Parents of toddlers may think that it is still too early to think about the birds and the bees when it comes to their little ones, but in fact sexual development begins in a child’s very first years. Babies and toddlers not only reach significant physical milestones, like learning to walk, and emotional milestones, like recognizing their own parents, but they also achieve development in how they recognize, experience, and feel about their bodies and in how they form attachments to others. The attachments established in the first few years of their lives help set the stage for future bonding and intimacy.
Toddlers are by nature very curious, and as this is the phase of discovery, they’re also curious about discovering their own bodies. I remember around the age of one when Giggles and Cuddles discovered their belly buttons and became enthralled with them. Even now when I give them their bath, they still find it very amusing to poke their little fingers into each other’s belly buttons. They laugh so hard.
Their latest fascination is with being naked. My husband walked into their room this morning while I was preparing their milk and found them totally naked after having unzipped their sleeping bags and taken off their pajamas and undershirts. Each one was holding her nappy in her hand, and Giggles had already peed in the bed. Lovely start to a Sunday morning! I was so shocked at the sight that I just didn’t know whether I should laugh or cry or start to shout and lecture. After getting over our initial shock, my husband and I tried to explain in a simple way that they shouldn’t do this again, that they should wait for either Mummy or Daddy to change their clothes and their nappies, and that they certainly can’t pee in bed. Judging by the looks on their faces, though, and their favourite statement, “Mummy noooooo,” as I started dressing them, I knew that this was not going to be the last time.
By age two or three, a child also starts to develop a sense of being male or female. At this age, children begin to understand the difference between boys and girls, and can identify themselves as one or the other. They also begin to associate certain behaviours with being either male or female.
In terms of attachment, babies’ earliest emotional attachments are formed with their parents through physical contact that expresses their love. Holding your baby, kissing and hugging and even tickling allows him or her to experience comforting, positive, physical sensations associated with being loved. The unique form of physical intimacy and emotional attachment between parents and their little ones can be the early foundation of more mature forms of physical intimacy and love.
Speaking of attachment, I still can’t get over the way Giggles and Cuddles are attached to their Daddy. In the evening before bedtime, they can sometimes be the most annoyingly cranky kids – whining, fighting and pulling at each other’s hair, but then Daddy walks in and it’s like magic. They run to him with huge smiles on their faces and shower him with hugs and kisses. All of a sudden they’re transformed into the sweetest little things. If I try to help by carrying one of them, I get the “Mummy nooooo” or even better, “Mummy bye!” So Mummy has to put up with the crankiness, the fights and the screams, the flying plates of pasta Bolognese that end up on the floor, and the stubborn characters that are starting to develop, and at the end of a long and exhausting day Daddy gets the hugs and the kisses and she gets the wave of a hand. Lovely! Somebody please tell me that there’s a chance that this will change at some point in time.
The good thing, though, is that outside of the home, people always comment on how sweet, pleasant and well behaved the girls are. I’d like to think that the attachment we’ve established, the giggles and the cuddles that we share, do play a role in how they’re turning out. And I pray that we never stop giggling and cuddling as they grow into strong, confident, and loving women.
By Didi in Zurich
Didi is an Egyptian mother of twin girls living in Zurich. Before having the twins she worked in the field of economic development. She is currently a stay-at-home mom focused on the growth and development of her daughters.
Illustration by Laura Munteanu
Laura has studied Journalism and Advertising, and has been working as a journalist and an illustrator. She has been illustrating for magazines, websites, charity and different campaigns. She lives in Zurich with her husband and her 5 -year- old daughter.