David’s parents are visiting us this week, and it’s great because they always jump in with their sleeves rolled up and get right to work with the young ones. Last night they were attending Cooper in the bathtub, while I was dressing Maddie in the next room. It was her bedtime and she was in Full Fussy Mode.
“Your sister is a bugger,” my mother-in-law said as she rinsed Cooper’s hair. “Why won’t she suck her thumb, or take a paci?”
“She doesn’t like those things,” Cooper replied. “She only likes to suck on bras.”
Both my mother-in-law, and I, in the next room, did a double take.
“She likes what?” my mother-in-law said.
“Bras,” Cooper repeated. “She likes to suck milk out of Mommy’s bras.”
It took me a moment to realize he actually meant my “breasts” and not my actual, ratty, dingy nursing brassieres (yick). Then, avoiding eye contact with my father-in-law, who was standing right there, I wondered why Cooper didn’t know the word “breast.” Then I realized, it’s because I never say it.
Mind you, I’m not into “wee wee” or “dinky” or any of that stuff. If you read the post below about Fergus teaching his friend Benny an anatomy lesson, you already know that. I just call things what they are, and encourage the kids to do so also. “Penis” and “vagina” veritably trip off the tongue in my house. We do say “hiney,” but I’m not sure what the grown-up word for your derriere even is. Is there one? Gluteus maximus? Oy, that’s six syllables, I can’t be bothered.
And so I would never call my breasts “boobies,” or “bazooms,” or whatever. (I can’t even bring myself to say the “T” word.) It’s the nicknames I find distasteful; the real words seem fine to me. Except “breasts.” That one, I must admit, I avoid saying. I kind of don’t call them anything.
Perhaps it is good and normal that I do not directly discuss my breasts with my two sons. Even so, my breasts, and their natural functions, are inescapable in our house. They see me nurse Maddie while dishing out their pasta, reading them stories, coaxing them to poop on the potty, you name it. I’m no exhibitionist, but I’m not going to whip out a Hooter Hider, either. “Hooter,” eww. There’s another word I would NEVER say.
(By the way, I truly can’t reconcile in my mind that the same person who invented this Tent of Shame, thinking that breasts are gross and dirty, is at the same time comfortable throwing the word “hooter” around.)
I tell my boys that Maddie is having her milk, and leave it at that. If they show any interest, I still feel a little uncomfortable. But that’s my problem, not theirs. I think our children are all going to be a lot more cool about breasts than we are. For the Formula Generation, breastfeeding, no matter how often we see it, still seems weird. For our kids, most of whom were either breastfed themselves, or who see nursing mothers at every playground, maybe breasts will be no big deal. Not sexy, not gross. Kind of like ears.
I’d like to think my boys will be better young men for having breasts demystified to them. Perhaps they will be less obsessed than their forebears, and wouldn’t that be nice? I mean, come on. They’re just bras.