There has been a lot of talk over at the Huffington Post about my son’s penis. Lisa Belkin disagreed with my choice to not introduce the word ‘penis’ to my son at the age of three. Logan Levkoff called my action (well, actually a made-up version of my action) a “parenting fail.” Let’s put aside for a moment that the word ‘penis’ was mentioned three times in the 1000 word Mommyish article (the lesson of which was entirely lost), and discuss the deeper issue: mommy shaming.
Some people use slang words for their child’s private parts. Other people think that is “wrong” or “harmful,” but your judgment has little impact on someone else’s visceral feelings. A parent is not going to use a word if they don’t feel comfortable. They can be educated and informed, but they do not have to see things the way you do. Nor should they be forced to.
Many responses pointed out that ‘penis’ wasn’t a part of their own vocabulary for various reasons. I am happy for those evolved parents who feel completely at ease with the words penis and vulva (that’s right, vagina is not the anatomically correct term, it’s vulva), but understand this: not everyone has that comfort level. It is wholly unacceptable to make others feel shame around their issues – whether they be insignificant (eww, I don’t like that word) or deep (victims of child abuse). Hold firm to your beliefs but be respectful of where someone else might be coming from. You cannot possibly imagine what goes into every parenting decision someone else makes.
I have been in the minority quite often (remember when you told me how you really felt about my support for Mayor Bloomberg’s Latch on NYC initiative) but have enjoyed the spirited and passionate debates. However, we must refuse to shame someone for parenting choices that don’t jive with our own. Education and rational discussion are tools this entire country should value yet it seems parents toss those concepts in the wastebasket as soon as they see another parent saying or doing something of which they don’t approve.
You are entitled to your opinion of what is “right” and what is “wrong”. You are encouraged (at least here) to share it. Be respectful and maintain an open-mind. I fear we are raising a generation of children that will know the word ‘penis’ but will call each other assholes when they perform math equations from left to right instead of vertically.
To see our respectful disagreement, check out me and the rest of the panel on Huffington Post Live (note: the live audio will begin immediately but to see the ‘penis’ segment, you need to click play under ‘no more penis’). Editorial note: I relaxed about five minutes in when I realized this wasn’t going to be a witch hunt.
Can’t stand to watch video? Check out some of the very honest and respectful input on Facebook.