With the hours I work I only get a couple of hours of the children being awake before they go to bed for the night but most of the time is preparing supper, doing laundry, doing dishes, crying in the darkest corner of the basement uncontrollably – the usual stuff that married men with children do. It is a treat when I found myself with time (1) a couple of weeks ago. With the three boys this family time simply requires for me to play video games and allow them to wipe the floor with me (notice how I say allow thereby nullifying the factor that my skill set was developed by an entirely different sort of joystick which lends itself to the notion that I could actually win – as long as the video game relied heavily on the seventies decade’s National Geographic and their stories on the culture of isolated pygmies running around without attire to encumber their daily activities) instead of being outside and exhausting all their boyish energies because in the span of my youth to theirs some scientists have made it their mission to use scare tactics on an already overly-sensitive and paranoid government (2) regulated modern parental model that being sent outside is a punishment rather than a positive. The littlest one, at fifteen months however, is quite different; she has yet to be of school age (3) has yet to become a trained seal.
My daughter is at that glorious…and painful…stage where she is finding out the textural differences of different materials through touch and kinetic experimentation (meaning that her hypothesis is “what kind of damage will this inflict upon my father if I strike him with it…repeatedly and in areas that have subconsciously pinpointed as soft tissue spots) and then laughing maniacally while I double over. To make matters thoroughly worse, those precious boys have no empathy in where their little sister has mentally painted a bulls eye – they merely roll their eyes and say, “really, dad? As if you have anything there” –because thanks to the my wife’s oh so age appropriate description of the procedure I went through last November, my boys continue to insist that they see the jar that clearly I have hidden because they haven’t seen any jar on their mother’s shelves that the doctors put my testicles in.
After the third volley of the “Green Lantern” action figure attempting to trampoline off my groin into my nostrils I heard from the living room, “Next on Treehouse…Sesame Street!” I thought to myself, hey, this is an activity where she could be more involved with the characters than attempting to stick various items up my nostrils. I picked up baby girl, walked to the living room and set her on my lap and told her of my intentions for the next fifty minutes of our time together. There was a gasp from the oldest boy who had followed us out of the bedroom.
“Father…” the boy started out with a firm and stern voice; he was using his “I’m twelve so you must heed my sage advice” voice.
Twelve is a magical age, it’s where a boy becomes a young gentleman of the world, becoming arrogantly aware of his significance to a society that mystifyingly has survived utter self implosion without the input of his omnipotent wisdom and presence while at the same time squinting into the bathroom mirror with his mother’s mascara in his hand attempting to make the sparse speckles of facial hair that are ninety nine percent imaginary fuller and eye catching to physically display his maturity in the ways of the world – a direct contrast to the screams of horror and panicked yell that something is wrong “down there” when the first pubic hair makes its appearance(4).
I steeled my fortitude.
“What is it, my son?” I asked in a voice so silken that somewhere in a Malaysian sweatshop the steward was licking his lips as he was planning for my kidnapping in order to create some a new line of scarves for Ralph Lauren, Troppo Pronto era Concime (5)– the stylish accessory “for every man who lives on the edge” (6).
“I don’t think you should let her watch that show,” the boy said with an admonishing stare, “It is inappropriate for someone her age.”
I was stunned – not just that anyone would think “Sesame Street” was inappropriate, but that the boy had used the word “inappropriate” properly. I decided to play it cool.
“Any why is that?”
He leaned in close to my ear so that the innocent would not be tainted by his words – which probably would have been far more effective if he had not chosen to whisper (7) into the side where his sister was not perched on my knee. “Because the other day I was watching it and they used ‘gender’ as the ‘Word on the Street’,” he said with the gravity of a prophet of doom and damnation, “And ‘gender’ is the same as S-E-X-but different.”
I gathered up the sum of my fatherly knowledge and understanding of the mind of a twelve year old and responded in the most rational manner that I am capable of, “What’s that now?”
“I don’t think that Princess needs to hear or see about that kind of stuff,” the boy asserted, “she’s too young to have to deal with it, you know.”
“You know…that she has… ‘those’… parts,” he responded as a tourist who thinks that by slowing down his language that the taxi driver will comprehend English, “and that we have…the other kind…of parts.”
Perhaps it is my wife’s perspective of while a person doesn’t ignore their sexual identity you certainly don’t flaunt or accentuate it (apparently unlike some people that she married do). Perhaps it is the sex education that he received in school (8) that could be stating things in such a way that make him feel as if his own and the perception the school would like him to have about sexuality are in conflict. On the day of his sex education class, he had walked over to his grandparents’ house afterward, walked straight up to his grandfather and growled, “Grandpa, you would not believe what YOUR daughter signed me up for.” It is not that the boy blushes and hides himself when he sees the human body unadorned; he’ll come into the bathroom and blow bubbles or play with the foam numbers and letters that we have for baby girl’s bath. He has sat beside his mother watching television while she was breast feeding – he even walks into the bathroom to use the toilet when I’m in having my “private time” with Mr. Froggie and Foo Foo the Foaming Flamingo. I would like to think that in terms of “real” humanistic nature of a person’s physical characteristics in the absence of attire that he has a positive approach…so why the aversion with Sesame Street? Could it be that mainstream media advertising has become so sexualized that it has created an aversion or a negatively based awareness of the way things are presented. Could it be that the boy just really doesn’t understand the multiple definitions of the word sex?
I explained to the boy the difference between sex and gender, though he was not convinced of the difference until he went to the higher authority-his mother, and was satisfied that he had been mistaken on what Sesame Street was conveying to their viewing public. Yet we did not watch Sesame Street that night… or since. It has given me a wider vocabulary though.
At every opportunity I ask, “Does this make me look gendery?”
“Hey look at that girl – isn’t she just so gendery?”
The boy has yet to see the humor in it. I suspect that he will not see it until he becomes a father and his children become almost teenagers –when his IQ suddenly drops just below a dust mite, just as mine has. You’ll have to excuse me now; I need to go put on my leopard thong on, mousse my stomach hair to a Mohawk and go around the house singing, “I’m to gendery for this body, I’m too gender for my”…
(1) Due largely to looking at the stove and openly defying it by phoning for a pizza instead of staring at the hypnotic swirl of the heating elements) to spend time with the children (which takes about 4 minutes to realize that marriage and children have an effect on men similar to the Stockholm Syndrome has on kidnapping victims in terms of what is considered “quality family time” over, say just as an example, as you’re downing a few ryes as AC/DC thunders out of the jukebox just before turning over to Conway Twitty while playing a few games of pool and talking just loud enough to your competitor that the women sitting at a table nearby who should be old enough to know better but aren’t can take notice of how well you handle your cue stick .
(2) See professional lobbyist and special interest groups who clearly lacked something in their childhoods thus as adults have decided that the Stalinistic approach of fear and threat of prosecution is the means to overcome their inadequacies by projecting them on others.
(3) )Which now is being pushed for around four – with Kindergarten being five days a week for full days in our little school division. I have to laugh when people say “whatever happened to family values and earning your keep? Clearly with the push for families to put their children in dayhomes or daycare in order to survive because the idea of a single income family being over the poverty line is quickly sinking into mythology status where “professionals” with no personal stake in the child’s development are the primary caregivers therefore disassociating the bond of family over that of the intuitional mindset and instill the belief that life’s learning takes place through books over experience that evolves the child’s yearn to be better to that of entitlement without paying one’s dues.
(4)For the most part; in school there was a kid, I think his name was Aaron, if I recall correctly, who in the midst of the hormonally charged atmosphere of the junior high gym shower room was a late bloomer. Perhaps it was strictly coincidence, or perhaps it was the universe’s idea of a cosmic knee slapper but unfortunately for Aaron, his assigned locker was right beside Mr. Alpha Jock, the king of grade eight, the pitter for the patter of the girls’ hearts, Zack. A few years later, Zack would get tapped for taking performance altering drugs which could make a person wonder on just when Mr. All Canadian Wannabe started the doping regiment –and after meeting his dad on several occasions I could see Zack being bottle fed the steroids just after he was born because he wasn’t suckling hard enough, but at the time Zack had been the first velociraptor to the kill and made sure that everyone knew it –by picking on those who were deemed the weaker of the herd. I don’t really understand those who profess loudly and repeatedly of being a proud heterosexual but take the time to check out the groin region of the naked guy standing next to them in the locker, but then again I don’t understand why restaurants advertize “home style cooking” – if I wanted to eat something that I could make at home, I would save myself the forty or fifty dollar bill and cook it myself. If I am treating myself to a meal out, I want it to taste like a meal that nothing like what I make. Aaron took the ribbing with a half smile and a quiet “heh heh, good one” response for a good three months, then one day out of the blue, he stripped and low and behold he had become Sasquatch man! With a smirk and puffed chest he walked through the crowd of half dressed grade eighters into the shower and stood beside the showering Zack. Zack looked down at the seemingly incredible onslaught of Aaron’s puberty for the slightest of moments and…began to sneeze uncontrollably. At the time, none of other boys knew it but from what I’ve heard over the years it would widen to a different, more vulgar use of the word, but Mr. Manly Man Zack was allergic to pussy…cats, that is. Aaron’s family pet was a long black with slashes of white haired tabby – and one has to wonder if any of us had perhaps been a hint more investigative of the new Aaron would have questioned him on why the new Aaron used a straight iron down there or it was natural or whether or not he had some genetic fast aging disease, or thirdly, as Aaron would tearfully confess, why would anyone take the time to super glue cat hair to his pelvic area and think that (a) it would fool anyone to thinking that puberty was a ravenous beast that attacked him in the dead of night, and (b) if one was going to go through the trouble of gluing hair down there, why not take those extra minutes to discard the white hairs?
(5) Loosely translated as “slick as shit”
(6) Of insanity…or marriage…or fatherhood; all three are sort of interchangeable.
(7) I use the term whisper very loosely. The scream of a Chihuahua caught in the mating ritual of a bull African elephant would be drowned out by the boy’s definition of a whisper. The boy thinks that his mother is a witch (or some variation that sounds similar, the boy while being loud, also tends mumble) because he doesn’t get away with anything but the reality is that she could be at the neighbors two doors down, with all the windows closed in both houses and still hear him tell his brothers “Let’s not tell mom about this, ok?”
(8) Catholic education – you have to love it – they’ll bring in a guest speaker from the Pregnancy Care center about the dangers of teenage pregnancy but do not provide any information on the different methods of deterring teenage pregnancy to the point where I am sure they are attempting to replicate an entire generation into believing that a sudden spike in birth rates in a few years will be the result of divine conception and not the hormonal typhoons that rage against a teenager’s (male and female – there is no illusion here that women do not think about this sort of thing) groin.