"Like all the best families, we have our share of eccentricities, of impetuous and wayward youngsters and of family disagreements." - Elizabeth II
**TMI WARNING. A LOT OF IT. MENTAL IMAGES CANNOT BE AVOIDED. CONSIDER YOURSELF WARNED.**
Some way or another, we each endure our awkward stage. My wife had her braces, her ridiculously enormous glasses, and was developing breasts. I had a mullet, a gut, and coincidentally, was also developing breasts.
During these tough, formative times your parents are quick to point out how beautiful you are, that you'll grow out of it, that it's just "baby fat." But they don't warn you about another awkward stage to come a lot further down the line. Why would they, really? They're saving us from the dread. They're also secretly looking forward to it. I'm talking about the unavoidable subjects that will most assuredly arise during parenthood.
We recently had our first instance...
There's really no other way put this, so here goes: my daughter is a little too obsessed with my pen!s for my liking. Yes, writing that was just as uncomfortable for me as reading it probably was for you.
Let me try to make a long story short.
When we go upstairs to put on her pajamas, I do the same. So she sees me naked. At this point, I don't know if I'm more surprised that you're still reading or that I'm still writing.
One day the inevitable came: "What's that, daddy?" She was pointing and smiling innocently at, appropriately enough, my babymaker. What I wanted to say was, "That's where you came from." But with a straight face, and with as little apprehension in my voice as possible, I answered, "That's daddy's pen!s."
(Oh my GOD I just wrote 'pen!s' again.)
Now, by no means do I invite these situations. But in the natural course of the routine, she occasionally sees me naked. Naturally, she's curious. And, naturally, I have no idea if I am positively informing her and making her comfortable with the human body, or scarring her for life and slowly making her realize that men are really disgusting (which I guess she'll learn eventually anyway).
She is relentless in her pursuit of information. Every time we go upstairs I'm now posed with the frightening question, "Where'd daddy's pen!s go?" That's not a question any male wants to be compelled to answer. What if, God forbid, you don't know the answer? Fortunately for me, so far I've answered correctly and confidently every time. "My pen!s is my pants, sweetheart."
"Why?" she asks. "Because that's where it belongs." Such a good response, if I may say so myself. In more ways than one.
The fact that this is all totally innocent and natural does not make it any less awkward for me. Still, just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water... the other night she was in the bath, playing with her toy fishing pole, trolling for turtles and pelicans and sharks. She then proceeded to identify the fishing pole as her pen!s. So that forces the conversation about girl and boy parts. And who has a pen!s and who has a vag!na.
And then she sees my wife undressing for bed, points at her breasts and blurts out, "That's mommy's pen!s." Huh? Then, on Easter Sunday of all days, my daughter is standing there as I get out of the shower. She points to my naked body and asks, "Where's daddy's vag!na?"
(I have now grown accustomed enough to writing the word 'pen!s' that I have stopped holding my breath every time I type it.)
And I guess that in itself is a victory, a breakthrough, a start at least. We said early on that we'd refer to human anatomy with their anatomically correct terms. I refuse to give my daughter the shaft. And shy away from her curiosity about the male form like a scared turtle cowers in its shell. Bring on the tough questions, little girl. I've got answers. They might not be the right ones, but I've got 'em.
That's pretty much the long and short of it.