My son's penis must be sick because he was playing doctor and he asked his cousin to examine it.
Radical Mommy: I admit it, I used to think my son was perfect. Well, I recently had a very rude awakening when I discovered that my 5-year-old son and his 5-year-old girl cousin were playing "doctor." Now, I don't mean the "Let me take your temperature" kind of doctor -- I mean the "My penis is sick, can you examine it" kind of doctor. I was shocked!
I know that I was a fool (and an elitist) to think that my son was any different than any other child out there, but I have to tell you, when I discovered that he was asking his cousin to examine his penis during their little game of doctor, I was horrified.
I guess I should have seen it coming -- my husband, my son, and I were on vacation visiting my sister and her family, which consists of her husband and their three daughters -- ages 9, 7, and 5. On the night we arrived, my son and his like-aged cousin locked themselves in her bedroom amidst fits of laughter and cries of "You can't come in."
I didn't think anything of it -- they had just bonded (they have a very love-hate relationship) over covering me in press-on tattoos, and I figured that they were up in her room doing whatever secret nonsense 5-year-olds get up to.
Later that night, when it came time to put pajamas on, both kids were hesitant to take their pants off. When we finally coaxed them into getting changed, we discovered that each of them had a press-on tattoo on their butt and another one on their pubic area. My sister and I looked at each other and then casually asked how they got there. Amidst fits of laughter, they revealed that he had puts hers on her and she had done the same to him. Not wanting to make a big deal of it and figuring that it is kind of hard to put a tattoo on your own butt, we didn't say anything and laughed it off.
I didn't think about the incident again, and I certainly didn't think anything of it when they started playing "doctor" together. It didn't sound any alarm bells because they always ask me to be their patient, and in no way has there ever been anything but pretend shot-giving, temperature-taking, and the occasional amputation of a limb.
Now that I'm really thinking about it, there was something else that happened that makes me think that I (we) should have been more aware of their burgeoning interest in not only their own, but other people's bodies.
One night right after bath time, the two of them started running around hysterically laughing while shouting, "It's the wiener show" (I guess my niece didn't mind calling her vagina a wiener that night), and showing us their genitals. Again, we didn't think anything of it, and if you ask me, it was kind of funny. Of course, after a few minutes of the "wiener show," we told them to stop, and they did. No big deal.
I was alerted to the fact that their little game of doctor had gone soft-core when my brother-in-law told my sister and me that he'd overheard my son asking his daughter if she wanted to play doctor and she responded, "Sure, but I don't want to touch your penis."
I have to tell you I was shocked and a little embarrassed. Had he been pressuring his cousin to touch his penis? Had they both been touching each other's bits but she didn't feel like doing it this time? I was shocked. I was also shocked by my reaction and the fact that I was shocked.
I consider myself to be pretty open, and I am fully aware that experimentation and playing "doctor" are all part of growing up -- I mean, hell, I remember playing doctor myself when I was little. But I have to confess the reason I was shocked was because I was so disillusioned by the fact that my son, my little baby, my little buddy, was sexually curious about his cousin.
At first, my sister and I decided that we wouldn't say anything, but then we talked some more and thought that maybe it would be a good idea to have a little refresher chat with them (each privately) about touching other people and letting people touch you, etc.... So I did. But did I do the right thing? Should I have said anything about it to him? Should I have said more? Should I continue to talk to him about it? Or do I leave good enough alone?
Normally I am very sure of myself and sure of how I want to parent, but I have to be honest: right now I am so confused and really not sure what to do. On the one hand, I don't want him touching other little kids and letting them touch him -- but on the other, isn't it a part of growing up?
Since I have no idea what to do, I'm actually going to do something that I never do -- ask an expert's opinion about what I should do. I am going to talk to an expert and see what she thinks about how to handle this. Tomorrow, I'll let you know what she says.