Pistols and Penises

Driving Monster back to home from his Mom’s, I had queued up some music from Hamilton, the Broadway musical. In the song, Washington on your Side, the phrase “The emperor has no clothes” comes up during one of the stanzas.

Fun times for sure.

And, if someone thinks that a musical that critically evaluates our founders politics and personal lives via multicultural rap and hip hop is inappropriate for a 4 year old… well, you’re probably right.

Monster: “Dad, why doesn’t the emperor have any clothes? That’s silly!  I mean, he would have to stay inside the house so he doesn’t show his penis to everyone!”

Me: *Hysterical Laughing*

Monster: “If the emperor needed new clothes, he would have to wear a towel to the store to hide his penis!”

I’m not exaggerating or paraphrasing at all. This exact conversation happened in the car this morning.

Now, I know what you are all thinking. You’re thinking that I’m going to talk about and juxtapose the differences between how we as a society teach our children about sex organs and how we as a society teach our children about guns

Wow. I really know you all. That’s exactly what I’m going to talk about. How did you know? Was it the post title? Man, this issue matters. It’s something that’s  so core to so many of my beliefs as a (sort of) responsible  father that it was inevitable that I would share it on here eventually. Apparently, Monster asking a question about a Broadway musical score that referenced an old fable by Hans Christian Anderson is all it took to get it in the open.

Okay. Here we go.

There’s a big problem in children’s culture. Its something I see every time I watch children’s TV, cartoon or otherwise. It’s something I see whenever I take a stroll down the toy aisle in Target. It’s something pervasive throughout children’s books, specifically boy’s books about superheroes.

Guns, violence, and Good Guys vs. Bad Guys has an unbelievably strong presence in little boy’s culture. So strong that I feel I’m fighting a losing battle with Monster when it comes to peaceful solutions. Guns go bang! Guns kill bad guys. Guns look AWESOME.  They are so much more appealing to play with and imagine with than my alternative.

I mean, talking to a four year old about how generational poverty, and imbalance of power, and lack of privilege, can cause a young person with a rough childhood to view robbery as the only way, and countering that with suggesting that we provide real solutions to poverty in our country, instead of just giving guns to everyone, is fun and all, but let’s face it – Monster is only four, and guns go Bang!

We spend so much time glorifying guns and violence, we glorify superheroes in larger-than-life situations, we even dress our kids up and let them hold play guns, but we; for some reason, are afraid to talk about basic anatomy.

We talk about penises all hush hush. No-no parts, naughty bits, privates. We project shame and a feeling of dirtiness upon our kids whenever we talk about it. The word penis even gets replaced. Willy, wee wee, etc.

Here’s something to think about. I don’t ever want my son to have to shoot someone. I don’t want him to get shot. Even if he chooses to be in the military or law enforcement, I sincerely hope that he would never have to actually take someone’s life. I think we can all agree that no one wants their child to have to kill someone else, for any reason, good or bad.

However; I want my son to use the bathroom and understand how and why his body expels waste. And I want him to not be ashamed of his body parts when he grows to the age where he is going to have sex. I sure hope he isn’t ashamed of his anatomy. I want to educate him so that he knows and is comfortable with visiting a doctor and getting regular men’s health check ups.

His genitalia are part of his anatomy as they are a part of every human being on this planet. We all have genitals, and we all use them. For many things. The activities we do with them are natural. Of course there are many codes of conduct with our genitals, especially when it comes to sharing them with people, but come on. Monster is four. That’s a battle for a few years later.

The age appropriate battle I am fighting is instilling Monster with the sense that his body is his and his own. And his anatomy – all of it – is wonderful. And beautiful. And certainly not something to ever feel shame about.

And in that light, it’s a travesty to me that we fill a kid’s brain with heroic thoughts of killing humans – something I never want Monster to have to do – but we hide and closet anatomy and genital function – something that Monster is going to do, whether I approve or not.

I am losing the battle to the no guns rule at our house. Part of that is that at his other house he’s allowed to play with guns. Part of that is what he is exposed to that I have no control over.

I know he will play with guns. I even will allow it in my house when he is older. Far be it from me to think that sheltering Monster from such a pervasive cultural force is within my power. But all I can do is hope and wish that my continued thought questions about what killing someone actually means will sink in in some way.

In the meantime, I want to assure Monster that sometimes,  just like little boys, even emperors don’t  have to wear clothes.




Parenting – Backstories

The reality of chronicling and sharing about my family on this blog means that sometimes it isn’t all laughter and nerd jokes. Sometimes things get tough. To better understand how and why things get tough, I’m going to provide you with some backstory.

To recap and set the stage, here’s a quick line-by-line big event breakdown of some tough stuff that happened when our family was formed:

  1. June 2011 BA (Before Ashley):

    I meet Zephy Monsters now-mother in a bar one weekend night. I’m single, drunk, and prone to risky choices at this juncture in my life. We have a 3 hour (or so) meeting. You can fill in the blanks here, I imagine.

  2. May 2011 – November 2011  KoA (Kind of Ashley):

    Me and Ashley begin hanging out on a slightly more-than-friends basis. She was on her way to Denver to grad school, I was still single and unwilling to admit that I was madly in love with her. Partially because she was moving away, and partially because I was dealing with some of my own insecurities.

  3. November 2011  BoA (Beginning of Ashley):

    Me and Ashley start dating. She was back from grad school specifically to visit me for two weeks.

  4. December 2011 DA (During Ashley):

    Zephy’s Mother calls me with news that rocks my world.

  5. December 2011-June 2014 ASA (Amazingly Still Ashley). 

    I give Ashley the option to leave. I did, after all, just get insane and life-changing news. This woman stayed with me through the most hallmark one-night stand that resulted in a pregnancy ever. Not only did she stay with me, but she became a rock of this family – before and after marriage.And let me tell you, that rock she became, it became weathered. Because…

  6. June 2014 ASAEALRGECAARYA (Amazingly Still Ashley Even After Levi Randomly Got Eye Cancer At A Ridiculously Young Age):

    This was an incredible gut punch. I have trauma memories of every step of this process. Diagnosis, surgery, treatment, parenting during it, living with chemo in my system, trying to maintain work and social connections during it, the list goes on and on. The hardest thing, however, during all of it, was seeing both Zephy and Ashley suffer with worry and grief while I was too sick to be able to help heal anyone but myself.

  7. August 2014 WWAETC (Wedding with Ashley Even Though Cancer):

    We decided that we were not going to let a silly thing like cancer get in the way of our wedding. Going through it was both the most beautiful and momentous day of our relationship, as well as the hardest. I almost collapsed from exhaustion multiple times, but I fell back onto age-old techniques of “faking it” from years of serving and restaurant experience. We did pretty much nothing but sleep after it was all said and done.

  8. April, 2015 AETIGSAWALCD (Ashley Even Thought I Got Sick Again With Another Life Changing Disease):

    This time, I got Celiac disease! Well, technically, I found out I had Celiac disease after thousands of dollars in every test imaginable and many, many doctors (including the wrong doctor once, but that’s a story for another day). I spent a long time feeling awful after I beat  cancer. At first, I thought it was just fallout from chemo, but it turns out I’m Celiac – and have been since birth, but after chemo and all that huge stress, the celiac disease became extremely potent. I’m at the point now where a bread crumb sends me to the bathroom for a day. Fun!

So, here we are…

We’re juggling trauma, split parenting, post-cancer fallout, celiac disease, among countless other normal stresses. But we are so much more than that. Sometimes it’s so easy to get sucked into that hole of retrospection and forget what we really are. A family that loves each other.  A family that smiles, loves, laughs, cries, jokes, hugs, tells stories, makes messes, and has meltdowns. A family that builds, not just with wooden blocks but with each other. Not so different from any other family. Each day Zephy wakes me up too early, my mind keeps me up too late, and sometimes my sicknesses make me forget some stuff in the middle, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

Unless the three of us could be dragons. Then I would discuss terms.


Can you relate? Share a comment or reach out to me on Facebook. I would love to hear your thoughts.