At almost three years old, my son Z has become a licker. This means that he wanders the world with his mouth open, attaching it to things (shop windows, subway poles, my knees) with a kind of glazed what if? look — the kind most often seen at last call in the bars of my twenties. So I shouldn’t have been surprised with his announcement at the breakfast table the other morning.
“I’m going to lick my penis,” he said.
“No you’re not,” I shot back from some reptilian-brained mother-place, the same that asks things like, “Did you wipe?” when I’d be so much better off not knowing.
Z blinked at me. Blinked at his father, who was making eggs in the kitchen. Frowned.
“You’re going to lick it?” A question this time.
I shook my head emphatically. “No. Nope. Nuh-uh.”
“Then who will lick it for me?”
I looked at my husband, wide-eyed. J flipped an omelet onto a plate.
“And so it begins,” he said.
I always thought I’d be good at having a son. After all, I was a tomboy growing up in New Mexico. I can shoot most guns, drive a tractor as well as a truck, and make people in restaurants nervous for their tables when I walk by. Also, I’ve seen movies about mothers of sons: Forrest Gump, The World According to Garp, Psycho. What’s so hard about that?
But that’s the problem with Hollywood, isn’t it? We get these unrealistic expectations of how we should act under pressure, and the next thing you know, you’re sitting in the kitchen waiting for someone to hand you a script so you can turn your boy into an emotional cripple.
In my family, a tidy Brooklyn threesome, we have a lot of gender-awkward moments these days. Even since Z discovered that he and his dad share something I don’t, he’s been asking a lot of questions, which demand a lot of answers, which then get shouted into the world at random.
“Mommy doesn’t have a penis!” he told a startled UPS man the other day. The UPS man stared at me. I nodded, mostly because it seemed better than not nodding.
“Mommy has nipples and boobies, and I have nipples but no boobies!” Z shouted at the rabbi at his cousin’s Bar Mitzvah. I smiled broadly and popped some lox in my mouth. Good ole Shiksa Nipple Boobies.
Because the truth is, in my heart of hearts, I don’t think anything is inherently wrong with any of my son’s questions. He’s excited about his body and curious about mine. He knows he’s going to grow up to be like dad but wants to know what mom is made of. These things make sense, and in a kinder world would not involve the United Parcel Service. And more than anything, I just want to be the person he keeps asking questions, whether or not I can answer them. So for now, I’m willing to accept the basic truth that I have no idea what to say a good 85% of the time.
Who is going to lick your penis? I have no freaking idea, kid. But it’s a worthy enough question, and one I’d answer if I weren’t so busy crawling under the table.
More: How Not To Raise Your Toddler (You know, because I’m an “expert”)