Friday, January 24, 2014

Storytime

I know, I missed TTTT yesterday, in part because work is continuing to kick my butt and in part because I have temporarily ran out of horse stories to share. I know, right?!! There are more, but my access is temporarily disconnected. Hopefully, by next Thursday access will be restored and I will have another horse story from my youth to share. (It really is a bitch, this getting older shit.)

However, I do have a couple of non-horse related stories to share. Actually, more than a few. So, I thought I would share . . . . .


We were driving home in the car. T was sitting in the back seat in his booster, playing his imaginary game to himself. I had the radio off, listening, because his game was one of the wonders of this boy child. He was three and a bundle of energy, imagination and determination.

For some background, T played an imaginary game from the time he was about two until he was twelve or so, when his friends began teasing him about his imagination. It usually involved a small toy he could hold in one hand, a matchbox car or die cast Star Wars ship, that became whatever he imagined it was. For several years, he played Star Wars, complete with sound effects and hand movements to simulate the movement of the ship through space. We loved Star Wars. Still do. It was an interesting experience to watch Menace, Clones and Revenge through his eyes and to see the greatest villain of my generation become a romantic, misguided and manipulated fallen hero in the eyes of my son. He wanted to meet his Padme by the age of five and mourned in first grade the lack of his future wife. The game finally died about two years ago, buried under the scorn of his friends, his embarrassment and the sudden and all-encompassing passion of video games.

But not on that day. Suddenly, out of no where, T said, "Mom?"

Me: "Yes, son?"
T: "Do you like penises?"

OMG. How in the world do I answer that honestly? I knew when I made the decision to be pregnant and bear a child into the world, that someday I would have to answer really difficult questions. I was prepared for the sex talk and the romance talk and all of the bits and pieces in between, but I hadn't ever considered this line of questioning. I had made a commitment to myself that any question he had the courage to ask, I would have the courage to answer honestly. But this? How to say, "Well, not really", without devastating his sense of self-worth, his deepest sense of himself as boy. Before I could answer, however, he came back with:

"I hate my penis."

Talk about devastating to a mother. I knew, as a lesbian mom raising a boy child, that there would be times when I would flounder. I expected them to revolve around jock itch and foreskin, not this sudden self-hatred of that most intimate of all parts. I had worried about being able to raise a son with a sense of himself as boy, as man, when being raised by two women. Not that I thought you needed a man to raise a boy, since my opinion of fathers was tainted by my own childhood experience with not only my own, but also fathers of my friends. I knew our child would be loved and protected, supported and wanted, a central part of our lives, not an inconvenience. But somewhere deep in my psyche, I worried about this very moment in our lives with a worry and fear beyond speech.

I changed my tact, "Why do you hate your penis?" I asked gently, meeting his shadowed eyes in the mirror.

T: "Because pee comes out of it."

Sudden light. They were still working on potty training at the daycare where he went. This question was not self-hatred, but perhaps some confusion surrounding hygiene and the washing of hands. This I could deal with. I explained that pee can carry bacteria and that's why we wash our hands after going to the bathroom, but that it isn't bad and it certainly doesn't make his penis bad. He was unconvinced.

Me: "Let's think of things you like about your penis. Do you like standing up to pee?"
T: Nods vigorously in the mirror.
Me: "And you like stiffies (our name for an erection)."

This time a sly smile stretched his mouth, and he nodded again. I could see he was still unconvinced. Moms are not the best source of reassurance at times like this. I, however, had a secret weapon. Our next door neighbor, a wonderful man named Jared who was a triplet with two sisters, had offered shortly after we brought T home to stand in as a male figure if we ever needed him to. I figured this was something he could handle.

When we got home, I lifted T from his car seat and said, "Let's go talk to Jared, shall we?" T buried his face in my shoulder and nodded stiffly against my neck.

I knocked on Jared's door. He opened it, dressed in shorts and a tight t-shirt with man muscle corded across his shoulders and manly hairy legs. He looked puzzled but happy to be interrupted.

Me: "Jared, T has something he wants to ask you."
Jared: "Hey, little man, what's up?"
T: "Do you like your penis?"
Jared, blinked once in surprise, shot me a curious glance, and then stepped up like a champion, "I like my penis a lot!"
T raised his head in surprise and looked at Jared. Jared, hands now fisted at his hips, said, "My penis is good to me."
T said, "Do you like stiffies?"
Jared, hands still on hips, with a little hip thrust that put him front and center said, "Oh, yeah! I like stiffies a lot. They get better as you get older. My girlfriend likes my stiffy too."
T's eyes widened, "Oh. Ok."
Jared held out his fist, "fist bump, little dude." T obliged and giggled, his world set right again.

I have no idea what Jared thought of that conversation. I can say, he was a delightful neighbor and I miss him. He is married now, with a couple of kids of his own. He has my undying gratitude for his simple, yet sincere, frank conversation with my son.

We have had no more talk of hating of body parts and I went back to feeling like a fairly adequate parent.

3 comments:

  1. How awesome that you had such a great neighbor, and that Jared just stepped up to the challenge and was able to put T at ease! My mom went through some awkward moments with my brother too when we were growing up. <:) We had my grandfather and my uncle to handle the boy conversations!

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    1. We've kind of grown out of the boy-man talk thing, I think. T has had the opportunity to witness how the fathers of his friends treat their sons. He's also gained maturity and enough perspective to understand how much we do for him, from the viewpoint of opportunities to experience or participate in the activities he's passionate about, like skiing and biking, while his friends sit at home doing not a whole lot of anything. We've had enough frank conversations to let him know I will answer anything he asks with straightforward honesty. He has been protected from sexual violence as a child and is growing into his sexuality with compassion and empathy as his guiding principles. He has already begun to grasp the idea that relationships are work, not all butterflies and romance, but that a good relationship, a good marriage, requires compromise and communication and work on the part of both parties. He is going to make some lucky woman an incredible husband some day, and hopefully, also be a caring, compassionate and loving father to a child. Although I really hope he doesn't decide to name his child Narnia. Just saying.

      Jared was a wonderful neighbor and great guy. We used to sit on the front porch steps and talk about everything, while T ran up and down the sidewalk. He had been raised in a family of women, which had taught him the value of communication and compromise. His wife is a very lucky woman, because he was also endowed with a wonderful body. We had a lot of great conversations and he made me laugh. Too bad he moved.

      Our other neighbor, in the condo on the other side of us, was completely flabbergasted by T's question later that day. T asked him out of the blue if he liked his penis. John turned red and gaped like a landed fish. I prompted him by saying, "Just say yes, John." but I guess that was too much for him and he raced into his house with a bright red face. T looked very sad at the fact that there was a guy who didn't like his penis. It made me laugh.

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  2. I love this. Raising kids the best way possible with truth instead of silly euphemisms about every tiny little taboo subject.

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