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Sunday, 3 April 2016

#9 On My Son's Obsession With His Nether Lands

                                                                                        Let's be honest: rude bits are funny

Sorry for any confusion, Dutch friends. It is definitely biology and not geography that grips my son. Now we know he is no stranger to the rear content of his underpants, as you'll see if you click here. He also still loves to take a turn about the apartment wearing only said pants and with an entire buttock popping out at the back. Yet the latest obsession has brought us back round to the front, as it were.

And how fixated he is. Recently, potty training has introduced him more fully to his man-tool as he needs to focus on what it actually does and then what he must do with it at crucial moments. A once unknown object has now become a cool new toy. Indeed, he will often sit playing with it on the sofa, twanging it in full view. If we're lucky, he might even get just the end of it to sit peeking out the top of his pants for us: 'yook, Mummy.'  All of this meets hesitant and mixed reactions from us- a light tut, a theatrical grimace and  'stop iiiiit' or 'put it away.' We try to be all cool about it, but we are British and it is hard.

'It's the start of a man's lifelong obsession' Husband says, but more on that later.

In case you thought females had slipped under the radar, fear not. For Son, all human lowlands deserve equal scrutiny and he has made some crucial comparisons. With me it's one of wistful disappointment: ''ve not got one, Mummy.' As he shakes his head, I wonder if Freud can be ingested by illiterate toddlers. In 2016, who knows what his sneaky little fingers have come across in The App Store. 

With his baby sister, the attitude is more like the scientist's detached fascination, complete with an urge to name said item.   

Son: What it called, Mummy?
Me:  OK. No prodding, thank you. It's her...lady bits. 
Son: Oh.

 (slight pause).
        Daddy! She's got a lady bag! (pronounced 'yady bag') Yook!' 
Me: No...oh never mind.

But back to males: Husband has not got off any more lightly. I mentioned his making the comment on 'the start of a lifelong obsession' with, was it a degree of pride? Well if it was, Son stamped all over it in his shower time observation about the willy,

'wee-yee, Daddy! Yook! You godda small one and I godda BIG ONE, hur hur hur.'

Now I've mentioned before that Son is a smart arse: if he's capable of grasping Freud, perhaps he is aware that he and his male toddler peers do have proportions that would shame most adult males. In fact, I sometimes wonder if the link between arrogance and being 'bigheaded' started with this exact boast being made by infant males with their massive crania.

Yet I digress. Slightly. Nothing I've written about here will surprise anyone who has sons and so nor will it shock them. What unites us as adults is that the innocence of preschoolers renders them incapable of tact or subtlety and so their failure to appreciate taboos - verbal or visual - means that they confront us with them all the time. So, Son's casual reference to the Lady Bag? No worse than our own failed attempts to find an inoffensive female equivalent of the word 'willy' (though the streets-ahead Swedes have managed it and you can read about it here). His self-prodding? We all know that isn't going away any time soon; we just hope he figures out that the issue of time and place comes into play here.

This is all quite complex stuff that's as current as it is timeless: I can't help wondering if it's really all down to Son's innocence or if it's his precocious comment on the contradictions of the human condition. Any proud mother would hope it's the latter but who knows.

Complexity aside, I guess we do owe it to him to be taught what is and is not OK in all this re: the Big Wide World. Basically, I don't wish him to meet the same fate as my primary classmate, 'Phil', whose sad story involves an incident during class story time. For there we all sat, cross-legged upon the big mat at five or six years old, eager little cherubs bathed in the sunlight of the huge classroom window and, As Mrs S slowly rolled out the opening lines of the book, I was as transfixed as anyone. Or I was until a tap on my knee startled me and I looked around to see Phil beaming at me, wide-eyed and pointing silently downwards to the special puppetry he was performing, exposed through the gaping leg of his school shorts. The cautionary element to this tale ends with the ultimate pupil fate: banishment to the Wooden Shoe Box in the dark corridor, forever an outcast.

I mentioned the Swedes earlier and my reference to the Dutch was no passing one, since I wonder how such issues play out in cool Northern Europe. Since their attitude to bums and willies and more besides  - in short, their attitude to bodily taboos - is so much less awkward than that of us Brits, it's a wonder whether an equivalent Phil would even think it were worth exposing what is not that remarkable. There is a link between what is forbidden and what is funny: children know it and comedians make a career out of it.

So it should come as little surprise that with so much material Britain has some of the best comedy in the world. Nobody sees the hilarity of British pomp and discomfort more than a Brit.

And nobody exposes this better than Blackadder. In light of all this, the scene that springs to mind best is the one where Edmund mocks the self-importance of Samuel Johnson and his writing of the English Dictionary:

Johnson: (upon seeing the words that have been underlined in his precious dictionary) Fart; fiddle; fornicate...Sir! I hope you're not using the first English dictionary to look up rude words!

Edmund: I wouldn't be too hopeful; that's what all the other ones will be used for.

So, we may try our best to educate our son to be forward-thinking, confident and unashamed. But if we go too far he may never enjoy the British diet of Blackadder. And to me that would be a fate worse than any Shoe Box banishment.

Seen the book? Take a look!
Twitter:  @ericajbarlow
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