Yesterday, my ten year old son asked me if we could look through his baby albums. Every baby book has that one picture of the new baby, completely stark-naked, right? (Fingers crossed you just nodded to yourself.) When we got to that one, my son looked at it, then looked a little harder at it. Then he said, “Mom, what happened to my penis? It’s all red!”
I swallowed real hard. (My mom-pride doesn’t go down easy and we all know that I feel I made a mistake when I had my son circumcised.) Took a deep breath and said, “That’s where you were circumcised.”
He asked me what that meant.
I told him, “When you were born, you had a covering on the end of your penis called a foreskin. When you were circumcised, the doctor removed that covering.”
“What?!” He was shocked. “You let them cut off part of my penis off?! Why would you do that!?”
I explained to him that at that time most parents did, because doctors told us that we should. I told him they said it would prevent infection.
My ten year old said, “It would seem like cutting my penis could give me an infection. Plus, look at my face, I looked like I was in pain. It probably still hurt then, Mom.”
I said nothing, just listened.
Then he said, “Also, mom, I bet if that skin was there, it wouldn’t hurt sometimes when it rubbed against my underwear. I bet that was supposed to protect it.”
“You’re probably right,” I said.
This link tell of the “mother above’s” motives and regret about circumcising her son. The comment section is most insightful.
A Father (not related to the above family) explains cultural quirks, customs, traditions and circumcision to his son.
Click the link below for the actual pictures and the full story of the slide show power point presentation.
When my son came home from school today, he packed up for his camping trip and I called him downstairs to my home office area.
The Circumcision Slideshow
After a brief overview of “growing up” and all, I walk him through the following (with pics):
– Dogs with normal ears and cropped ears (the term used when ears are shortened)
– Dogs with normal tails and then docked tails (the term used when tails are removed)
– Baby girl with normal ears and the with pierced ears
– Baby boy with normal skin and one with tattoos (I just stumbled upon this); crazy to think that someone would REALLY do that!
At this point we discuss the pain that would be involved with these modifications and the idea that PERHAPS the dogs/children would not have wanted this to happen, had they been given the choice
– I then show a few pics of tribal body modification (funny neck rings) to show how different cultures do different things; one pic is of a little girl ~7 or so, with some rings on her neck and another pic is of an adult female, with ~15-20 rings on her neck (truly disturbing! And we both wanted to look away!)
We then discussed those ear lobe things and lip plate things – I did this to highlight that different cultures do different things
– I then showed a few pics of out dated medical procedures; first being “barbers” (bloodletting and all as it was thought that “bad blood” made you sick) and another with medicinal leeches (but saying that some people still use leeches since they think it can be helpful)
At this point I give him a GOOD warning that we will now get into some very private stuff
– Pic (drawing) of intact infant penis (with foreskin) and I introduce the term (foreskin; which he had never heard before) and explain that it covers the tip of the penis
I then mention that sometimes, for some reason moms/dads/doctors alter this “natural state”
– I next show him a drawing that shows 3 steps of circ (normal foreskin, skin pulled forward with a line where the cut occurs and then the circed penis, with glans exposed) – again, just drawings, did not think REAL pics were appropriate!
He gets this look of horror on his face! We spend a few minutes talking about this. I had also brought down with me a VERY LONG sock so I could try and explain how the foreskin works (folding over to protect the glans, etc…; I slid the sock onto my hand and rolled it BACK over my fist), then I explained that the glans is like the tongue and is supposed to protected, etc…. I then explained that some cultures do it (this cut thing) and that some doctors think that it is better (I left it at that); but I added that his mother and I did not want to have that done to him because we just did not think it was the right thing to do.
– I then show another picture the shows the cross section of a penis (intact, cut or circumcised) showing how the skin overlaps and protects the glans.
– Finally I show him a graph that shows that circ rates are different as per area, but that (in general) ~50% of boys are and ~50% of are not… I never used the word “uncircumcised” just “natural” or “circumcised” (using UN – IMO – suggests that circumcised is the normal way to be).
We then spend a few minutes chatting it up about how this is a private matter. I explained that sometimes when dads are one way, the boys are that way, but other times, dads can be this way and the boys can be that way. At that point I assumed he was going to ask about myself. I had always been torn as to how I would answer that question if asked by anyone (my son or a doctor). I had decided earlier in the day that IF he did ask me, I would simply say “I have a foreskin” (to say I was “normal” would be a lie and to say “I was cut” would be too painful for me). Anyway, it did not come up… and probably never will.
I then went on to say that no one should ever be teased about this, whether they are one way or the other; that if he were in a room with 10 boys and all were normal but one, that few boys (at this age) would really know why that was and that this one boy should not be teased because he was cut; then, I reversed this and asked him, if he were in a room with 10 boys and he was the only one that was “normal” and they teased him, what would he think?
My Son’s Reaction
The words that came out of his mouth warmed my heart and crystallized my decision 10 years ago (as I had always worried about his reaction to this decision).
“Well, I would know that they were the ones who got hurt.”
WHAT MORE COULD I ASK FOR?
We spoke for a few more minutes and then he wanted to LEAVE (he had had enough of this “private” discussion). I followed him upstairs and he goes and hugs his mom….
I asked him why he was hugging her. He said, “for not doing that to me.”
He then came over and hugged me (and did not let go until I made him).
As much as I’m so proud of him for understanding and happy that I had realized ALL of this before my son was born, I’m saddened.