I had thought that my penis problem  was over, but, like a bad sequel to an average movie, it’s baaaack. For a while, my son’s penis obsession had been replaced with a nipple fixation. At any given time of the day, he could be seen with his hand stuck up his shirt, rubbing his nipples in order to make them “pokey.” A few times, I even caught him standing, bare-chested, in front of the open freezer, because he had cleverly figured out that the cold air lends itself to increased pokiness. We talked about the pokiness a lot. What do you like about it? I asked him. But he’d just shrug and say that he didn’t know, he just liked it. I explained that it wasn’t really appropriate to rub one’s nipples in the presence of others. I explained that nipples were private parts, and that it’s fine to rub your nipples in private, but not so fine to do it, say, during soccer practice, or in the refrigerated aisle of the market. Which prompted my know-it-all six-year-old to declare that boy’s nipples are NOT really private parts, mommy, because boys don’t wear shirts when they go swimming, and if it’s not really a private part then why can’t he rub it in public? Because I don’t like it, I told her, and I make the rules. Which then had the effect of causing my son to rub his nipples in public even more, just to spite me.
Anyway, the nipple thing eventually passed, and for a while, I thought I was home free in the public touching of private parts department. But then a couple of weeks ago, I noticed that my son’s right hand was missing. Or, to put it more succinctly, I noticed that my son’s right hand was permanently planted down the front of his pants. Now, let me say two things about my son here, in order to give you a more full appreciation of the extent of my penis problem.
1. My son is one of those “highly sensitive” children who only likes to wear things that are soft against his skin. So, no tags, no scratchy fabrics, no seams in his socks, and, above all else, no buttons. Which means that he pretty much wears sweatpants every single day.
2. My son is also one of those rebellious types of children who, if he even catches a whiff of my disapproval with regard to a particular behavior, will not only continue with that behavior, but will continue that behavior with a vengeance. See above for an example.
Okay. So, to be clear, I have a four year-old boy who is stubborn as a mule, and who has taken to touching his penis pretty much round-the-clock. In sweatpants. I’m just sayin’.
Anyway, after a few days of this, I decided that it was probably time to have a talk with him about it, and so, with the six year-old out of earshot, I waited for him to stick his hand down his pants (not a long wait, mind you), and then I pounced.
Hey, buddy, I said, all nonchalant-like and without a hint of disapproval. What’s goin’ on with your hand, there, huh?
He looked surprised, as if he hadn’t expected me to notice that he and Mr. Happy had become so well acquainted, and then he grinned a grin the likes of which you might see when a poor, homeless child receives a giant bag of presents on Christmas morning.
My penis is pokey and stripe-y, and it feels really silly, and I love it! he exclaimed, gleefully. And I thought, how can I take this away from him? This pokey, stripe-y, silly thing that he loves so much? How can I make it into something that’s bad? I couldn’t do it. Not after that smile. So instead I nodded, and I said to him, simply, Cool.
A few days later, I still hadn’t talked to him about it, even though I was quite sure that he was spending every day at school with his hand down his pants, and that it was just a matter of minutes before his teacher called to tell me that they were going to file public indecency charges against him and throw him in juvey. Plus, I’d been having dreams about George Michael. But what to say? And how to say it? Then, suddenly, it came to me, while we were at a playdate with a few of his friends. I couldn’t help noticing that he played for a few minutes, then put his hand in his pants, and then took it out again to play. Which struck me as probably not so hygienic. And there it was. The a-ha moment.
I pulled him aside.
Hey, buddy, I whispered. I think you should maybe not touch your penis when other people are around. You might give them penis germs.
That’s right. I told my son that if he didn’t take his hand out of his pants, he was going to give his friends penis germs. And guess what? It worked. He nodded, and the hand emerged from under his elastic waistband.
Okay, mommy, he said, solemnly. Good idea. I don’t want them to get sick.
Yes! I said. Exactly. Because penis germs could make them very, very, sick.
Not to mention pregnant, I thought, but that is something that I will save for the next sequel. Which, I hope to God, won’t be coming out for many, many, more years.
The Penis Problem 
The Penis Problem Update