I wasn’t sure whether or not to post this blog – it as been sitting in my draft folder for ages, but due partially to lack of creativity and my boys swimming – I am pressing send and holding my breath.
As the father to 3 children - 2 boys and a girl - the conversations around body parts have been common place in my household for just over a year now and do not seem to be going away.
It all started when my daughter, Berry, was born. I caught both boys staring at her, puzzled why she had no penis. My wife and I found it quite funny, and we had to explain that girls don’t have a penis - to be anatomically correct, instead of telling them about her vagina, we’ve been calling it a vulva.
I recall at one point my son questioned the use of that word as “mummy drives a volvo”. Yes she does, and she also has a vulva… All girls do.
I’ve caught the boys looking for their sister’s penis in case she really does have one and it is just hiding in her diaper or sleeper. It took my middle child, Stewie, the better part of six months before he was satisfied that she did not have one.
We encourage the kids to be open and honest about their bodies and ask questions if they really want to know.
So I was not surprised when last week at swimming my oldest boy was looking at the penis of another boy. I caught him and when we left the change room, I casually asked him what he was looking at on that boy. Defensively, he said, “nothing”. I told him it was okay to look and I further enquired if he was looking at the boys un-circumcised penis, since all the men and boys he knows are circumcised. He had never seen one before.
“Yes”, he admitted. But then he wanted to know why. So I explained to him that Jewish babies (but not just Jewish babies) have the skin that covers the head of their penis removed by a doctor called a moyel so that it is healthier. He totally bought that and we left.
I don’t want the kids to have the hangups with their bodies that I did growing up as a fat, awkward child. I wouldn’t shower in gym glass, and was very unsure of myself growing up.
I have two defining moments for me which helped contribute to my awkwardness and I do want to see those situation occur for my kids and cause them the same stress and frustration that it caused me, plus no one likes the stinky boys.
I remember in grade 6 trying to be one of the boys and wanted to show that I could talk like the cool kids. The song “Come on Eileen” by Dexy’s Midnight runner was playing on my Sony Walkman (tape!) and I said to my friends, “Hey this song says there is cum on Eileen”. I was very proud of myself.
My friend turned to me and said, “Hey! Dude! My mom’s name is Eileen” and off he stormed.
I felt terrible.
I tried apologizing the next day at work but he wouldn’t talk to me. I explained to my other friends I didn’t know but they seemed amused by my stress rather than concerned, and it wasn’t until 2 months later when this friend told me he was pulling my leg and his mom was not Eileen. He liked that I was stressed over it.
From that point on I promised not to talk like a potty mouth to my friends. I held on to my inner-perv.
Sue Johanson – The legendary sex therapist came to my high-school for her annual talk. In anticipation, we were asked to write questions for her and to drop them into a hat on the way into the forum, so that at some point she would be able to answer them. For some odd reason my friend and I decided it would be a good idea to write a funny question for her to answer. I don’t recall the questions being bantied about but boy do I remember the one I chose to write down;
“What does cum taste like?”
For some reason being a 13-year-old boy, this was funny. Like REALLY funny.
So throughout the whole 2 hour session my friend and I sat near the back of the room, under a boardroom table, waiting for that moment when she would read the questions. When it came time for questions we sat there, eagerly listening to the really smart questions, and some dumb ones, waiting for our moment.
Not thinking for a moment what a dumb-ass I was in school – unable to control my laughter at the best of times and getting tossed out of many classes for it – I failed to think this through. The moment she picked up my question – the last question of the session, and she read it, I burst out in uncontrollable laughter along with my friend. It took seconds before the entire grade – teachers included – were looking at us, clearly knowing who wrote this idiotic question.
But Sue… Professional Sue… Took it all in stride and answered the question; “salty” was her response.
I felt like a fool.
My friend did too.
We spent the rest of the week denying that we were behind the question, instead stating there was a joke that was told that was super-funny. That joke was not able to be repeated. I’m sure everyone knew.
You live and you learn.
These two incidents definitely set the tone for my comfort around talking about sex, and it took me quite a few years to re-adjust. I don’t want my kids to have to go through that, which is why I want to be open about it and let them know that we will answer any questions they may have on the topic.
How are you handling these types of questions around your kids? How will that differ from the way your folks discussed it with you.