Hello? Is Anybody Listening? Apparently, yes.

Hello?  Is this thing on?

That’s what I used to wonder when I began this blog.  You hit publish and your words disappear off into oblivion.  Sometimes that’s a good thing.  Sometimes we just need to vent, sometimes we want to put things out there just to get them off our chests.  Sometimes a wonderful community surrounds you and supports you on your bad days.

Sometimes you say things because you really mean them and the debate that ensues is uplifting and inspiring.

Sometimes you say things to convey the growing pains of being a parent and people tell you that you are wrong.  Like Lisa Belkin of the Huffington Post.

Belkin has taken issue with my recent post on Mommyish where I explain that I am not a fan of the words win, penis and girlfriend as far as my three-year-old is concerned.  Of course it’s the word penis that is raising eyebrows.  I am being asked to defend my position on Huff Post Live tomorrow, but the article got me all wrong.  I never proposed “banning” those words.  In fact my post said I didn’t think they were “bad words” by any definition.  I simply elected not to introduce them to my son at this age.  That is my choice as a parent.

The thrust of my Mommyish piece is that my son will have influences other than me throughout his life.  I would love to keep him protected forever – from these silly words and so much more – but that isn’t reality.  So now it’s time to roll with it.

How do you think I’ll hold up?  Will I crumble?  Will I have a change of heart?  Will I stand my ground?  What do you think?

22 thoughts on “Hello? Is Anybody Listening? Apparently, yes.

  1. This may not turn out stuck using the nook but I read not only your article but those comments too, I do not understand where they are coming your son is 3 not 6 or 7, the society on a whole is in a hurry to rob children of their innocence. Abusers are out there that doesn’t mean teaching techinal terms prevents or saves a child. In the care of Riley do pray she can go to a private school where the innocence is protected, there is time for everything and no matter what by the time they graduate they will know what from what no matter what or how they are taught. These terms of telling children everything that is none of their business seems more important thaninstructions of morals and this is where I also agree with the idea of winning, this can destroy a self esteem because we are all good at something but not line up with society judgments of worthy ie football player / cheerleaders popular over the bookworm these are unfair but society does not award the quiet workers in the background. Dont get me started on girlfriends, stand your ground please it could rough sorry

  2. Furiously editing your son’s speech, eh? People read into things what they want to, what they need to get defensive about. I’d be surprised by the responses to your article, but for some reason, people tend to take statements of differing parenting choices as an attack on their own.

    It’s not important whether or not I agree with your personal parental “no” list. I can read beyond that, and I understand the feelings you are having—the desire to let your child grow up without being negatively influenced by words or concepts or judgements. To let him grow up slowly. I get that, and I think it is incredibly important. My favorite parenting book talks about the importance of preserving a child’s innocence for as long as possible. The author made a very important distinction, however, about the difference between innocence and naivete and between wisdom and cynicism. When he talks about preserving innocence, it’s not by keeping the child in a bubble away from the realities of the world, and it’s certainly not by introducing words or concepts too early just because they’ll come up someday. Rather it’s done by presenting and discussing what inevitably comes along in a way that retains compassion and openness and protects from cynicism. A good example for this is with your example of “winning” and “losing”. Yes, winning and losing are concepts that will come up frequently in life in both healthy and unhealthy ways. That doesn’t mean your 3 year old needs to be thinking about it. But since it’s been introduced, how do you keep it positive and from becoming a thing? By being honest, I think. Three year old honest, anyway. And by doing a little casual redirecting.

    So what are you going to do?

  3. I don’t understand why Belkin took such a dislike to it.

    Sure, she may not agree with what you’re saying – but it’s really no business of hers what words you do or do not want you child saying. I suppose she’s responding to the article being posted on a public forum yet the fact remains, it is up to you what words you want your child should say

    The extension is your reaction to it. It’s not as though you are writing into the pre-school asking them for be closed, or scolding the teacher for letting him hear these words (as I’ve experienced) – you are simply stating what you want for your son as, no doubt, part of your own growth and learning. You accept that many of these are simply facets of his life that he will now learn to live with and cope with. Especially the idea of “winning.” Children are their own people. You may foster a degree of trying and effort, but simple children (especially boys) just want to win. It’s out of your hands and it comes across that you accept that (though don’t agree with).

    I think Belkin should’ve focused more on the viewpoint than the examples because, for mine, she missed the mark there.

  4. Stand your ground. Every parent has words they prefer over words they don’t. Every person has words they prefer over words they don’t. Mom-101 just wrote a post about that. I have a friend who gags when you say the word “moist.” When my kids were little, I taught them to say “make noise” instead of farting because I didn’t want them to run around in public yelling, “She farted!” Guess what? A great parenting decision! They would giggle and talk about it and no one knew what they were talking about. I didn’t teach my son “vagina” until I had the sex talk with him at age 9 also because I didn’t want him running around saying it all the time. Boys do that. He did know penis and he talked about it all the time! So what if you don’t want your three-year-old saying that? That’s the reason I didn’t teach my son the rest of the private parts.

    As far as winning, what you wrote sounds to me like it’s not exactly forbidden. My kids get trophies for every damn thing they do and it is sickening. I’ve posted about how I hate this. My kids even ask before they commit to something, “Will I get a trophy?” In a parent’s eyes, a parent who is trying to teach her children that making effort and learning skill are better for them in the long run, I think you were on the mark.

    But don’t be so defensive either. Just because Lisa Belkin asked you to defend your position doesn’t mean she doesn’t agree. Or did she really say that?

  5. Hmmm…I’m gonna go with Be flattered that your writing is being read and evaluated. But on a personal note, all of us moms have hot-button words/issues when it comes to our kids. As long as your rules aren’t too over-the-top or suffocating for your kid, then do your thing. Our little ones are bound to figure out all of it – good, bad, icky – and there’s such a small window of innocence.

    • Thank you! Your support means so much. I don’t think I had a wealth of humor and grace but when you are on media for the first time getting ready to debate your position with 4 people who don’t agree with you, you are just happy to have saliva in your mouth.

  6. I also think if you don’t feel comfortable using “penis” (like I don’t) our 3 and 4 year olds will pick up on that. I didn’t want Bobbby thinking there was something awkward about it. “Dingledong” makes me laugh when I use it and when he does and it should a positive topic. And obviously, the point of your blog was bigger which is why it is so good!

    • I think this makes sense. For me, penis is not a good, bad, or silly word. It’s just a body part. But if I felt weird about or thought my kids would pick up on it bugging me, I’d consider an alternative, too. I can see how someone might find it weird that you consider penis problematic.

      But I totally agree with you on WINNING and GIRLFRIEND.

      • Thanks for weighing in Jen (I’m assuming because Lauren usually ends with Lauren). I want to be clear that I never said penis is problematic. I find nothing good, bad or silly about the term ‘penis’ but the fact is many three year olds do. My mommyish article simply presented 3 words that were not in my son’s vocabulary before he went to preschool that appeared after his first week. Winning is one in particular I don’t like (though accept as part of life), but penis and girlfriend were words I thought he could wait for.

  7. I think it’s interesting that you are even being asked to defend a personal preference – and by “interesting” I mean ridiculous! I hope we can continue to move more toward respecting people’s opinions and differences instead of judging and condemning. I know you are a great mom, an awesome person and a talented writer who very generously shares thoughts and feelings about raising your own small children in an honest and real way. I also believe all moms are going to have their own preferences on handling different situations. But our differences don’t make one mom better than another, different isn’t always wrong. We are not robots, we are all individuals.

    It is flattering that your writing is getting so much attention – you know for sure now, people are reading :) Personally, I feel like this is kind of a b.s. stunt from Belkin to have something to debate about but I hope it goes ok. I know you’ll stand your ground and be fantastic!

    • Anna, this was the most amazing comment. I knew from the get-go you didn’t agree yet 1-you found relevant and nice things to say on the Mommyish piece anyway, and 2-you are so supportive. Because even if you feel strongly about the decision to use the word ‘penis’ in your house, what is completely unacceptable to judge and condemn any mother for very personal choices.

  8. I agree with lessthanperfectmama. Be flattered that it’s being read (no such thing as bad publicity, right? ). And also, yes of course we all have hot-button issues, preferences, etc. regarding our kids. And I certainly can vouch firsthand that some of the things that bug me turn out to have little to do with logic. Having read the articles, I think that Belkin missed the point. Yeah, so we use the words “penis” and “vagina” in our house. But those are personal views/preferences. It seems to me that what your article was really about was the bigger issue of the process of letting go of our being the only/primary reference points for our kids. When my daughter came home from camp singing, “I’m sexy and I know it!” (actually, “I’m SAX-y and I know it!”) and wiggling her little behind, it was truly brought home to me that there is a whole world out there that she will be exposed to, whether I like it or not. What’s important is what I do with that. Keep up your wonderful, insightful writing. The conversation will go on!

  9. I believe in being anatomically correct for body parts. To me, it’s like changing the word for “arm.” Why would you? However, I also believe that you have the right to parent as you see fit (presuming no one gets hurt, of course!). Go get ’em!

    • You guys, I must have the least self-aware 3 year old out there. He has never once asked me the name for his penis. Maybe he’s too busy holding it and playing with it to care what its name is?

      Stacie, we haven’t changed the word, there just is no word. Now that I think about it I can’t be 100% sure he knows the word ‘elbow’, it simply doesn’t come up. Though I dare to mention that “arm” is an easy example whereas everyone uses the slang word for abdomen, calling it “belly”. Not even stomach. We’re talking about 3 year olds, there has to be some leeway.

Leave a Reply