“Mama! I have an erection!” he shouts while we stroll the isles of Home Depot looking for ant killer. The man scouring the cross isle for mosquito repellent smirked and looked our way as M grabbed his crotch and tried to give his penis a little tug through his overalls. I know I should have been horrified, but really I felt proud. I grew up with so little awareness of my own body that I have been trying to teach my son all about his to make up the difference. We had some friends over for dinner tonight including a nearly 4-year-old. When I told them this story, one of the moms said that she doesn’t think her son even knows that word, let alone is able to associate it with an actual thing.
M knows many words for body parts, including a few euphemisms: vagina, penis, girl parts, boy parts, na-nas (his nursing mother, S), no na-nas (me), and bool-bool (Hebrew). He uses all of these words interchangeably and sometimes in embarrassing situations, like when he looked at the man two lanes over in the pool and said, “Na-nas!” Or when he was eye level with a naked woman’s lady parts in the locker room and said, “What’s that?” referencing her excessive pubic hair. Thankfully, people often ignore little kids and neither situation was met with death-stares.
I actually love this stage of his life. The totally inquisitive, no-holds-barred stage has brought me much laughter, some blushing and a few trips to Dr. Google to come up with an accurate answer to his myriad questions. I don’t look forward to the day when he realizes that it might not be ok to announce his erection in public. I want him to realize that this doesn’t mean his body is bad, just private.
I am hopeful that my boy will grow up with love for and understanding of his body. I hope he never feels ashamed of what he and his body are capable of. I hope he also feels ownership over his body and a responsibility to take care of it. These are all things I have been trying to teach myself since I became an adult. I hope he has it easier.