Monday, June 30, 2014

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The Day We Caught Our Kids Looking At Their Butt Holes Part II (Kids don't come with instructions)

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Norah was stretched out in the tub, her head half underwater.

I asked her if she’d looked at Tristan’s butt hole, and she loudly cried, “Yup!”

I’m not sure if I laughed because of her response, or because the conversation was absurd, but what I do know is that I had to step from the room and regain my composure. I stood in the hallway for a while, listening to her giggle. I was a mix of silly laughter and anxiety, trying to understand if I was handling this situation appropriately.

It is in moments like these that I fully realize what people mean whey they say there is no instruction manual on raising children. Would there be a chapter titled, “How to Approach Your Children About Not Looking At Their Sibling’s Butt Hole,  And Turn It Into A Rewarding Moment”? No! I don’t think so.  How on earth could someone come up with a text complex enough to tackle the unexpected situations that can arise when raising a family?

Once I came back, I told Norah, in my best serious voice, that what she did was inappropriate and strange, and I asked her to never do it again.

“Ok,” she said. “I won’t ever ever look at Tristan’s butt hole ever again.”

I didn’t believe her. Norah is at that age where she will say, “Ok” to just about anything she is confronted with. If I tell her not to steal cookies from the pantry, she will say, “Ok.” Then I know that there is a 75% chance that I will find her 20 minutes later trying to steal cookies from the pantry. But much like when I discussed this situation with Tristan, I just wanted it to be over.

“Thank you,” I said.

Once both kids were bathed and in bed, I sat in the living room and thought about what it meant to be a parent. I wondered if I’d handled this situation well, or I’d just made things worse. I hoped that something like this would never happen again, but I knew that it would.

I never had an awkward talk with a parent. I didn’t really know my father that well, and my grandmother half raised me. I was shuffled between homes a lot, and so I missed out on a lot of those Hallmark, cliché moments, like the birds and the bees talk. But I’d heard a lot from friends talk about their parents chatting with them on awkward subjects like the one I faced. My friends always said how it felt like the whole situation was so terrible for them, like all they wanted was for the conversation to just end. But what I never realized was that those conversations are just as awkward for the parents.

Maybe even more so. Especially when I consider how I feel that my children are a reflection of myself.

There was no way I was going to get out of parenthood without having more awkward conversations with my kids. I just hoped that, with time, I’d get better at it.

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Clint Edwards was blessed with a charming and spitfire wife, a video game obsessed little boy, and a snarky little girl in a Cinderella play dress. When Clint was 9-years-old his father left. With no example of fatherhood, he had to learn how to be a father and husband through trial and error. His essays on parenting and marriage have been featured in New York Times, The Washington Post, The Huffington Post, Scary Mommy, The Good Men Project, and elsewhere. He lives in Oregon. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter
Photo by Lucinda Higley