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Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Ooh! Controversy!

"Penis! Penis! Penis! Penis!"

That's what the random three year old at the pool was yelling when Baby J escaped mid-diaper change and streaked across the deck.

"That's a funny penis! Penis! Penis! Penis!"

And I cracked up laughing. I have no desire to make my kid feel embarrassed, but he's not even two and, frankly, it was hysterical. The pool was pretty quiet right at that moment (Why is there always a lull in conversation right before your child says something embarrassing? Why?) I noticed that no parent claimed the heckler. I, too, have turned my head and pretended not to know my child in public. No harm in it, as long as you take them with you when you leave.

Sounds like someone's mommy and daddy made sure he knew the anatomically correct term for his junk, but neglected to inform him that current circumcision rates in this country are at about fifty percent. What that means is about half of the little boys look like elephants and half look like mushrooms. Neither elephants nor mushrooms are particularly humorous in general, but I suppose they can be in certain situations.

Circumcision rates among my friends' sons are about the same as the national average, but I really don't know for sure. The reason I don't know is because I hold this very controversial opinion: The elephant or mushroom decision is personal and the most important thing is that both parents are at peace with the choice. There are so many more hard parenting moments ahead. If a couple can't resolve this one, they're in for a long and difficult road. Frankly, so is their child. Given that the rates are about fifty percent, no child is going to spend much time worrying that he might look funny, unless his parents suggest he should. Confidence is everything.

My husband and I made our choice and stuck with it. I've never made any judgments* about other parents' choices on the circumcision front. Well, except for one time. And I was provoked. At the time, I was a volunteer breastfeeding adviser and I was invited to speak at a childbirth class about breastfeeding newborns and any potential problems that might arise. As luck would have it, they were covering circumcision the same evening. Fun times.

There was one guy (there's always one, isn't there?) looking for a fight. The teacher presented both sides as diplomatically as possible. Several students expressed strong opinions, as un-diplomatically as possible (as parents-to-be tend to do). This guy wanted to talk about everyone's penis. He was obsessed. It wasn't enough for him to control the fate of his own child's foreskin. He wanted everyone on his kid's team. He wanted to be the coach. He kept polling the class, many of them still shell-shocked from the video**. He turned to me. I felt scared. I hadn't opened my mouth or even made eye contact with anyone during his tirade.


Well, no. I'm neither a mohel nor a doctor. Oh wait, he wanted to know if my sons were elephants or mushrooms. Stunned, I answered the question. Then he wanted to know about my husband. It was so seriously creepy.

When he learned that my husband and my children didn't match, he freaked. He accused me of ruining my husband's life. Interestingly, he assumed the decision had been all mine. He wondered aloud (very loudly) if my husband cared that our sons would be freaks and how he felt, knowing his children looked different from him. That's when I got mad.

"Well," I said with a dirty little smirk, "Thing is, my husband doesn't need any reassurance in that department. He's got plenty reason to be confident about his p-"

I think I even managed to manufacture a little blush, but I didn't get to finish my sentence, because the guy left in a teeny bit of a huff. And I was left feeling violated, but oh well...

Namasté, y'all!

* At least, not out loud.

** It was the breastfeeding video that freaked them out, by the way. The circumcision one was tame in comparison. There was a lady in the breastfeeding video that had the most freakishly long nipples I've ever seen in my entire life. They were disturbing. And I don't get disturbed very easily.


Bonny said...

parenting is nothing if not humbling, huh?

Summer said...

It's guys like that that the spam for penis enlargement pills were written for. Such obvious fear and uncertainty about their own parts. LOL

Anonymous said...

I completely agree...I think circumcision is a completely personal and individual decision for each couple. We had both our sons circumcised, but just because I had it done doesn't mean I think everyone else should or that I should be told I'm a bad mom for doing it. I can completely see why someone would choose not to do does have potential health benefits, but none that are guaranteed. There's actually a really interesting debate about circumcision at Experts from both sides make some great points and counterarguments to each other.