A father's talk with his son about infant circumcision
The following story was posted at Restoring Foreskin.org in the member-only section. The author mel gave me permission to publish his story here. He wishes to save other boys from infant circumcision so that they can grow up whole, just as they should. He does not want them to have to restore their foreskin like he has done for the past several years.
I used to be very active in the foreskin restoration forums (~11-12 years ago or so; I forget now!) when I first started out; however, as the years wore on and I gained the coverage that I wanted, I slowly drifted away as work/home life had to take precedence.
Back then my wife and I were trying to conceive our second child (first was a daughter) and we were having much trouble – it took ~1 year (and I had thought my restoration had something to do with this delay, but no… we got me “checked out”). At the time, since I was WELL AWARE of the ills of circumcision, I was relieved that our first child was a girl, as had she been a HE (back in 1993) I’m certain that we would have had him cut. Now, however, with this second child – if we were successful and if we had a boy, we would NOT do this to him.
After a few more months of “trying” we finally did conceive and, indeed, a BOY!
We knew he was a HE a few months before his delivery, so we were WELL prepared going in to make sure EVERYONE KNEW NOT TO CUT HIM (I told every nurse, doctor, etc.); we were in CA at the time and circumcision rates were lower than the national average, but, we still wanted to make sure. Anyway, when he was born we were successful in keeping the doctors at BAY and we brought home a happy, healthy intact son!
That was ~11 years ago. His birthday is in two months.
Over the course of these 11 years I never had the occasion to discuss circumcision (or intactness); it just never came up. Looking back now, I do not understand all the “fuss” about sons looking like their fathers. NEVER ONCE did he have the occasion to SEE ME. Sure we would get changed together (quickly) while on vacation and such, but we always instilled in him that THAT area was “private”, so, he (and I) would always turn away at that last moment of getting changed.
The Circumcision Talk
Anyway, here it is ~11 years after his birth and the time has come to have this talk. What brought it on was the fact that in a few weeks all the 5th graders will be having a “class” with the gym teacher to discuss “body changes.” I had (over the past 2 years or so), discussed a few things with him: Body hair, voice changes and even very recently erections (found him searching for boobs on the computer – he said a friend told him too!; when he got caught doing that, I figured it was a GOOD TIME to start ratcheting UP our “adult” discussions; apparently he has not yet had an erection – I do not recall when I first had mine and had always thought that boys have them from day one, I guess I was wrong as I have checked on line and it can happen any time from day 1 to ~12/13 years old; I was worried at first, but not any more).
Anyway, the Mrs called the school to find out what was going to be discussed at the “health class” so that I could cover these items first – turns out ERECTIONS are on their docket, so, I already have covered that, but the next two items are a bit, well, more “private” (masturbation and wet dreams – I’ll deal with this next week! YIKES! But I have an idea… I’ll use the metaphor of SNEEZING…. Everyone has a nose and everyone needs to sneeze, but sometimes you have to help your body sneeze – I hope it works!). I also called the gym teacher to find out how they deal with circ/intact (they do not at all and in the pics they show it is not obvious whether the penis is cut or not).
Add to this planned “health” discussion at school a pending overnight camping trip with boy scouts (would be his first away from us), we thought I should clue him in on the fact that boys are “different” down there (I assume at one point during a camping trip showers, etc., might take place at the same time; also, he may come upon pics at one point – who knows what boys bring on camping trips! and, well, I’d want him to know BEFORE HAND why what he sees “live” or “in pics” is different than what he has down south!). Additionally, I had to have a chat with him a few days ago regarding “abuse issues” (though I was very delicate about that – never used the term sexual abuse, just “things are private, no one should ask you to keep a secrets, etc… - though I will probably get into more detail soon) which is a requirement to join scouts.
So, there you have it, the stage is set to have a very delicate conversation with a 10 year old!
I give seminars at work all the time, so, I pretty much made my “plan” for how I was going to lay out the logic of all of this (and in the end, I think it worked out RATHER WELL!) – I downloaded a series of pictures (stay tuned/see below) and put together a quick powerpoint presentation.
When my son came home from school today, he packed up for his camping trip and I called him downstairs to my home office area.
The Circumcision Slideshow
After a brief overview of “growing up” and all, I walk him through the following (with pics):
- Dogs with normal ears and cropped ears (the term used when ears are shortened)
- Dogs with normal tails and then docked tails (the term used when tails are removed)
- Baby girl with normal ears and the with pierced ears
- Baby boy with normal skin and one with tattoos (I just stumbled upon this); crazy to think that someone would REALLY do that!
At this point we discuss the pain that would be involved with these modifications and the idea that PERHAPS the dogs/children would not have wanted this to happen, had they been given the choice
- I then show a few pics of tribal body modification (funny neck rings) to show how different cultures do different things; one pic is of a little girl ~7 or so, with some rings on her neck and another pic is of an adult female, with ~15-20 rings on her neck (truly disturbing! And we both wanted to look away!)
We then discussed those ear lobe things and lip plate things – I did this to highlight that different cultures do different things
- I then showed a few pics of out dated medical procedures; first being “barbers” (bloodletting and all as it was thought that “bad blood” made you sick) and another with medicinal leeches (but saying that some people still use leeches since they think it can be helpful)
At this point I give him a GOOD warning that we will now get into some very private stuff
- Pic (drawing) of intact infant penis (with foreskin) and I introduce the term (foreskin; which he had never heard before) and explain that it covers the tip of the penis
I then mention that sometimes, for some reason moms/dads/doctors alter this “natural state”
- I next show him a drawing that shows 3 steps of circ (normal foreskin, skin pulled forward with a line where the cut occurs and then the circed penis, with glans exposed) – again, just drawings, did not think REAL pics were appropriate!
He gets this look of horror on his face! We spend a few minutes talking about this. I had also brought down with me a VERY LONG sock so I could try and explain how the foreskin works (folding over to protect the glans, etc…; I slid the sock onto my hand and rolled it BACK over my fist), then I explained that the glans is like the tongue and is supposed to protected, etc…. I then explained that some cultures do it (this cut thing) and that some doctors think that it is better (I left it at that); but I added that his mother and I did not want to have that done to him because we just did not think it was the right thing to do.
- I then show another picture the shows the cross section of a penis (intact, cut or circumcised) showing how the skin overlaps and protects the glans.
- Finally I show him a graph that shows that circ rates are different as per area, but that (in general) ~50% of boys are and ~50% of are not… I never used the word “uncircumcised” just “natural” or “circumcised” (using UN – IMO – suggests that circumcised is the normal way to be).
We then spend a few minutes chatting it up about how this is a private matter. I explained that sometimes when dads are one way, the boys are that way, but other times, dads can be this way and the boys can be that way. At that point I assumed he was going to ask about myself. I had always been torn as to how I would answer that question if asked by anyone (my son or a doctor). I had decided earlier in the day that IF he did ask me, I would simply say “I have a foreskin” (to say I was “normal” would be a lie and to say “I was cut” would be too painful for me). Anyway, it did not come up… and probably never will.
I then went on to say that no one should ever be teased about this, whether they are one way or the other; that if he were in a room with 10 boys and all were normal but one, that few boys (at this age) would really know why that was and that this one boy should not be teased because he was cut; then, I reversed this and asked him, if he were in a room with 10 boys and he was the only one that was “normal” and they teased him, what would he think?
My Son's Reaction
The words that came out of his mouth warmed my heart and crystallized my decision 10 years ago (as I had always worried about his reaction to this decision).
“Well, I would know that they were the ones who got hurt.”
WHAT MORE COULD I ASK FOR?
We spoke for a few more minutes and then he wanted to LEAVE (he had had enough of this “private” discussion). I followed him upstairs and he goes and hugs his mom….
I asked him why he was hugging her. He said, “for not doing that to me.”
He then came over and hugged me (and did not let go until I made him).
As much as I’m so proud of him for understanding and happy that I had realized ALL of this before my son was born, I’m saddened.
My parents did not protect me.
I’m still left, 10 years later, having to wear things on my penis trying to regain something I will NEVER really regain.
Sure, I’ve got good coverage while flaccid (and some while erect), but the nerve endings I’ve lost will never come back.
I will go to my grave never really experiencing life the way nature intended.
I’ll never know what it is like to have an intact foreskin, a normal penis and a normal sex life.
I thought I was over the pain of this… but I guess I am not.
I’m not sure I ever will be …
My father never once had a talk with me, about anything.
Was it because he was embarrassed for what he had allowed?
Was it because he did not care enough about me to explain?
Was it his generation?
I’ll never know….. all I know is that I have broken this line in my lineage. My son is intact, he is well adjusted, he understands why we made that decision (to leave it to him) and, above all…
He is thankful for it.
He's camping now (in the COLD) and is growing up on me.... not sure where those 10 years went to.... and it gets me choked up (right now) to know that within the next 10 years he'll be off on his own, making his own adult decisions.... if I'm lucky, I'll be around to see him have a son and keep this new tradition alive...
- For those who would like to use the slideshow to teach their sons about the difference between an intact penis and a circumcised penis, the 2.3MB slideshow is here. Right-click the link to save the file.