If You Are Going To Talk About My Son’s Penis, Please Be Nice

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.

15 thoughts on “If You Are Going To Talk About My Son’s Penis, Please Be Nice

  1. Totally agree with this. I am tempted sometimes to shame, in my head or with my like-minded friends, but it’s a bad, wicked, soul-destroying journey to shame others. Because next time? I will be me. It’s such bad energy. I don’t want any of that. Now, I find I am more shaming about Dads, which is no better, but they are not the same beat-up old targets as moms are. I am so with you on this. I cannot wait to hear the panel. I actually use the word penis, and have never been clear what the hell a vulva is, so that’s not exactly admirable on my part. I disagree with you, simply because of where my comfort level is. But I respect the hell out of you for telling your story, sharing it, and sticking to your guns. Well done, my friend. So well done.

    • I was in Target today and a young woman was beating her 2-year-old in the beauty aisle. I wasn’t sure who I felt worse for, the mother or the son. But it really made it easier to let go of the judgments. Parenting fail because my 3yo doesn’t know the medically accurate word for his penis? I am pretty lucky to have problems like that. I am positive my son will find it in his heart to forgive me and my parental lapse of judgment.

      Thank you, as always, for your honest and fair input on important stuff like this.

  2. Are you freaking kidding me?

    If this is the worst “parenting fail” that you have, girlfriend, you will be doing so much better than the rest of us.

    I plan to have at least 2 parenting fails per month, more as needed. And I’m certain every parent that sniped at you has the same amount.

    It makes me so discouraged that people are so judgmental of each other. I’ve committed to trying the best I can to be as uplifting and affirming as possible to other moms, even when I don’t agree. If the baby in question isn’t being harmed by said action, get the heck over it.

    This whole parenting thing isn’t easy, no matter how many times we’ve been through it. I can use all the non-judgmental help I can get.

    • Thank you! A little perspective is wonderful!! I try to be real with a bit of humor (my mommyish bit did reference Charlie Sheen in the title, how serious could I really have been?) And I am so with you – I need all the non-judgmental help I can get! Thanks so much for weighing in.

  3. I agree and enjoyed reading the supportive comments on Facebook and Huff Post, specifically andyetonemorevoice’s comment. I also found the Dr.’s article derisive and attacking. I don’t need or want any more judgment and shame in my life – it does nothing for me except take me out of the moment and feed my dark side. You’ve handled all of this beautifully. Count me as a major fan!

    • Ugh, she was awful to me! For really no good reason. That’s right, it feeds our dark side. I’ve been nothing but defensive for 3 days over something that was really silly. I mean if you read my Mommyish article, it was meant to be cute in the first place. These are not my “banned” words. Thanks for your support!

  4. Did you read my recent post about divisive crap like this?? I hope you know that even though I didn’t make the same choice as you, I respect your choice.

    PS My daughters call their vulvas “velvas.” It’s so cute and close enough that I let it fly. Not that different from peepee, I suppose.

    • I think I did but you should post it here anyway. I totally know that, but thank you so much for saying so! I don’t want everyone to agree with me all the time – I love the debate. But mudslinging and words taken out of context? I’ll pass.

  5. Yay for you Carinn! First, I have to say, I can’t believe how much this blew up! I had no idea it was such a trigger or issue for other parents. I love this post as well as how you’ve handled this whole debate and had to pull a few lines out that are incredibly important: “It is wholly unacceptable to make others feel shame around their issues. We must refuse to shame someone for parenting choices that don’t jive with our own.” If we could really get behind this and commit to going forward with an open mind and heart, working on understanding that different is not wrong (with the exception of any kind of abuse toward a child) – everything would change, for the better! There is no one way to do things that’s going to work or feel right to everyone – we are all individuals and so are our children but this is a good thing, nothing to fear, shame or condemn. Awesome post Carinn!

  6. Parenting fail? Really? Goodness gracious. I hate when people take simple things and totally blow them out of proportion in an attempt to stir up controversy. If not liking your son saying penis all the time is the biggest “parenting fail” you have under your belt, I’d say your kids are going to turn out just fine.

Leave a Reply