Monday, September 15, 2014

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Raising Young Kids Is Like Managing A Bunch Of Drunks

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I was in my bedroom packing a gym bag when Norah, my five year old, ran in wearing nothing but a Hello Kitty blanket pinned around her neck like a cape.

She climbed on my bed, placed her hands on her hips, face beaming, and said, “I’m the naked hero!”

My kids have an affinity for naked time. I don’t fully understand this. When home alone, I have been known to make the journey from the bathroom into the kitchen naked, but for the most part, I like to think of myself as a modest dude. I don’t like getting undressed at the gym. I don’t often shower there. I don’t even like to look at myself naked, so why would others want to see it. Male nudity in particular is unflattering. Sometimes I feel like God got male genitals on discount: cheap and effective.

Anyway, I don’t understand why my kids are so eager to drop their trousers as soon as they get home and let the world see their junk. I don’t recall having a fascination with getting naked, although I don’t recall a lot from being 7 and 5 (the ages of my two oldest), so perhaps I was a nudist. Perhaps I did enjoy naked time. But those memories are lost, so now I look at my kids strutting around naked and wonder if there is something wrong with them, or if there is something wrong with my parenting.

“You need to put some clothes on,” I said. I went to tell her that heroes don’t get naked, but before I could, she started swinging her hips and singing, “I wear my penis outside my clothes… la la la… and show it to every one… la la la.”

This was one of those moments in parenting where I was completely shocked. I wasn’t sure where Norah discovered the word penis, let alone drew the assumption that she had a penis, which she doesn’t, obviously. Because of all these facts, I never thought I needed to inform her that showing a penis to others is illegal. There were so many things wrong with this situation.

“Norah!” I said in my best, you knock that off right now, parenting voice.

But she didn’t knock it off. My sweet little brown haired kindergarnder was naked and singing a song about showing people her penis. I really didn’t know how to handle the situation outside of telling her to stop, which often doesn’t work, but I tried it all the same.

“Norah, that song is inappropriate, and you need to stop it right now,” I said.

She started singing louder.

By now, Tristan, my seven year old, was in the room, laughing. I tried to grab Norah, but she ran toward the headboard, so I ended up falling, comically, on my face across the bed.

Somehow during the time it took for me to pick myself up, Tristan had gotten naked and put on a Transformers Megatron mask from an old Halloween costume.

Now both kids stood side by side in the hallway, singing Norah’s penis song.

Tristan and Norah looked like a super hero and a villain who decided to work out their difficulties by getting drunk and naked and reciting a dirty limerick. I work with college students, so I know that these kinds of drunken barroom friendships are made, but I’d never expected it from my young kids.

So much of raising young kids feels like managing a bunch of drunks.

“You two need to stop this,” I said. “It’s really gross.”

“No it’s not,” Tristan said. “It’s funny. We should sing it to grandma! Give me your phone.”

“Seriously,” I said. “It’s not. It’s gross and embarrassing. Do you want to embarrass me and mom?"

Norah looked at me with a straight face and said, “Yeah!”

Both kids ran down the hall, and I felt I needed to chase them. I needed to put an end to all of this, but wasn’t sure why. I have to assume that both kids would eventually grow out of this. Tristan was in second grade, and he’d never gotten naked in front of the classroom, at least not to my knowledge, and he’d never been sent home for singing a song about his penis.

Both kids had been very modest in public. But what was it about our home that made them think it was okay to strut around in the nude and sing a dirty song. Did I need to be stricter? Did I need to do a better job informing them about modesty? I didn’t know, and honestly, I still don’t. What I do know is that I couldn’t just let them do it. I had to stop it, and I suppose my hope is that by stopping it enough times, I might be able to teach them about right and wrong.

As I chased both kids around the living room I felt like a bumbling security guard chasing a couple streakers at a ball game, although they weren’t cheering for a team, or repeating a protest for some political event, rather they were singing about exposing a penis.

Eventually I got a hold of Norah. I wrapped her up in the blanket she was using as a cape, carried her into her room, and set her on her bed. I could still hear Tristan singing and stomping in the living room, but I’d deal with him later.

“What you are doing is weird. You can’t leave this room until you are dressed.”

Then I left the room and shut the door.

I did the same with Tristan, and although they protested in their rooms, telling me that I was mean, eventually they gave in and both came out fully dressed.

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Clint Edwards was blessed with a charming and spitfire wife, a video game obsessed little boy, a snarky little girl in a Cinderella play dress, and an angry baby girl. 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 work has been featured in Good Morning America, The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Huffington Post, Scary Mommy, The Good Men Project, Fast Company, and elsewhere. He lives in Oregon. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter

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