“Would you look at that—he’s gonna be a real ladies’ man!”
Words spoken by the 50-something maternity-ward nurse as she changed my five-hour-old baby’s diaper.
Yep. The nurse at a highly regarded, big-city hospital actually had an opinion about the size of my newborn baby boy’s business. She meant it as a compliment, obviously. In our penis-size-obsessed culture, where a big one makes a man the object of respect and lust (and a small one makes him the butt of jokes), this medical professional for sure thought I’d be chuffed by her assessment.
I wasn’t. I was offended that she would objectify my newborn this way—and force me to ponder his future sexual encounters. I was insulted by her heteronormative assumption, too—he could be a men’s man!
OK FINE. I was a bit chuffed. What can I say? I live in the same world the nurse does. I didn’t want to care about my newborn’s penis size, but I did. For like five minutes. And then I actually forgot about the comment for many years. Seeing your kid’s penis on the daily—diaper changes, bathtime, potty training, random naked streaking around the house—will desensitize any mom.
But then I had another son. Another penis. Not immediately, but somewhere around my youngest boy’s second birthday, as he and my then-seven-year-old bathed together, my husband and I suddenly noticed that the little one seemed disproportionately big compared to his brother. So was it, in fact, our second born who was well endowed? Or…was my older son’s penis not growing properly?
Trouble is, there’s no way to know for sure. Normally I look online for answers. Like, if he had a raised, itchy rash, I’d Google image search “child raised itchy rash.” In this case, Googling eight-year-old penises could very well end with mommy behind bars.
I thought about asking my kid’s pediatrician—she must see tons of penises—but I don’t want my kid in on the conversation. Presumably she’d let me know, in a very mature, subtle way, if there was a size problem. So far she’s been silent. But I still wonder.
One of my closest friends has an eight-year-old, too. In what was definitely the weirdest (bordering on inappropriate) conversations we’ve ever had, she tried to approximate, using her fingers, her kid’s penis size. Definitely far more awkward than it was helpful.
Thinking about all this, I came to a disconcerting realization: One day soon, I’ll see my almost-nine-year-old son naked for the very last time. His decision to keep his private parts private could occur at any time, without warning. And that’s fine and healthy, but it does mean my window for keeping track of this size thing is closing.
Crossing something off my neurotic-mom worry list is never a bad thing. Instead, I’ll put my energy toward reminding him that his body is strong and can do many things, and that he’s clever, hilarious and kind. And that nurse will be right: He will be some kind of man.
Dawn Cliffwood is a pseudonym.