Whether you’ve left your boys intact or had them circumcised (or did some of each), or only had girls, I want to ask you how you have dealt with the subject of circumcision? Have your children ever asked you what it means to be circumcised? Have your children seen both circumcised and intact boys, and if so, have they commented on the difference? Or if your children are too young, what do you plan on telling them if they ask why they were circumcised or
My boys are intact, but some of their cousins are circumcised. They’ve taken baths together, and so far my boys haven’t asked me why their cousin’s penis looks different from theirs, but I’m anticipating the day that it comes, and I want to be forewarned and forearmed. I feel rather like the mother of a child who doesn’t believe in Santa Claus, fearing that he will spoil the fun for all the other kids who still believe. Part of me wants to talk about it in strong terms, but part of me is afraid that in so doing, I will make my sons feel somehow superior, or that they will “spill the beans” to their cut cousins who will then be mad at their mothers, and I just don’t want to get into that, y’know? Of course, that may not happen; and my kids may never even bring it up, but still…
Over the past few days, I’ve been reading and watching more about circumcision (just watched the “Penn & Teller” video on it — warning that it has foul language and lots of penis wisecracks in it, but it was interesting), so the topic is on my mind. Some of the comments on these blogs and videos have been from men who are violently angry that they were circumcised as infants; others were circumcised as older children or even adults and are angry over it (with the men, it was usually because they were misled into thinking that circumcision was better than being intact, was necessary or was the only option for some condition they had, and they were dismayed over the outcome, and/or discovered too late that there were much milder treatments that the doctor never told them about). Reading comments like these made me proud and that I had “stuck to my guns” and kept our sons intact, and I want them to be glad but not at the expense of their cousins, y’know? And I don’t want my boys to tell their cousins, “Your penis looks weird because your mom had part of it cut off!” and then to have the cousins ask their moms about it. I’m hoping that the conversation never comes up, but I want to be prepared in case it does.
The biggest problem I foresee is that my older son has interminable questions and always wants to know “why.” And I anticipate that every answer I give him is going to be followed up with “why?” until it makes me uncomfortable. My hope is that if the question comes sooner rather than later, I may just say, “Your cousins are circumcised; that means that this part of their penis was cut off when they were babies.” And if they ask why, I will respond, “Because their parents thought it was the right thing to do; but we think that it was right to keep you whole.” If the question comes up later (or never) when they’re too old to spill the beans in a “Santa Claus isn’t real” fashion, I may just show them a video of a baby being circumcised, and say that I didn’t want to do that to them. How old they are at the time will be the determining factor of how much I say.
In the Penn & Teller video, they interview a pregnant woman and her husband who were trying to decide whether to circumcise their son or not. The husband was intact and didn’t want to cut his son, but the woman was for circumcision. It seemed to me that she was bowing to the cultural norm, rather than having any independent reason for circumcision; and actually her husband’s experience of being ridiculed for being intact weighed heavily on her desire to cut her son. She said with tears once, “I just want to do what is best for him,” and related that she didn’t want her son to undergo the teasing and tormenting that her husband endured as a teenager or young adult. The husband was very upset by being teased, but not enough to get himself circumcised (although there have been some men and older boys who have gone that route). I don’t anticipate my sons being teased for being whole, and I certainly don’t want them teasing anyone else for being cut; but I don’t want them ever to have misgivings about not having been circumcised as infants. So, I want them to be reasonably proud [not exactly the right word] and grateful [again, not really the right word] that they were not put through circumcision as infants, which means that eventually I will want to tell them my strongest thoughts and feelings on the matter, so that if anything comes up in a negative way, that they will not be caught off-guard, but can deflect any criticism (without being mean or critical in return).
Just in writing this, I foresee that at some point my kids will ask what circumcision is (reading through the Bible, you can’t exactly miss it), so I plan to give a simple and accurate answer as to not only what it is, but why God ordained it for Abraham’s offspring, and why it is not incumbent on Christians, and leave it at that. Maybe around the age of puberty (unless it comes up before), I will tell them that some boys are cut and others are intact, so they may see boys that look different from them, and just not to say anything (especially to their cousins); and also around the time of puberty (maybe before if necessary, or if I think they can handle it; or later, if they still seem to young at that time), I will give them a more thorough explanation, perhaps including a graphic video of a baby being circumcised.
What do you think?