My boys so desire to squeeze my boobs.
My 9-year-old comes toward me with hands stretched out like lobster pincers. “Squeeze, squeeze,” he says hopefully as I dodge and dart.
I try hard to keep it light, to not get angry or shame him or his little copycat brother. I know this is natural human behavior, normal for a young boy (or a boy of any age, really) and I desperately want to make sure they don’t feel disgusting for their urges.
We chat openly, even as I fend them off, gently but firmly.
“These are not for you, not anymore,” I say.
One morning, as Eli and I cuddled on the couch, the subject turned, inevitably, to his acknowledged boob obsession. He has even said that he “wouldn’t be able to concentrate on anything else if women didn’t wear bras.”
I didn’t get it — and perhaps never have. What’s the big deal? Why are men so focused on boobs?
I asked him that again, he adjusted the glasses on his cute freckled face and said, “I think we just look at them and think: FOOD!”
I must have laughed for 10 minutes. Leave it to a 9-year-old to say directly what so many adults dance around and around and can’t figure, or don’t want to think about (though Freud figured it out, of course).
Boobs are sustenance, the only sustenance possible for human life until Nestle and other industrialized capitalistic enterprises started manufacturing alternatives.
I’m confused then, why we as mothers get so panicked and concerned over our sons’ interest in our boobs. It makes no sense that we are so grossed out by things that are totally innate.
Now, as I said, I let my little ones know it’s hands off, that “private” parts (mine and theirs) are private. I talk to them of the lovely time when I fed them with the self-same breasts they now desire to squeeze; it was a wonderful, beautiful, natural thing I don’t want them to feel at all embarrassed about. But that was then, this is now.
I raise the topic about boys’ natural curiosity about boobs with other mothers to confirm my own suspicions about the innocent lasciviousness of one’s progeny.
“My son says, ‘I really like your boobies because they’re fat and boneless…’” said one friend of mine.
I laughed. I loved that her son could be candid with her. It shouldn’t be taboo to talk openly between a parent and a child about body parts, particularly the private ones. If my boys like boobs, mine or anyone else’s, I want them to be able to tell me. I want to be able to talk about it. How else can I help them as they navigate the incredibly confusing journey toward puberty?
Doctors whom I have interviewed about talking to kids about sex all offered up concern that many parents today are afraid even to use anatomically correct words. If we cannot feel comfortable enough to call things what they are, to say “penis” or “vagina” calmly and without shame, it is unlikely we will be able to speak to a child about how they might feel about such parts and their inexplicable urges regarding them.
So I don’t freak out when accosted by my kids, when they stare as I change. But the other day, I did pick up “The Body Book for Boys” and left it around. The kids moaned half-heartedly that they didn’t care and didn’t want or need it. But I noticed that they did pick it up, helping me in my fight toward telling them things they want desperately to know, but sometimes have to pretend they don’t. It is a strange human phenomenon, shame. It can sneak in and cloud kids’ healthy understanding of themselves and their burgeoning sexuality. I hope our openness can help us avoid that.
The most important thing is that my boys know I will not get angry at them when they say things to me, even if they are things that sound disgusting to my older, more-cynical psyche. I have to stop and remember where these cracks and questions are coming from, that I am not in a bar with a nasty pervert, but with small, naïve, naturally curious children. Like it or not, I am the person who, along with my hubby, will help determine how normal or abnormal they feel about their sexual self. Gulp.
The Big G and I make a lot of ribald jokes around the house — though he makes more of them because he doesn’t have the “Mommy Should” voice that I sometimes hear in my head. The kids share his jokes with me later, if I am not present, to get him in trouble. I often feign anger, but am not-so-secretly pleased. My kids’ sense of humor about “boobies” and “balls” and other unmentionables, their giggling references to TV jokes about “making out,” means they might feel free to openly discuss these things that Puritanical political correctness often forces kids (and their parents) to hide. We can pretend, but why?
It is not at all PC to say, but I’m glad when my boys talk openly about their obsessions with body parts, theirs and mine. It means I have a little window into what’s going on in their brains, a small insight into which synapses are firing when. I don’t think, as some do, that talking straight about sex or sexual parts leads to premature hanky-panky. On the contrary, I think it leads to a potentially greater understanding of The Act down the road, when they will be hard-pressed, like all of us are, to make sense of sometimes insensible urges and emotions.