socially unsavory” games like playing “married,” yet once again, this isn’t always a bad thing.  If children are able to explore their own bodies and sexualities when they are young and in a safe place, without the shame of embarrassment or the need to hide their practices, they’ll grow into healthier functioning adults.

And that’s a pretty good prescription for a 5 yr. old, isn’t it?