Sometimes life in a house of males has its advantages. Sports practices and camping trips usually fall squarely into the Dad quadrant of chore delegation. (I get field trips and vaccinations.) But there are times when being the lone estrogen hold-out in a house of testosterone and testicles leaves me longing, just a little, for Barbie dolls and period jokes, for someone to pass down a well-thumbed copy of Are You There God, It’s Me Margaret to. But alas, it’s a meat and two veg, family jewels kind of game. A true ball game.
Nine times out of ten, I don’t even think about it. But every now and again, I have one of those moments. Like the other day when I had to begin a conversation in a way that you should never have to begin a conversation. It started out something like this:
“So, listen…sorry about the penis show and tell at the play-date yesterday….”
It’s one of those parenting moments when you find yourself on unsure footing, even on a familiar playing field. Do you risk a foul by not saying anything, thereby potentially becoming the mom who is known for naked play-dates? Do you throw a fast ball and act like it’s no big deal? Had it happened at my house, with another child, I wouldn’t have thought it was a big deal. But you never know how other parents deal with these things. In the end, I opted for full disclosure. And both of us had a chuckle over our five year-olds’ full disclosures.
You would think having been a mom to a boy for as long as I have I would be more prepared for something like this, have a few pithy comments in my bag of tricks. But the truth is, my eldest was always more of a truck boy than a ball boy. Sure, there was the expected exploration, some tugging and pulling that looked painful, a few horrified moments in the bath when he was very young when things wouldn’t go back to normal, but otherwise, the fiddling and diddling never became an obsession.
Not so with the little one. He is a super fascinated, super fiddler. He is super flabbergasted why his father and I aren’t more amazed at his puppetry of the penis. Take it from me, the dangers of over-praising your kids take on a whole new meaning when you’re talking about genitalia.
We’re modern parents. We’ve read books. We’re not shy about body stuff, we’re aware that self exploration is healthy and nothing to feel shameful about. No hairy palm threats here. That said, it gets a bit much when you’ve got a mini Al Bundy sauntering through life and kindergarten with a hand down his pants. Lately the reminders to put it away, keep it private, wait until he’s alone seem a lot more frequent. He will not be deterred. After I talked to him, pre-emptively, to make sure he did not compare nibbles and bits at school, reminded him that it’s something just for him, he asked what he should do if he is invited to a “penis play-date party”. After a moment of blank faced shock, I assured him that once he was an adult, he was free to go to a penis play-date party if he so chose.
It’s not just the physical. Freud would have a field day with this child. Age appropriate, phallic art work has been coming home from school for a while now. Construction towers get taller and higher. And increasingly, he finds ways to slip the word into everyday conversation. Big Top Gear fans, they were unfortunately introduced to the word “cock”, in all it’s intonations, recently. In the interest of being honest in my attempts to insist they not use the word, I told them it was slang for penis. Which of course made it all the more delicious on their little tongues. But the little one, true to my instructions, doesn’t say it. He instead goes around saying things like:
“Mom! So what a rooster is really saying is…..”penis-a-doodle-do??” Oh he’s clever, the little bugger, I grant him that. But when you find yourself repeating “put your junk away” 500 times a day, it can get a bit tiresome. When the aforementioned play date occurred, I was already 10-zip down. The bases were loaded and it was bottom of the ninth. When he came home and informed me that he and his friend had different penises, I fouled out.
Hoping they were just discussing it like civilized five year-olds, I asked how he knew. He launched into his story, peppered with endless ‘and thens‘ and ended with the statement, ‘so I showed him mine.’ And then he promptly showed me as well. When I sent him off that afternoon, reminding him to be on his best behavior, to remember to say please and thank you, to use his manners, I obviously forgot to expressly remind him not to whip out the measuring stick and play ‘look what I’ve got in my pants.’
Obviously I don’t get it. Because I don’t have one. I don’t know if there is an underlying fear that it is going to fall off, that it is going to atrophy and stop working. I’m not sure if it is just a comfort thing, if it simply feels good, if it’s just an unconscious form of fidgeting, like drumming your fingers or tapping your foot. But drumming your fingers or tapping your feet usually doesn’t necessitate sheepishly approaching another mother to apologize for you show me yours/I’ll show you mine games.
I’m surrounded. I’m sure this is how my father felt in a house full of estrogen and sanitary products.
There are days I don’t want to be the pinch hitter any more. Peanuts and Crackerjacks or not, I want to be taken out of the ball game.