The Four Letter Words I’m Teaching My Son

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His name was Michael, and I knew he had a crush on me.

It was my junior year of college, in 1991, and I was living with 16 rowers in a former sorority house. The season was over, and it was time to let go; we hosted a big party with plenty of alcohol. I drank too much of it, over-imbibing Purple Passion until the room started to spin.

I threw my arm around Michael and leaned against the door, and my teammate Jen grabbed his arm and told him, “Make sure she gets to her room safely.” I got into bed, and he wrapped a blanket around me and grabbed another one to sleep on the floor beside me. He didn’t make a move on me, in my compromised state; the next morning, I woke up with a pounding headache and Michael was there, making sure that I was going to live to see the next day.

His name was Jason. He went to high school with my roommate, and I met him early in the school year at a party. He seemed likeable and was built like a linebacker with a growing beer belly.

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I was a freshman when I went to a party at a fraternity house where Jason was rushing and hoping to pledge. I had been to the house before for parties, but only to the big party room downstairs, and I trusted Jason when he offered me a tour of the house. We walked up the stairs and he kept the banter lighthearted, albeit slurred, as he had taken in quite a few drinks by that time.

He led me into a darkened room and as I followed, he pushed me down on the bed and tried to unbutton my shirt. I struggled underneath the weight of him, telling him to knock it off. I shifted, pushed with all of my might, and he lost his balance and fell to the floor. I raced downstairs by myself and got out of the house as quickly as I could.

His name was Glenn, and he was the senior backup quarterback on the football team. At least, that’s what he told me at Uncle Woody’s tavern. At closing time, he offered me a ride back to my dorm in his fancy red sports car, and I accepted. How naïve I was. I invited him upstairs, and pulled out a chair for him. I faced him sitting on another chair, and nervously talked and talked. After a short while, he realized that this wasn’t going where he thought it was going, and left politely but with no intention of coming back.

His name is not important to repeat; I’ll call him Charles. He was the boyfriend of a friend, and he called me to ask me to come to his dorm room under the guise that he needed advice. “Please,” he pleaded.

We were friends. I went over.

He offered me a Coke, and then a backrub.

You’re so tense. Let me help you.

Before I realized what was going on, I was pinned on my stomach and crying and telling him to stop.


He didn’t stop.

Now I have a little boy, and I am teaching him about that word: the most important four-letter word I can think of. STOP.

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If we are wrestling and I am smothering him with kisses or tickling him and he says, Stop, I stop right away. He knows that it is safe to play because I respect his boundaries. He has been taught that no one is allowed to touch him anywhere a bathing suit covers. He has been taught that his body is his own, and others have ownership over their own bodies.

You asked me to stop, and I stopped. This is important for you to understand, I tell him. And I fully expect that this lesson, side by side with lessons on kindness to all and respect for women, will result in a man who would never dream of pushing anyone past his or her physical comfort zone.

I will not raise a Charles. I will raise a Michael.

As the mother of a son, and as a woman who has seen the good and bad sides of men, I have a responsibility to teach my son what it means to be a good man. And I am fortunate that I have a husband who sets an excellent example, as well.

I don’t buy into the “Boys Will Be Boys” mentality. Boys must be taught to be kind and loving and helpful. We don’t have to assume that boys have impulses they can’t control, or that boys will fight and hit each other, or that boys are going to run wild. If we expect better, they will be better.

I’m teaching my son to respect his body and others right from the start. I will teach him that it doesn’t matter what color, religion, or fashion sense a person has; they deserve respect. I will teach him that he is not entitled to anything or anyone. I will teach him patience and kindness. And I will pray that he’ll remember what I teach him, always.

The problem with “boys will be boys” is that it lets them off the hook. And we are all on the hook for our own behavior; accepting that boys can get away with certain behaviors because that’s how it has always been is not acceptable.

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I have some other ideas for four-letter words I want my son to learn, and are just as important as the first one:

Boys will be Kind.

Boys can show Love.

Boys can exhibit and inspire Hope.

Boys can Help.

And if he picks up the other four-letter words along the way, they won’t be nearly as important or as big of a deal as the first ones I taught him.

Related post: 10 Things Moms of Boys Must Do

The 15 Phases Every Boy Goes Through

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1. The  Sesame Street/Thomas phase. This one is cute. Your kid falls in love with Thomas. You buy him all things Thomas. DVD’s. Train tracks. Sippy cups. Toothburshes. Pajamas.

2. The Superhero Phase. Same thing. Still cute. You buy new superhero sheets. You get 4000 costumes. Your kid comes downstairs dressed as Spiderman and you just. Have. To. Take. A. Picture. And put it on Facebook.

3. The Big Lego phase. Your kid loves Lego’s. And so do you. You feel good about yourself because he is playing with something “imaginative” and “old school.” Plus, once he gets past the I-can’t-stick-these-fucking-things-together-by-myself-so-I’m-going-to-lose-it-every-5-seconds phase, he will often play with those things for hours, so you can get something done.

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4. The Dinosaur and/or Pirate phase. You buy every plastic dinosaur or every item of pirate paraphernalia you see. You buy every dinosaur or pirate-themed book ever published in the history of the world. You read dinosaur or pirate books every night for 6 months straight.

5. The Power Ranger Phase. No matter what you do, no matter how many times you say “I will never buy my kid a pretend weapon of any kind,” you end up watching your kid pretend stab someone while wearing an extremely overpriced, piece of crap Power Ranger costume.

6. The I-Just-Farted Phase. Your kid farts. He must tell you every time he does it. He thinks it’s funny. Some poor boys never leave this phase.

7. The Tiny Lego Phase. Big Lego’s are no longer acceptable. You must by the Lego kits, with the tiny Lego’s, that contain 987 pieces. And cost just as many dollars. If your kid cannot assemble these mothereffers by himself, you will only buy one of these things in your lifetime. Then you will try to get him to the next phase as quickly as possible.

8. The Junk Phase. Your son learns that there are many terms to use for his boy parts that are much more fun than penis. Therefor, he says balls and sac and weiner and dick and junk. ALL THE TIME.

9. The Wet Hair Phase. He must completely soak his hair every morning. And comb it forward. Every mother of a boy has at least one first day-of-school picture where her son closely resembles Lloyd Christmas.

10. The One Acceptable Item Of Clothing Phase. Your son will only wear one kind of pants. Or shorts. Or shirt. He must wear basketball shoes every day. But he doesn’t play basketball. If it’s not a soccer jersey, it’s not acceptable. Socks used to have to be not visible above the sneakers. Now they must be black, and pulled almost up to his knees. You thought girls were the ones who had clothing issues. But you were wrong.

11. The Facial Hair Phase. Your son looks like Pedro Sanchez from Napoleon Dynamite. You need to have the shaving talk with him, but you can’t stop picturing him as that little baby. You can’t believe your little man is now almost a big man. And he needs a razor.

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12. The Cologne Phase. The only good thing about this phase is that you know where your son is at all times. Just follow the Axe trail.

13. The Shower Phase. You know exactly what happens in this phase.

14. The Earbud Phase. If your son is at home, he must have these in his ears at all times. You fear they are actually fusing into his ear canal.

15. The Everybody-In-This-House-Is-Totally-Uncool Phase. We have one in this phase right now. He’ll come around. Until then, he’s got his earbuds to keep him company.

Related post: Your Penis Won’t Fall Off And Other Things Boys Should Know

10 Things I Never Thought I’d Have To Say…Until I Had Boys

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I have three boys. They are pretty mellow, on the boy-energy scale, and they are pretty well-behaved, on the boy-behavior scale. They are, however, creative. And sometimes I have to wonder what is going through those little blond heads of theirs.

When I imagined motherhood, I obviously didn’t have a clue about what it would be like to raise only boys. I had no brothers and I think I imagined that the things that would come out of my mouth would mostly be wise and after-school-special-ish. Maybe we will get there, but I suspect not any time soon. For now, these are some of the things that have come out of my mouth. Each time, I have found myself thinking, “did I really just have to say that?” And so, I started keeping a running list. Here are some of my favorites:

1. It is NEVER okay to pee into the bed of your toy truck. Self explanatory, right? Not to my then 3-year-old. I remember it vividly. It was the front-loader WOW garbage truck. I guess I have to compliment his aim. The little bucket-part isn’t very big.

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2. Take your brother’s underwear off your head RIGHT NOW. You’d think the thought of wearing another person’s (ahem) “used” undies would be a natural turn-off, right? Not to that same 3-year-old.  Being goofy totally trumps hygiene.

3. Do not stick your finger anywhere near your brother’s eye ball. Ever. I honestly don’t remember which kid did this. Probably that same 3-year-old.

4. Do not eat your ear wax. That had to have been the other one. He seems Kleenex-averse. I keep wondering when that whole eating-boogers thing is going to go away. No matter how insistent I am on a) how gross it is, b) how unhealthy it is, c) the actual make-up of boogers, it just persists. I truly think it is done out of convenience. This does not give me comfort.

5. Do not throw banana peels on the ground and then attempt to slip on them. This one was actually witnessed by my husband.  I think it was an attempt by our 4-year-old (the aforementioned former-3-year-old) to recreate a Mythbusters episode. I should also mention that due to Mythbusters, my 7-year-old categorically refuses to wear jeans. Ever. Why? Because there was an episode about jeans spontaneously combusting (or something).He is quite seriously afraid if he wears jeans, he will catch on fire. No amount of discussion will convince him otherwise. Thank you, Discovery Channel, and thank you fashion-designers for all of a sudden making sweat pants hip and cool.

6. Do not leave your toothbrush on the floor next to the toilet where you might pee on it. That firehose is a dangerous thing. So much of what I thought I would never have to say relates to it. Not much that relates to pee or penises surprises me anymore. Well, okay, maybe #9.

7. Do not put boogers in your ear. Seriously. Did I just have to say that?

8. A pretend helmet can’t actually protect your head. That’s wise, right? You gotta love the imagination of a 4-year-old. Even if it might give me a near-heart-attack from time to time. This kid goes to the beach during 90-degree weather in full fireman-costume. And wears it the whole time.

9. Do not leave cups of pee in the bathtub. Okay, so my boys apparently needed to go mid-bath and didn’t want to get out of the tub.  So, they concocted a plan. They seriously thought they were doing some sort of science experiment to see what would happen if they left it there for a few days. This occurred during our 7-months-o’-colic-with-our-third, if you are wondering why there was not more supervision. I took out the trash. I scrubbed the floor around the toilet. I cleaned the toilet. I washed the rug. I could NOT figure out why I could not eradicate the smell. Then I found the offending cups. And we had to have a talk.

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10. Don’t put blackberries in your pockets. Blackberry bushes grow as weeds here in the Pacific Northwest. My oldest LOVES blackberries. He recently discovered these curious things built into his (non-denim) pants called pockets. Now he fills them with things. Like blackberries. Side-anecdote: somewhere around a month into Kindergarten last year, he decided he wanted to buy lunch for the first time. He was so enthusiastic about all the choices that when lunch was over, he stuffed his pocket with all the left-over stuff he didn’t have time to eat.  He came home with a pocket full of cherry tomatoes, snap peas, and peanuts. He was so excited to *show* us what he got for lunch.

I’m sure the list will continue for many years, and judging by the way the third boy-child is developing, he will add his own creative twist to mischief, but this is the stuff mommy-memories are made of, right?  No seriously, right?

Related post: Your Penis Won’t Fall Off And Other Things Boys Should Know

Mama’s Boys Aren’t Cute At 35

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I have a confession to make.

I am the mom whose goal was to raise mama’s boys. I loved how much they needed me. I loved doing things for them.

It was my twisted pleasure to find myself at 2AM sleepwalking between nursing a baby to comforting a boy who woke with a nightmare to helping another boy to the bathroom. I took pride in refusing help; taking all my boys with me to doctor appointments or errands, snubbing carpools to drive myself crazy instead. I catered three different meals at night, picked up their toys because it was easier, zipped my son’s jacket at five years-old and tied shoes at 10.

They asked and I answered. “Can you get me a snack? Can you pack my back pack? Can you can you can you…?”

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‘Yes! Mommy can!’ was my war cry.

And mommy did.

See honey, no one else will cut off those crusts, make you a perfect scrambled egg or wash your Spiderman shirt so you could wear it every day like I can. I may as well have said, “Never leave me!” while tucking them in at night.

Was it dysfunctional and co-dependent? Yup. Would I do it again? Probably.

Because I was happy and my kids were happy. We were one happy needy bunch of love and it was good. But now my boys are 6, 9 and 12, and I see things a little differently.

In fact, I see them at 35…

They would be living at home of course because why would they leave?

There would be hair scruff in all the bathroom sinks, dirty underwear and socks on the floor and loud snoring from every bedroom.

I probably would suffocate from all the gas inhalation.

Or die from embarrassment when they run in on me in the bathroom to demand justice when one of them uses the others hair gel or finishes the last bag of Doritos.

I might have to put a cot by the washing machine and just sleep there.

And I would never just sit and enjoy a cup of steaming coffee in the morning, since I’d be dragging them out of bed for work – if they had jobs – and making them eggs, three different ways.

All of a sudden, raising mama boys didn’t look as appealing.

So lately I’ve been loosening those ties a bit; giving them more independence and responsibility. My boys now get themselves dressed in the morning, wash up and tie their own shoes. They do their homework without my nagging. They do the recyclables and empty the dish washer. They put their clothes away. They know what they have to do and do it.

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Well, usually.

Okay, sometimes.

It’s a process.

But we’ll get there. Because now I see that you don’t mess with the natural order of things. Children grow, you lovingly guide them on the road to being responsible and then you gently shove them out to greener pastures.

Of course, they must still call you daily, visit at least once a week and only marry girls you deem appropriate.

I may no longer want mama boys, but mama’s men just might work.

Related post: The Mother In Law Prenup

Your Penis Won’t Fall Off And Other Things Boys Should Know


Your Penis Won't Fall Off

My dearest sons,

You know the dangly appendage that occupies your thoughts and/or your hands for a large percentage of the day? Well, as a concerned mother, I feel it’s my duty to enlighten you on the subject of your penis.

Now, never having been in possession of one myself, I can’t be considered an outright expert, but I’d like to think that my experience raising you counts for something. After all, I’ve seen enough nakedness around this piece to rival any nude resort. So, for you, and any other boys out there, here are nine things you should know about your penis.

1. Relax; Your penis won’t fall off.  It will stay right there in your pants (provided you’re wearing any), so you can stop clutching it while you watch TV and falling asleep with it in your fingers. In fact, it will be with you for the rest of your life, so maybe you should think about being a little less rough with it.

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2. One exception: Having a firm grip on it is encouraged – and preferred – when using the toilet. It’s floppy, and when you don’t have it under control, you spray like a leaky hose.

3. Keep it in your drawers, ok? (This is a piece of advice that will have a different, but equally significant, meaning during your teen years – so don’t forget it.) There’s really no need to lay it on your brother’s arm. Or dip it in your chocolate milk. Or poke it through the hole of a DVD. Or wrap it around your eating utensils. Or your pencil. Or your brother’s pencil.

4. It might not hurt you when you stretch it out ten miles long like it’s made of rubber, but it hurts me just looking at it, so stop.

5. On rare occasions, you may actually let go of it in order to grasp something else. Like a sandwich, or your brother’s face. In the event of such occasions, hand-washing before you touch anything else is the courteous (and sanitary) thing to do.

6. It’s not the end of the world when it’s facing the wrong way or bunched up in your underwear. No need for a meltdown.

7. It’s handy and portable and all that, but just because you can pee anywhere doesn’t mean you should.

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8. If you’re gonna stretch/dangle/pull/twist/twiddle or otherwise manhandle (boy-handle?) it, please do so in your room and spare us all a little awkwardness. Please.

9. I’ve seen it a million times, so there’s no need to waggle it in my direction after your bath, nor make it dance and jump around by thrusting around like Elvis with a hula hoop. (This also goes for your dad, so pass that tidbit along.)

I’m hoping this letter will serve as a handy reference to the proper penile etiquette, and that you’ll start having a little ding-dong dignity.

You’ll thank me later… or at least your wife will.

Lots of love,

Related post: 10 Things Never to Say to a Mom Expecting Another Boy