"Daddy, why do you have hair on your penis?"
JD's question over dinner raised my wife's and my eyebrows. I was able to quickly recover.
As boys and girls get older, hair grows on their bodies. Boys grow hair around their penis and girls grow hair around their vagina.
That seemed like a good, objective, scientific explanation. It was a bit disconcerting to JD.
"But I don't want hair on my penis! I love it [the way it is]!"
Well, it won't happen for a long time, I replied.
One thing that Wife and I do is to use "dictionary" words with the children. We say penis and vagina. We use words like rhetorical, negligible, and conspicuous. And we definitely don't refer to our private parts as "wee wee" or "pee pee". Okay, I guess we say pee and poop instead of urinate and bowel movement. You got me there.
Something that I have always disliked is, "Because I said so." That doesn't come out of my mouth. I hated hearing it as a kid (though rarely did) and I cringe when I hear fellow parents say it now. How dumb do people think their kids are? Or, how hard is it to give a simple explanation for the decisions we make? Why do I have to tie my shoes before going down the stairs? Why do I have to look both ways before I cross the street? Why don't I have hair on my penis? They all deserve answers, especially if you want to develop critical thinkers and good decision and policy makers.
There are questions they could ask that require greater maturity to understand. For example, what if one the kids "walked in on us" or accidentally clicked the wrong link while online. How would I handle that?
At times, I may have to delay my response. To that, I would say to JD or Bunny, "Let me think about that."
To me, "Because I said so," means that the parent does not have a good reason. The behavior seems wrong, though she doesn't know why. When our employer makes a change in the workplace and the government enacts a new policy, we like an explanation. Why is it different for kids?
It also helps them understand how we form our values. There will be times that you tell your child that she can't do something that her friend is allowed to do. If you say, "Because I said so," you are telling your child something demeaning about her character. While it is likely that the explanation will not make them happier about the decision in the immediate, she will appreciate and probably regurgitate the explanation at a later time.
And, as in all things parenting, it's all about the long run because her behavior sure as hell isn't going to change today or tomorrow. Or the next day, or the next day . . .