My son has a habit that he just won't quit....
"Dani, does...uh...Gabriel ever take his hands out his pants?" a father of one of the little girls in my 5-year-old's pre-school class asked me recently when I came to pick him up from a playdate.
"Yes." I said. "To eat. Sometimes. Unless it's something he can eat with one hand."
It's not like I didn't know about where Gabriel likes to keep his hands. Although this was the first I was hearing about it from another parent.
"Oh," the Dad continued, "yeah... 'cause he was watching cartoons on the couch with Monica, for I don't know, like almost two hours, and he didn't take them out the whole time...and....you know...ha ha ha," It was a forced chuckle that managed to incorporate "it's really weird" with "that lucky bastard."
"Gabriel, honey, Monica's Daddy told me you had your hands in your pants watching TV on the couch," I said to him a few minutes later in the car.
"Oh. We watched Ben Ten, Mom. HA HA." He knows I don't like shows with tiny sarcastic brats in them, animated or otherwise, so this was a good distraction ploy on his part.
"That's for private time, OK honey? That's for when you're in your room." I was surprised to find myself parroting what my husband, Tod, always tells him. We haven't set a formal "hands in your pants" policy, but "in your room" sounded good. Is it wrong that I don't really care where he puts his hands as long as they are not around another kids' neck? Or down their pants?
Maybe I'm too laissez faire, I considered, stuck in traffic with too much time to think. After all, I don't want parents whispering to each other, "Don't have Gabriel over, he'll jerk off on your couch," that kind of thing. Also, isn't it part of my job as a parent, to help my child get along in the world? But isn't it also my job to help him feel comfortable with his body and enjoy himself? And pleasuring oneself is one of life's more reliable pleasures.
Dani Klein Modisett is the mom of two boys, and the creator/producer of Afterbirth...Stories You Won't Read in Parents Magazine.