There's been a question floating around my house for the past 6 months or so that has caused me to do a little thinking. The same question has been asked in multiple different ways by my 4 year old son. It actually started when he was 3...
"Hey Daddy, who are the people with the belly buttons?"
"Where are the people with the belly buttons?"
"Can we see the girls with the belly buttons again?"
"Why do those girls wear the shirts that show their belly buttons?"
You get the point. He's quite inquisitive about the girls who show their belly buttons.
My wife and I are big sports fans, as you may already know if you know us personally or if you follow the Dashboard Dad Blog. We're constantly watching sports and our two boys have been exposed to just about every team sport imaginable. I honestly never even notice the cheerleaders anymore. Seriously, I don't...or at least I didn't until my son started pointing them out and asking questions everytime the game would come back from commercial break. He's even asked me to rewind the TV before.
Recently, we've been watching a lot of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Go Lightning! That's hockey for you non sports fans. He asked me the other night if hockey had cheerleaders. I told him no and he seemed disappointed.
"Oh, just football and basketball?"
When he first asked the question about the people with the belly buttons I didn't know exactly what he was talking about but it didn't take long for me to figure it out. My initial reaction was pure excitement.
"That a boy!"
Like any red blooded heterosexual American Dad, I was proud. I still am.
My son is obviously attracted to the female body.
Scratch the alternative off the list of potential issues that I'm severely unprepared to handle.
Oh, wait a minute, My 3 year old son is attracted to the female body!?!?!
Add that to the list of potential issues that I'm severely unprepared to handle!!!!
Oh boy. Is he going to be girl crazy? Is he going to come home from Kindergarten and tell his mother and I that he has 5 girlfriends, like I told my parents?!
I just had this flash forward to him as a teenager "checking out chicks" with his friends or little brother. Whoa! I wasn't prepared for this.
I'm not here to take some moral highground and say that cheerleaders or swim suit models should wear more clothes. It doesn't bother me. I just find it very interesting that, with no outside influence from me or anyone that I know of, a 3 year old boy naturally finds a womans body to be attractive enough to cause him to grin sheepishly and inquire about it.
We also had an occasion a little over a month ago when our family was on vacation in Hawaii and he saw a swimsuit model on a poster at a store and he froze in his tracks to check her out. When I asked him what he was looking at he replied,
"Uhh, nothing Daddy!!"
He seemed embarassed; like he got caught doing something he shouldn't. I certainly don't want him to feel like being attracted to the body of a woman is something he should feel any amount of shame about. On the other hand, I don't want him to go too far to the other extreme where he just gawks at women all the time. I tried to explain to him that he wasn't in trouble and it was okay if he thought the girl on the poster was pretty. I told him that Daddy thinks girls are really pretty, ESPECIALLY HIS MOMMY! He just smiled and asked why the lady on the poster wore a shirt that showed her belly button and I explained to him that is just how girls bathing suits look and we carried on.
There are so many things you just never think about before becoming a parent. This is certainly one of them. I guess it's true that this is something that probably wouldn't have even crossed his mind yet if we lived in a more conservative society, but we don't. I'm not going to waste my time wishing that we did because I don't think it's necesarilly a problem. Of course, I'm also not a father of daughters. Sorry guys.
I'm just going to teach my son to respect women no matter what and make sure he is well aware that he can talk to his dad about anything... even if he is only 4 years old. It's never too early to start that open line of communication.
So, what do you think? Do you have any similar experiences to share? Does this seem early to be asking this type of question?
I look forward to reading your input. Until next time- DD