Minding One’s Peens and Q’s

November 11, 2008

The girl-child has impeccable manners. She’s all please and thank you and may I and I’m sorry and oh, excuse me and it’s entirely disarming. She can be in the middle of a nuclear-scale tantrum and she’ll still stop to say excuse me and wait for you to step aside before she stomps past you shouting THANK YOU. It’s kind of awesome.

She’s also generous with the compliments. We think that it’s something that they’ve been teaching at her preschool, because although my husband and I are unfailingly polite, we tend not to walk around praising each other’s clothing choices and hair-brushing techniques. Emilia, on the other hand, is all about praising the finer details of the appearance and comportment of others: nice buttons on your shirt, Mommy! she’ll say. And, I like your hair today, Daddy! Did you brush it? Or, are those new shoes, Mommy? I like the laces! (said of laceless Converse sneakers.)

And then, the other day, this:

(bursting into the bathroom and confronting her very surprised father, in flagrante urinato)


Which, you know, was kind of funny, but only in that embarrassing, not-for-sharing-at-dinner kinda way, like that time last year when she shouted, from the backseat of the car, excuse ME, mother-f***er! and we both looked at each in horror before exclaiming to each other she didn’t get that from ME and then laughing, uncomfortably, out loud. That kind of funny.

The thing is, on the very rare occasion – very rare – that she says something that is obviously inappropriate – like, say, mother-f***er – we can console ourselves with the facts that a) she didn’t get it from us (we save all of our cursing for after hours and, in any case, never refer to ourselves or anyone else as mother-f***ers) and b) it’s easy to explain to her that some words simply aren’t polite. But how do we respond to complimentary commentary on genitalia? I mean, she was trying to pay a compliment. She wanted to say something nice, and the obvious thing, when the person to whom one wants to say something nice has directed their attention to a specific part of themselves, is to direct one’s compliment to that specific part. That’s just basic etiquette.

But Emily Post didn’t provide direction on how to compliment penises for a very good reason: one simply shouldn’t go around complimenting penises in any circumstances other than those engaged in, in private, by consenting adults. Which is not something that we’re not yet talking about with the girl, who is, after all, just two days shy of three years old and so some twenty-odd years off from dating. So how do we explain to her that although it is nice to say nice things to other people, there are just some things that we don’t draw attention to? We do not, after all, want to suggest to her that there is anything shameful about the parts that she is complimenting; we do not want to suggest that those parts are anything other than ‘nice’. And isn’t there something potentially confusing and problematic about telling her that we simply shouldn’t talk about those parts?

Obviously, the fast answer is lock the bathroom door. But that doesn’t resolve the bigger issue: we’re fairly modest people, inasmuch as we tend not to wander around naked, but we don’t make a fuss about concealing ourselves from each other, because, again, we don’t want to send the message that there’s something shameful about bodies. We have talks about privacy, but we’re not fascists about it. So, you know, occasionally there’s going to be a glimpse of a penis or a boob and if the girl decides that those things are deserving of compliments, well, how are we to respond? Should we respond, in any manner other than simply saying thank you and moving on?

Because, you know, I don’t get compliments on my boobs all that often, and so I’m kind of inclined to take them where I can get them.

(What do you/will you/would you do?)

(Thanks to Niksmom for the title suggestion via Twitter)

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    April November 12, 2008 at 8:40 pm

    i’d say thank you and move on. if this becomes a habit, then you can take it to the next level :-)

    Eva November 12, 2008 at 8:48 pm

    Thank you and move on, perhaps commenting on the throw rugs or something.

    flutter November 12, 2008 at 9:30 pm

    flagrante urinato made me laugh so hard, I almost urinato-ed myself

    Sharon November 12, 2008 at 9:55 pm

    No real advice, but I do need to tell you about the day that my then 4-year-old saw me just out of the shower. He took one look at my um, midsection, and said, “Nice fuzzies, Mommy!” I almost passed out from shock and the effort to not laugh. I don’t remember what I said to him at that point!

    Katy November 12, 2008 at 10:25 pm

    Don’t. Say. A. Thing.

    Seriously, the more mileage you give it, the worse it will get. Kids can smell your discomfort and she will exploit it at the first opportunity. Probably while your husband’s boss is visiting.

    You’re lucky, when my kids say motherf**er, I can be reasonably certain they learned it from me trying to navigate the freeways of hell around here. Guilt, I haz it.

    Lori at Spinning Yellow November 12, 2008 at 10:28 pm

    Too funny. I think my husband would have probably said something totally inappropriate like, "I wish mommy thought so". She's still young, no big explanation needed, IMO. There'll be plenty of time for you to explain what's appropriate when she and her brother get older. Trust me, we get a lot of penis & vagina talk around here with a 7 yr old boy & 4 yr old girl.

    Mimi November 12, 2008 at 11:03 pm

    Toooooo funny. I’d just say ‘thanks’ and nonchalantly move on. Praying.

    Mia November 12, 2008 at 11:29 pm

    That was so funny I had to read it to the hubby. All he could do was laugh and shake his head.

    I wouldn’t bring any more attention to it. She’ll figure that one out one day. For now, I don’t know if your hubby shouldn’t be mortified, but entertained!

    Anonymous November 13, 2008 at 12:00 am

    yup. Don’t make a fuss. And enjoy the innocence of it all. Because before you know it (I know it doesn’t seem soon now, but it will be the fastest-passing decade of your life so far) she will be shouting DAD!! YOU. ARE. DISGUSTING. A passing glimpse between now and then will do no permanent harm. Making a fuss might.

    Sam November 13, 2008 at 1:05 am

    I’d like to know what makes a “nice” penis. One that puts the toilet seat down after the peeing? One that is not too hot, too cold, too big or too pencil-shaped? I am personally not a fan of the pencil penis.

    mothergoosemouse November 13, 2008 at 1:14 am

    I’m just picturing her reading this post in about ten years.

    Awesome Mom November 13, 2008 at 2:06 am

    I got a nice compliment on my boobs and after that decided to be a bit more careful about who was in the room when I was dressing. I figure that they need to learn about privacy as well as the human body so I did not freak out about the boob compliment but I took it as a sign that maybe enforcing my privacy would be a good thing.

    kittenpie November 13, 2008 at 5:45 am

    While I think a simple thank you is fine for now, I’d also start discussions on how those parts are private, and eventually on how we don’t talk about private things in front of everyone, we talk about them in private. Which is also my party line on the touching of said private parts.

    Tiffi33 November 13, 2008 at 8:51 am

    dude. that is FUNNY.
    I would say that it is not polite to comment on private parts, that they are private and personal and not everyone like to talk about them.
    we are pretty open with bodies here..I pee w/ the door open regularly..I have been known to turn my back to change my clothes w/ the kids in the room…they are getting older so I will need to change that I am sure..
    I say that as long as she knows what it appropriate socially, you are good.
    On the bright side, you will have some funny embarrassing stories to tell about her when she is a teenager!

    Mom101 November 13, 2008 at 9:15 am

    I’m just glad she didn’t say something like, “wow, what a BIG penis daddy!”

    Anything comparative would sort of freak me out. But nice? Well, maybe it is nice. I’ll have to take her word for it.

    The Coffee Lady November 13, 2008 at 9:26 am

    thanks is fine, for a 3 year old

    a 5 year old would be another conversation

    compared to the mindboggling “Baby Michael has got a woolly bottom, and I have a pussy” which we got from our three year old girl, I think you are getting away quite lightly

    litanyofbritt November 13, 2008 at 10:46 am

    BAHAHAHA!!! thanks for that

    Avalon November 13, 2008 at 11:25 am

    “Thanks” and move on.

    The more comment there is on her compliment, the more attention it draws.

    At 3, the lack of attention is all it takes for them find something more interesting.

    Ernesta November 13, 2008 at 12:37 pm

    Kids are the best. My 2 year old just points and laughs at my boobs – he thinks they are the funniest things!
    My approach to penis/vagina/nether region comments/compliments is to take them with a grain of salt — if you’re too serious kids may take it the wrong way and have mixed feelings about their bodies,etc.

    Cat November 13, 2008 at 1:01 pm

    Wow, not a problem I’m all that familiar with. What a sweet little girl! Yeah, probably just a “thank you” is the best way to go about it. Best not to overcomplicate something she likely didn’t think twice about.

    Eternal Sunshine November 13, 2008 at 1:02 pm

    I think a simple “A person’s body belongs to them, and it’s private, so it’s not polite to talk about someone’s body.”

    This can go for anything that is hidden by clothing, and may also come in handy when you’re kid gets the urge to shout “Look at that Lady! She’s really fat!!” if you ever see me at the grocery store…

    gwendomama November 13, 2008 at 2:08 pm

    is it wrong that I am reading this and wondering, circ or not? what exactly WAS she commenting on…..

    I know….sick…..

    No Mother Earth November 13, 2008 at 3:20 pm

    These days, I’d take any compliment I get. I’d say thank you, and either lock the door next time, or say “daddy would like some privacy while he’s peeing” and leave it at that. Make a big deal of it, and it will become a big deal.

    Miss Grace November 13, 2008 at 3:46 pm

    I’d say thanks.

    Rachel November 13, 2008 at 4:08 pm

    My cousin’s little boy is extrememly polite. He used to scream “NO, THANK YOU!” too. Still cracks me up.

    Immoral Matriarch November 13, 2008 at 4:42 pm

    Nothing different, just laugh and keep it moving. Oh, and thank you – to not let her out-manner you. *lol*

    Her Bad Mother November 13, 2008 at 6:54 pm

    gwendomama – I don’t think she was actually making an assessment (that is, I hope not) – I think that she was just trying to be politely friendly (I think they encourage this at her school, because she does it with everything – our clothes, our eyewear, our vehicle, our shoes, our ears – whatever happens to be in her field of vision)

    But she did, on one other occasion, comment on the size. That was equally awkward.

    Stefanie November 13, 2008 at 7:10 pm

    It depends. I mean, is it a nice penis? Cause if not, you don’t want her to run around giving empty compliments. But if it is in fact a great penis then I would say, “good eye!”

    Seriusly that’s hilarious. You know you don’t need advice.

    Linda November 13, 2008 at 7:23 pm

    Geeze….this reminds me of the time my about 3 year old daughter was showering with her daddy, and wanted to know why he had poop hanging there. SO not a compliment. She didn’t even say it was nice poop.

    Pamela November 13, 2008 at 9:28 pm

    My daughter walked in the bathroom whilst my husband was showering, threw back the curtain, pointed, laughed like a maniac, and shouted: DADDY I SEE YOUR PEANUT!!! YOUR PEANUT!!!! I SEE YOUR PEANUT!!! And then she laughed some more.

    This was over three years ago, and he is still scarred. Your girl’s compliment would have been greatly appreciated.

    Todd Jordan - tojosan November 13, 2008 at 10:46 pm

    Wonderful post! What a question. I’d say thanks and go on like nothing happened. Of course, you’re tempted to wonder how many boys she might say that too. LOL. Great read. Thanks for sharing.
    Now following you on Twitter btw.

    Wishful Mommy November 14, 2008 at 12:43 am

    Because I was a young victim of rape, I taught my daughter about “privacy” and “private parts” very early so in a case like this daddy would say, “Thanks, honey, but remember, a penis is private. Okay, go play, and we can play together later.” No shame but enforces the private part. Good luck! I think it is precious she has such good manners.

    Shamelessly Sassy November 14, 2008 at 11:05 pm

    This post made me laugh ridiculously hard.

    hschinske November 15, 2008 at 12:09 pm

    Honestly, I just figure small children say things like this. My son announced “I have a penis” in the middle of the library once, when he was three. Everyone laughed, no one was shocked, and it was just No Big Deal. If I said anything at all, it was probably something like “Yes, that’s right.”

    Sylvia November 15, 2008 at 6:33 pm

    This made me laugh a lot – take your compliments where you can get them, indeed!

    But it also made me remember….

    When I was in labour with my son (now 14), things started going very badly just before a shift change at the hospital. I fell apart as the contractions came close.

    The midwife hung with it for a while but then decided that she may as well go home and let the next one deal with me. I was crying and hurting and very unhappy and seriously regretting my decision not to have drugs.

    So I half heard her telling the other midwife, hey, I don’t know, she was with it and together and strong-minded and in the last hour she’s suddenly fallen apart and … *vague pointing at me*

    I cried again, thinking yes, falling apart! Help me! Give me a ceasarian, you heartless cow, anything!

    And the new midwife took my hand and said “Hello, Sylvia, my name is Jane.”

    And something dredged up from those early lessons from my mom and I stopped crying and said “How very nice to meet you,” and smiled before flopping back into a mess of new contractions.

    Politeness. It’s hard to overcome.

    bernthis November 16, 2008 at 1:57 pm

    I would just drop it and hope she doesn’t mention it to anyone. What else can you do? You are right not to make a big deal out of it and you are right not to ever say that someone’s body part isn’t nice and God knows I love compliments just as much as the next gal LOL

    Give her something pink and I’ll guarantee that will become her new obsession and she’ll forget all about how nice her dad’s pee pee is :)

    Izababy and KJ's Mom November 16, 2008 at 9:53 pm

    oh I’m certain he’ll remember to shut/lock the door from now on. I know my dh does. All it took was our 17 month old to walk in on him and try to crawl between his legs as he was in midstream! LOL! All I heard was “Hey! Hey! Get outta there!” Somethings just take once… LOL!

    Amy November 18, 2008 at 10:29 am

    I don’t have any real advice, but had thank you for the post. I laughed out loud – something I really needed this morning.


    courtney November 19, 2008 at 3:23 am

    I would just say thank you and move on! And lock the bathroom door.

    kidsandcrittersinwyoming November 23, 2008 at 10:43 pm

    Personally I’d just ignore it. I haven’t peed with the door closed in 2 years, I don’t dare when I’m home all day with the 2 year old… So you know they’re gonna comment on something they’ve seen on YOU. It’s about time daddys started getting comments too :)

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