Family / Parenting

P*nis down

In the past week, my son Roo has made it through exactly two nights without waking up soaking wet and howling.

We use cloth diapers, so we switched to the thicker night covers. Then night covers with doublers. Then those brown disposables from Whole Paycheck. Then the good old-fashioned ultra-bleached, Bert-and-Ernie-on-the-front Pampers.

Leaks, leaks, leaks. One night we actually ran out of pajamas, and, at four in the morning, tried unsuccessfully to stuff him into pajamas he’d worn as a newborn (6 months ago), and ended up bundling him in a fleece baby sleeping bag thing since we could only fit the top half of his body into the pajamas.

Finally, NSG hit on the problem: we were neglecting to put his diaper on with his p*nis (avoiding the search engines, not the biology) pointing down. Was that a first-time parent mistake, or what?

Anyway, it reminded me again of what it really means to be parenting a child whose experiences will be so different than those we faced growing up.

When we were just talking about having babies, talking about transracial adoption, several people asked me about raising boys without a dad – what were we going to do, they asked, about making sure our son had plenty of male role models? One of the people who asked me this question was a white woman with a white husband who lived in an almost entirely white neighborhood and had almost exclusively white friends.


Our culture is pretty used to mixing it up, gender-wise (men and women, that is – not so much with the in-betweens). Racially we’re a whole lot more segregated, and so it’s much easier for people to blame a lack of role models from different ethnicities and cultures on “how our society is” instead of seeing it as a responsibility.

When we bought our house last spring, we specifically looked for a racially and ethnically mixed neighborhood. We love it, but it’s only a start. And we’ve made an effort to have Roo spend time with our male friends, but let’s face it: most of them are gay or trans, and most of them are white. They’re incredible models for the kind of masculinity we’d like our son to see, but again, it’s only a beginning.

We’ve only experienced racism from the perspective of white women. So how do we get him ready for what he’s going to face? 

If we teach him to speak in certain ways and present himself in certain ways that will help him gain respect in the big wide world, are we equipping him with tools to be successful, or are we feeding into racism by encouraging to work within the boundaries of a white world?

This is one of those parenting challenges that, in the abstract, makes me feel tired, but in the concrete, looking at my baby son, makes me feel like I Am Mama, Hear Me Roar.

How do you plan to get your kids ready for what lies ahead?

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  1. Pingback: P*nis down « Round is funny

  2. In regards to the soaking-through, along about 6 months old, Henry starting waking up WET. And it took us a bit to figure out where to aim.

    Another mother recommended double sheeting, to at the very least, cut down on the middle-of-the-night sheet changing. We put his regular mattress pad and fitted sheet down, then lay out two waterproof pads and covered with another fitted sheet. So if he woke up soaked through, we could just pull off one layer and still have a clean sheet underneath.

    Also, if you consider using disposables for nighttime, we’ve been pretty satisfied with the Huggies Overnights.

    As for getting Henry ready for what lies ahead? Good question…I’m still taking it all one day at a time. We hope we parent by good example and with love, generosity, respect, and humor.

  3. If we teach him to speak in certain ways and present himself in certain ways that will help him gain respect in the big wide world, are we equipping him with tools to be successful, or are we feeding into racism by encouraging to work within the boundaries of a white world?

    Oh wow, I so hear you.

    This is something we struggle with as well and we also spend much time thinking about how we sometimes are working within a white world (as a Mama of colour, I’m often reminded that I’m placed quite squarely outside of it). We have many folks of colour around us, but when I think about our male friends, they are mainly white.

    So we face a similar dilemma. What forms of masculinity have we made available to our child? And a bigger question for me – what forms will be available to him as he figures out his own racialized gender identity? I do hope that as queer folks who question the rigidity of gendered and racialized identities that he won’t feel pressure to conform to what society thinks a young black man should be. Oh, we can only wait and see I guess.

    Thanks for this great post. I can’t wait to hear more about your experiences (oh, and of course, sympathies about the p*enis positioning!)

  4. I’ll buy wool covers. Or at least pocket diapers.
    Charlie has little male interaction, only my father really. We are a female world. Sometimes I worry about that, but most of the time I don’t. Because he will become who he is and who he was meant to be without outside forces shaping him. I almost think it is better, because he is free to define masculinity in his terms, and not that of another man. He likes pink and sparkly things, and he likes trucks. A pink sparkly truck would set his heart afire like little else.
    I was raised by a single father with not much female interaction, and I don’t regret it. There was no one to teach me how to put on makeup or what exactly to do with a tampon, but my dad went out of his way to be a father to a girl, and he did a damn good job. I think all we can do is go out of our way to be mothers to a boy, and do the best we can. And if he needs tips on boy things, he’s got my father, who loved me to bits but now finally has the boy he always wanted to have.

  5. “Penis” is not a dirty word 🙂

  6. Lilly, of course not – I was hoping to avoid the spambots!

  7. I am feeling so lucky at the moment. Minor leaks, but we must be aiming it down without planning.

    I totally echo Lizzy’s recommendation of double-sheeting. We actually triple-sheet, and we also triple-cover the changing pad. So far, we haven’t peeled down to the bottom layer on the bed, but the changing pad has gotten down to bare plastic twice.

    Of course, that doesn’t help with the pjs. We have substituted onesies and knit pants, though. (Luckily only once that I can remember.)

  8. Round is funny. . . and she’s also wise. My partner and I are white, and our toddler daughter is African American. Like all parents, I hope to prepare my daughter for what lies ahead by giving her unconditional love and a strong sense of self-confidence. But as a transracial parent, I know that I must give her more. Preparing my daughter for what lies ahead means, in part, preparing her to face the realities of racism. That’s my responsibility, but it’s not one that I can carry alone. As a white woman, I can’t know what it’s like to experience racism. I do know what it’s like to experience discrimination. But even as I’ve faced sexism and homophobia on the one hand, I’ve held white privilege firmly in the other hand. I don’t know racism. I can (and must) educate myself — read books, attend lectures, and talk to friends of color about racism if they’re willing. But even so, I can only acquire an intellectual understanding at best. For this reason and for many other reasons, my daughter needs a deep connection to her birth culture. She needs strong African American role models who will show her the way through the pall of racism that she must negotiate and in whom she can visualize her fully-realized, adult self. As transracial parents, preparing our children for what lies ahead means giving them access to, and a connection with, their birth culture. And that starts with looking for our child’s birth culture when choosing a neighborhood, a church, a school, a gym, a pediatrician, and on and on. I’ve got a long way to go, but that’s my path.

    Round, thanks for sharing your insightful and entertaining writing here and on your blog. I always enjoy your point of view.

  9. This is totally off-topic, but I wanted to point out that LesbianFamily is in the running for a Bloggie!

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