I was prepared for masturbation. Based on conversations with other parents, I expected to one day discover my kids exploring their bodies. To brace for it, I researched and learned it’s normal and, in essence, to respond with nonchalance.
I have yet to experience this awkward parenting moment. Not saying it hasn’t happened. As research states, it is a common childhood habit that most kids have engaged in by age 5 (and my kids are ages 8 and 5).
Instead, I’m encountering an awkwardness of another kind. My son, who just turned 5, seems obsessed with my breasts. He grabs them. He squishes them and then says “boing-oing-oing.” He points and laughs. He even included a picture of them in a drawing.
I understand his natural curiosity. He doesn’t have breasts. His dad doesn’t have them nor does his sister. I’m the only one. I don’t flaunt them but I’m not flat-chested and, well, they’re always out there.
My son has a kind heart yet he’s mischievous. Like his sister, he is sensitive and generally empathetic. He is well-meaning in his efforts to be good, and he is good, but he’s usually the one who accidentally breaks or spills or dirties something. Outside, he’s a rough-and-tumble boy; inside, he’s a sweet snugglebunny who, unprompted, says, “Mommy, I love you” at least once a day.
I love Ryan more than I can express.
But I hate this particular habit.
Obviously, it’s awkward. Annoying. Embarrassing, too. For instance, when our family was leaving church after my daughter’s First Communion, he exited the pew, grabbed my breasts and laughed at his hilarity.
My problem is I don’t know how to stop his behavior. I’ve tried. I constantly say “no” or “not appropriate.” But as with most women whose breasts are touched unexpectedly, I react, usually with shock or strong annoyance — and the experts always say kids love to get a reaction out of mom, whether it’s positive or negative. My husband has angrily reprimanded — and the experts always say not to get madwith a kid curious about private areas or it can psychologically mess them up later in life.
I’ve told my son about respecting people’s personal spaces. And about respecting other people’s bodies and feelings. And that my boobs are off-limits.
But all it has been unsuccessful. He is doing it less but it hasn’t stopped completely. Of course, the last thing I want is for him to think it’s OK and start touching other people. For that and many other reasons, he needs to stop.
Any suggestions? Has anyone else encountered an awkward parenting moment?