The comment was going to be too long…

…so I figured that I might as well post about it and get it off my chest.

The always interesting and funny MIM wrote a post a few days ago about her daughter. It was a good post. Then a couple of commenters decided to take MIM to task about a couple of things, which I found extremely provocative. Since I am thoroughly in awe of MIM, I’ve never commented on her site, but I was really tempted to this time. As I collected my thoughts about all that transpired, though, I realized that this would be a better post than a comment. So, here goes.

The rude and ill-informed commenters seemed to come up with a couple of major points:
– The internet, and blogs specifically, can divulge too much information about children, making them easier targets for bad people (especially pedophiles), and
– Children and their awareness of sexuality should never be discussed on a blog by their parents.

Let’s deal with the first issue – the internet is open to the whole wide world, and any information you put out there (including pictures) can be seen by anyone.

Yes, it is true. Any crazy person with an internet connection can commit major harm against an innocent party that they find online. Right now, the murder of a Clemson University student may have ties to the fact that she had a Myspace page. And good news, the police just caught the suspect. But, truth be told, any really determined person can use the phone book to find a victim. I think that we in the blogging community are generally pretty careful about how much information we put out there, especially about our kids. That’s the big reason that most of us use some kind of pseudonym for each child, and sometimes even for ourselves. I try to be careful about how much information I reveal, and what pictures I post. The bathtub pictures go in the photo album, not on the family website or my photo gallery.

But, for anyone thinking about harming my kids, you’re going to have to go through me. And I’m armed. If you think I’m an easy target, then, as Captain Picard once said, “You may test that assumption at your convenience.”

The second issue that came up was children and sexuality. There were two stories that came to my mind when I read MIM’s post, one for each of my kids.

When I was 20 weeks pregnant with Baby Boy, we went in for the ultrasound with the full intent of trying to find out what gender he was. He didn’t leave us in suspense for long (unlike his sister, who covered herself with her hand in the womb, so we couldn’t find out what she was until a second ultrasound at 24 weeks… that should have been our first clue as to her personality), and a few minutes into the ultrasound, the tech said, “Oh yes, that’s a little boy in there! See, there’s his penis, and… oh my. He’s holding it.” She snapped a picture.

The Webmaster’s chest puffed out. “That’s my boy!” he proclaimed.

Shortly after Baby Boy’s birth, Carter’s Mom and Carter’s Dad came to visit us and see the new baby. It was August and it was hot, so the Munchkin was getting her nightly rinse-off bath before bedtime when they arrived. She came out of the bathroom, stark naked, to say hi to them. She then proceeded to poke at herself in front of them. While I rolled my eyes and attempted to get a diaper on her, Carter’s Dad was so overcome with embarassment that he could not look anywhere but the carpet until she was clothed. Carter’s Mom patted him on the back and said, “The fact that she can do that in front of people shows how innocent she is. The fact that you can’t look shows how innocent you are.”

As many of the original commenters on MIM’s post rightly observed, children of all ages are constantly checking themselves out. Baby Boy has been grabbing at himself every time I take his diaper off recently – apparently, he wants to make sure that his package is still intact. Now, I am a Christian and very conservative, but other than telling him not to grab it because it’s covered in poop, I find both his and the Munchkin’s awareness… NORMAL. Even at their young ages, they can already identify what gender they are. While he is a mama’s boy (because Mommy is a walking milk factory), Baby Boy has a special connection to his Daddy. There are no words to describe the smile that breaks across his face when the Webmaster walks in the door after work. Somehow, instinctively, he knows that he is like his Dad.

And while the Munchkin has the capacity to flirt, it is me to whom she always comes back to. She and her Daddy love each other very much, and do special things together, but she seems to have this need to be with me, to imitate me, and to want to learn from me. When she saw me breastfeeding, she went and grabbed a dolly and tried to nurse her dolly herself. She is already aware, somehow, that her body will be capable of this as well someday. She’s also tried to nurse her brother with zero success, since he wasn’t buying it, but she sure tried!

I was reading through Dr. James Dobson’s Bringing Up Boys last night, and came across this comment. I find that I usually agree with him, but even if you don’t, or don’t know who he is, I doubt that anyone could disagree with this statement. It is written specifically about boys, but I believe that it is applicable to girls as well.

With the passage of time, the sexuality of boys will become even more apparent. Never believe for a moment that they are asexual, even from earliest childhood. Some toddlers or preschoolers will hold or rub their genitals, which has inaccurately been called masturbation. It embarasses and worries their mothers, but it has no developmental or moral implications. It simply indicates that the boy has discovered “the good-feeling place.” He can be taught that there is a right and a wrong time to touch himself, but he should not be shamed or punished for revealing that he is wired properly. (all italics are mine)

Now, I may not have told the particular stories about my kids if this subject had never come up. Well, I might have told the ultrasound one. But I think the point is that kids are already aware of their own sexuality. They don’t have all the information about the birds and the bees, and I personally believe that sex education should be handled by parents and information dispensed when a child starts asking questions. Even then, I’m hoping to keep my own kids as innocent as possible for as long as I can, even with telling them where babies come from. But I don’t think that this topic should be off-limits for us parent bloggers. We’re all mucking our way through parenthood as best as we can, and these forums should be places of support, not rude criticisms.

And, after all, there ought to be some good blog fodder from telling the kids where babies come from. My mother told me at a young age how babies were made. I don’t think I was older than six. I eagerly recited all of this to my brother, who is two years younger than me. I had it all down… until my brother asked how the sperm got to the egg in the first place. At that point, my mother said that both of us turned and looked at her. And she told us, plainly and as directly as possible (she eventually went to work for an OB/GYN). According to her, the expression on my brother’s face was priceless. If a face could say something without the mouth opening, his said “EWWWW!” He now has a nearly three month old daughter. So he got over it.

I told you this was too long for a comment! I’ll put my soapbox away now.

4 Responses to “The comment was going to be too long…”

  1. jen
    June 7th, 2006 09:32

    I love this post!
    I think people get waaayyy too upset about kids and sexuality. We are humans…mammals really…and sexuality is instinctual. I have a girl and a boy…and watching them discover their bodies is sometimes hilarious and sometimes “I am sooo not ready for this”.
    But both my kiddos know the proper names for their body parts (I cannot stand it when people come up with “pet” names for penis and vagina) and that they need to take care of their bodies and be proud of them.
    We also talk to them about “owning” their bodies. I think this is the most important talk parents can have with their children…no matter the age.
    Both Bubber and Little Pea know that their bodies are THEIRS and that if someone touches them or makes them feel wierd regarding their bodies…that they can tell that person no and to then come to mommy or daddy or someone they know and trust to tell them about what happened.
    Sex is a natural thing…discovering our bodies is a natural thing. Making it sinful or keeping it “hush hush” can lead to children becoming victims early or later on. Children need to know their bodies and feel comfortable enough to know what feels great and what feels icky.
    OK…see…this wasn’t too long a post to not get a comment! 🙂

  2. DozeyMagz
    June 8th, 2006 02:33

    Very good post! Once again I find I agree with everything you say – we should get together for coffee sometime! (ie, we’ll both just sit down at our respectice screens with a cup of steaming brew and read each other’s blogs!)

  3. cmhl
    June 8th, 2006 06:32

    EXCELLENT post…

  4. MIM
    June 8th, 2006 14:12

    Great post! And what a great quote. I’ll have to add that book to my summer reading list.

    And thank you so much for your kind words about my blog. I hope you do comment in the future because you have so much to add to the conversation!