The Penis Talk: A Conversation With My Five-Year-Old Son

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simba and mufasa

Earlier this week, my son, who is in his third week of kindergarten, exposed his penis to other boys in the bathroom during school.

Everybody lost their collective shit. And by everybody, I mean his teacher, principal, day care lady, and mother. In that order.

There was a special parent-teacher conference this morning between my son’s teacher and mother to talk about behavioral expectations.

I take it seriously only insofar as I want my son to follow directions in school. To listen to his teacher. To be respectful and well mannered. To be well behaved and learn everything he can.

But he’s his father’s son. So goofing off in the bathroom with his friends makes total sense. I tend not to involve penises, but who knows what I was doing when I was five. Could have been super-penisy. Don’t remember.

I have had a couple talks with my son during bath time about what is and is not acceptable regarding his privates. Those talks had apparently fallen on deaf ears.

Because of the incident at school this week, I was forced to try again.

This is what that looked like.

The Penis Talk

Me: “Do you know what a penis is?”

Five-year-old: “No.”

Me: “What do you call your privates?”

Five-year-old: “Privates.”

Me: “What else do you call it?”

Five-year-old: “My peep.”

Me: “Yeah. Mommy always called it that. You know how we ask you to call farts ‘toots?’”

Five-year-old: “Yes.”

Me: “That’s because ‘toot’ is a nicer word. It’s the same thing with ‘penis.’ The real word for peep is penis. Adults just ask you to call it other names because the word ‘penis’ makes us uncomfortable. Can you say ‘penis?’”

Five-year-old: “Pee-nis.”

Me: “Good job. Do you remember getting in trouble at school this week?”

Five-year-old: “Yes.”

Me: “What happened?”

Five-year-old: “I didn’t follow directions.”

Me: “Right. What did you do to get in trouble?”

Five-year-old: “I don’t know.”

Me: “Yes you do. Mommy was really upset. Listen, you’re not in trouble. But when bad things happen you have to talk to mom and dad about it. Now tell me why you got in trouble, please.”

Five-year-old: “I did unpublic things. In public.”

Me: “Did you just say ‘unpublic?’”

Five-year-old: “Yeah.”

Me: “I guess that makes sense. What ‘unpublic’ thing did you do?”

Five-year-old: “I showed my privates.”

Me: “Why?”

Five-year-old: “Because everybody was goofing around.”

Me: “Were other kids showing their privates?”

Five-year-old: “No.”

Me: “Just you, then. Great. When you showed other kids your penis, did you dance and sing?”

Five-year-old: “No.”

Me: “Good. Buddy, I need you to tell me when it’s okay to take your penis out of your pants.”

Five-year-old: “I don’t know.”

Me: “You can figure it out. You’re smart. When is it okay to be naked? You do it every day.”

Five-year-old: “When I go potty.”

Me: “Yes! When you go potty. Very good. When else is it okay to take your penis out of your pants?”

Five-year-old: “When I’m taking a bath.”

Me: “Yes! Excellent. When you’re taking a bath. There is one other time when it’s okay to be naked. Do you know when that is?”

Five-year-old: “No.”

Me: “This one is tricky.”

Five-year-old: “You say it, dad.”

Me: “When you’re changing your clothes.”

Five-year-old: “Okay.”

Me: “What’s the big boy name for your peep?”

Five-year-old: “Penis.”

Me: “When is it okay to take your penis out?”

Five-year-old: “Going potty, taking a bath and getting dressed.”

Me: “Good job, dude. That’s exactly right. Do you know why it’s not okay to show your penis to people?”

Five-year-old: “No.”

Me: “I guess that’s good. It’s because it’s really private. Our penises are just for us. They’re not for other people. (I wasn’t ready to have THAT talk.) Do you know what would happen to daddy if he went outside right now and showed his penis to a bunch of people?”

Five-year-old: “No.”

Me: “I’d go to jail. It’s really, really bad, man. Do you want to go to jail?”

Five-year-old: “No.”

Me: “What kind of people go to jail?”

Five-year-old: “Policemen.”

Me: “Sometimes. They work there. But I mean the bad guys. What kind of people have to go live in jail?”

Five-year-old: “Robbers.”

Me: “Yes. Sometimes robbers. Do you know any other ways to go to jail?”

Five-year-old: “No.”

Me: “Good. Who is it okay to show your penis to?”

Five-year-old: “Just me. Do you know why ears are special?”

Me: “Why?”

Five-year-old: “So you can listen to stuff. That’s why they’re attached. You have ears too, daddy.”

Me: “Yes. Yes, I do. What if a kid at school asks you to show them your penis?”

Five-year-old: “Don’t do it.”

Me: “What if an adult asks you? A stranger?”

Five-year-old: “Don’t do it.”

Me: “Very good. What if your teacher asks you?”

Five-year-old: “Don’t do it.”

Me: “Exactly. What if someone tries to show you their penis?”

Five-year-old: “I’ll tell them to hide it. I’ll say no, no, no, no! Or maybe I’ll growl.”

Me: “You’ll growl? What will that sound like?”

Five-year-old: *growls*

Me: “Whoa. Scary.”

Five-year-old: “That’s a Tyrannosaurus Rex. That’s what I will do.”

Me: “Cool. When is it okay to take out your penis?”

Five-year-old: “Going potty. Taking a bath. Getting dressed.”

Me: “I’m proud of you, kid. Are you going to show anyone your penis anymore?”

Five-year-old: “I’m never going to take it out again. I’m never going to do it again, daddy. I promise.”

And there you have it. My son will never take his penis out in front of anyone again.

Just like his old man.


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32 thoughts on “The Penis Talk: A Conversation With My Five-Year-Old Son”

  1. ooooo i have had this conversation so many times and NOW ….now my 3 and a half year old takes it out (goofing around because he thinkshe is mr funny) and shouts Willy alert willy alert and apparently that makes it ok……

  2. Oh my God, this is so brilliant and funny and poignant all at the same time- the triple crown of blog writing! Seriously, I think you did it exactly right. I don’t really remember how my penis talk with Erik went exactly (Maybe I’ve repressed it!) (Pops was deployed as usual so the task fell to me) but I’m sure I couldn’t have done a better job.

    1. Thank you!

      He’s a funny little dude. He cares about doing the right thing. He clearly had no idea he was doing something wrong. Lesson learned.

      Appreciate you continuing to read. Thank you.

    1. I would have probably swatted you dead. And I’d prefer you alive. So, I’m quite pleased it didn’t go down that way.

      Thank you for reading!

        1. Yes! Alone! Six or seven hours every night!

          If you’re suggesting I write a lot, it makes me happy. Fresh content is important. And if I’m writing a lot AND people don’t hate it, that’s something I can feel pretty good about.

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  4. Reminds me of the time I was visiting my sister and we were giving my little nephew a bath. He was about 4 and running around the house naked while we filled the tub. Suddenly, he burst into the bathroom, planted his feet, and started swiveling his hips from side to side (which made other things swing side to side) and said with great pride, “Look! I’m wagging my tail!”

    Love your blog, love your writing style, love your honesty, love your self-deprecating sense of humor. Your son sounds amazing!

    1. Kids are funny. I just wish we had known how great it was when we were living it.

      Thank you for this comment filled with wonderful, smile-inducing compliments. I really appreciate them. And you.

  5. Ha! I knew that was coming!

    You can never write too much. I’m only suggesting that I’m a dork and look at time stamps when I read things 🙂

    1. Ahh. When I have time, I’ve been trying to schedule posts for just after midnight. More time to marinate out there and be seen by people on the other side of the globe.

      Usually, something comes up and I have to squeeze in writing time while skipping lunch. What I’m doing is probably unsustainable. But it’s fun to try.

  6. I think being a parent is the most challenging thing to do. No manuals, no degrees, just your instinct. The innocents of a child is sometimes spoiled by us adults. However when men have had been drinking that inner child comes out for all to “see”, what is it that we guys can sometime think we our “privates” only. Ivan

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  8. peni’ are fascinating to little boys, they are funny and they do things of their own volition. it is as accepted to share in this hilarity with your friends as it is to showcase that you can belch on demand or fart on Que. People are so concerned about being politically correct that they forget that boys are exceptionally different from do you give them societal expectations without scaring them for life? i always used the rule that what ever your bathing suit covers is ‘private’. yours to control and you can never touch anyone elses’ private places, nor show yours, without permission. you just have to treat it casually when it happens and not ‘freak out’.

    1. 🙂

      I try hard to not freak out. Truthfully, I was way less disturbed by this penis incident than by his use of “mothereffer.”

      Hopefully, both teaching moments are behind us.

      1. grin..but if he used it in context it shows a profound sense of english language syntax…so it was just an indication that he should receive a new ‘word of the day’ so he can spice things up using new words that are

  9. I found your blog through the reader and am loving it! (I’m reading them all!)

    I have 2 boys ages 4 and 5. I really relate to this story. I have to say “put your penis away” way too many times. My husband taught our boys to go potty outside at home (privacy fence around the backyard) so I’m just waiting for the phone call that one of them has gone potty outside in front of all the kids at school. Boys and their penises. As a girl, I’ll never understand it.

    1. 1. We have issues. We do.

      2. Thank you for taking time out of what must be your very busy life to read any of this. I really appreciate it. That’s kind of an understatement. I still have trouble wrapping me head around the idea that anyone would. 🙂

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  11. Hey man, thanks for this!! My 5-year old son showed his penis to his classmate today and I’ve been wracking my brain how to talk to him about it.

    This is a really helpful set of talking points!

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