Parenting & Other Life Stories

Raising Boys: The Penis Chronicles

This is not how I would recommend starting a day, but it is how this particular morning began.

The sleep was still heavy in my eyes, and I was moving sluggishly. My goal was to address the sound of feet stamping up and down repeatedly in the bathroom. However, when I flung open the bathroom door I was confronted by the sight of my 5 year old’s face bright red with tears streaming down it. The feet stopped, but the crying started. A fast assessment revealed his pajamas half zipped, and a penis stuck in the zipper! My stomach rolled, my eyes bulged, and I was suddenly wide awake.

I was trying to push my own panic aside, but I had NO idea what to do! He refused to make any movement, and who could blame him? I pulled up on the pajama legs to try and relieve the pulling on his penis, but I was lost. I couldn’t unzip the pajamas, at least not without us both throwing up, and the same went for trying to pull his penis free.

Needless-to-say his penis did come free from the zipper, and those pajamas were forever relieved of their bedtime duties. However, I was left wondering about this tiny piece of anatomy and the commotion it can cause.

I think it is fair to say that most people know that the penis is the male sex organ, and that it also functions as the conduit for urine. The penis is made up of 3 columns of tissue, as well as glans, the urethra, muscle, veins, and arteries. At the base of the penis is the scrotum which holds the testicles. In my opinion, there is nothing extreme involved here, and nothing that warrants extra attention. However, it does seem to generate attention at will.

With this in mind, what I have taken to calling “the penis chronicles” began with an ultra-sound picture. Amusingly, an eager family member viewing a copy of our first ultra-sound pointed to what I thought was the umbilical cord and declared, “PENIS.” No matter how I looked at the image, I could not imagine this lengthy object as a fetus’s penis. My response was, “not unless we are having an elephant.” My husband beamed!

Several months later the penis chronicles continued with unsolicited advice regarding circumcision. This brief period was quickly followed by heartfelt concerns regarding the avoidance of urine. My first son was barely out of the womb, and people were telling me about pee-pee teepees. Apparently, a pee-pee teepee is a tiny cone shaped cup that can be placed over the baby’s penis while changing his diaper. However, if this little body part is as deadly as everybody claims then a paper cup isn’t going to save me. Furthermore, the cup itself looked like the cups we received florid in during school in the 1980’s, but repurposed in a new marketing strategy. I took my chances; my first son never peed on me, and my second son only got me once or twice. How come nobody saw it fit to advise me about projectile vomit, or diaper poop that escapes right up to the baby’s hairline? Personally, I think these activities are scary business, and a heads-up would have been appreciated.

Regardless, raising boys is great because there is never a dull moment. So, to return to the chronicles I will share a few of my favourite penis parenting moments. One such moment involved my 4 year old son and a public washroom. He was still at the stage where he came into the women’s washroom with me, and we used the same stall. As he was finishing going to the bathroom he looked down at himself, and then he looked up at me, and yelled out of the blue, “My penis isn’t big, it’s really REALLY BIG!” This was the first time he had made any indication about size regarding any part of his anatomy, but of course it had to be loud, public, and about his penis.

Since then I have over heard him categorize penis size in our house from daddy down to baby brother. I am bombarded with questions about why girls do not have a penis, about penis itches and penis pains, penis temperature, and penis comfort in various clothing articles, and any other manner of penis topic. The most scandalous of late being my son’s great concern because his penis was stuck to his leg. Honestly, I cannot imagine all this hoopla about a vagina.

That said, just when I thought I had reached a point in the penis chronicles where nothing would ­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­put me off balance my other son decided to enter into the foray. Of course his concern wasn’t with the penis itself, but with the scrotum. Therefore, I once again found myself blundering my way through a new chapter in the penis chronicles. I was not prepared for this little person to wrench his penis out of the way to point enthusiastically at his scrotum and say, “what’s this mommy?” Completely at a loss my mind flew madly through all the slang terms I had accumulated over the years trying to find a suitable descriptive term. Furthermore, here I was again struggling with my own comfort level because the words scrotum and testicles seemed foreign and somehow distasteful for a 2 ½ year old.

Thankfully, I recovered quickly because I was armed with previous ­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­parenting blunders regarding anatomy. Not only was I able to identify my hesitation as my own discomfort, but I was able to provide him with the word testicles and proudly conclude another chapter in the chronicles. However, I will say that I was thankful that no questions about testicle function immediately followed this episode.

This in no way represents an all-encompassing version of The Penis Chronicles, but it is some of the highlights. These are highlights that I think illustrate the innocent yet challenging moments in parenting; moments that cultivate comfortable relationships, humorous memories, and growth and education for all. For me, I believe that these are the moments that have set a pathway of open communication that will assist in what I can only call the “future” penis chronicles.

By Shari Marshall – 2016