Stay At Home Dad – Explaining Gender Differences

I had better start from the beginning…

Our two year old daughter has always had baths and lately she wants to have showers which stands to reason because that is what we all have around here.

She now loves the shower so much that she refuses to have a bath. Luckily Mum has been around to do the showering but lately we have had to change plans.

I can’t really say “sorry honey you can’t have a shower because of daddy’s penis” can I?

She has seen me in the shower at times but I usually leave my undies on when she is around and while she knows boys and girls, she has never seen a ‘boys’ as far as I know.

She has seen mum naked and knows that she has the same. We call it her “corker” which is a direct translation from a European language for the female anatomy. She does not know about dad’s and we haven’t had to explain it yet.

If I leave my underpants on and sit down while she stands up I can probably get away with it without any awkward questions.

As we are toilet training and thus have an open door policy in the bathroom I usually sit down to pee so as to show her what to do. So far that has enabled us to avoid any explanations as to what’s between my legs and why it is different to her and mum’s.

I have recently been caught on a couple of occasions trying to sneak a quick stand up pee when her curious little head would peep around the corner saying ” What are you doing daddy?”
“Daddy’s doing a wee wee”.

I can see her little brain ticking over going ” Wow how can he do that standing up?” and she creeps closer to try and get a better look at this amazing technique.

Well if you have ever tried to stop a pee you will know that it can be quite a difficult thing to do, especially under pressure. So I have to manouvere myself to block her view while I attempt to abort the mission. I’ve been lucky so far.

When and how do you explain physical gender differences to kids? If I try to explain the whole boy and girl anatomy thing to her at this age she is bound to demand a full inspection and what do you do then?

You can’t pull down your pants and say “Well this is a man’s penis and blah,blah…” so immediately you must say “No, you can’t look ” and then make up something unconvincing about the why and begin to create a taboo around genitalia. What else can you do?

I can’t remember ever seeing my mum naked and my wife doesn’t remember ever seeing her dad naked either. We had both seen our same gender parent naked though. We then learnt about the opposite sex through everyone else except our parents. Is this the normal thing?

So anyway, here we are in the shower and I am sitting down in my undies and she is standing up and everything is going fine. We have even managed to wash her hair which is a small miracle in itself.

As I stand up to turn of the water and grab her towel she turns around to face me. She is two years old and three feet tall and I’m 42 and almost six foot. You do the math.

She looks directly at my crotch and before I can react she points her finger and jabs it into the slight protrusion in my wet undies a few times and says “What’s that thing Daddy?

OMG! I freeze for a second, coming to terms with what has just happened.

“That’s daddy’s pee pee” I say, recovering slightly. She looks at me, looks at my undies and back up at me with a grin. “That’s not daddy’s pee pee” she says, “That’s a corker!”

It sure is honey, it sure is..!

This article has been published on the Mamamia parenting website. Some of the 200 or so comments make for some interesting and informative reading. If you would like to view them then please click here.

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14 Responses to Stay At Home Dad – Explaining Gender Differences

  1. Rosie says:

    Hey James,
    I read both your Mamamia articles and just wanted to reach out to you. SAHP can be incredibly isolating, even as a mum. I am so sorry it’s been difficult for you. You have my email now-feel free to drop me a line if you are feeling off. I am a SAHM of 2 under 5 years old. Take care and be gentle with yourself.

  2. Lucky says:

    are you serious, bathing in your underpants! How uptight are you? You don’t have to teach her about genitalia, you just have to be normal around her. Nude up. “yep, daddy has a willy. Boys and girls are different” – end of story!
    My son and daughter and I shower together, sure she’s checked us both out, and seen mummy too. Just stay calm and carry on! Sheesh, lighten up buddy.

  3. Jen says:

    This is so funny. My husband does our 20 month old’s bedtime routine, which includes a shower (she decided on her own she no longer wanted baths) and he will often hop in with her. We aren’t up to the stage of really worrying whether or not she sees his man bits as she’s not interested in body parts yet, but he always wears undies in the shower because its a small cubicle and she’s just reached that perilous height for dangly bits! Haha.

    • james says:

      Hey Jen, A small cubicle is our problem too. Some of the other comments on this subject have made some very interesting and important points and may be worth a read. So much so that it is undies off for me!!

  4. Shoto says:

    Hi James, aahh, the awkwardness of parenting huh? I don’t normally comment on blogs but thought you might be interested in an opposing view. There is an argument that you develop a healthy body image, body confidence, healthy esteem about your body from your parents – in fact the opposite gender parent is very important in this process. Dads are apparantly super important for a girl’s esteem, especially in the tween/teen years.

    There’s also a concept called ‘protective behaviours’, and its about teaching kids about good and bad touches, and learning what bits are and what they are really actually called, that they are private and not for sharing. My son had a torn foreskin (knew you’d appreciate that) and our doctor asked my 2 year old if it was ok if he touched his penis. I thought he was bonkers at the time, but it prompted me to read up on preventative behaviours. Neither my husband nor I were affected by abuse as kids, but I know some who have and they’re passionate (but not paranoid) about empowering and educating their kids.

    Since then, he washes himself, we call it his penis and he knows it is his alone. We are starting with our 18 month old daughter too. Some things I’ve read say it is even more important for the opposite gender child to be able to be armed with this kind of info. I won’t go into any examples why, but the info is there if you’re interested in looking for it.

    So anyways, we wander around naked sometimes, modelling body confidence, and other times we ask for privacy. At some point we will dress behind closed doors, so they’re learning boundaries. No doubt one day they will also feel uncomfortable about behind nude in the change room at the pool. We will respect it when they do, hopeful that they have a healthy respect for their own body and they learn about it from us, not someone else.

    • james says:

      Hey Shoto, If you can recommend any sites re preventative behaviour I would love to read more about it. Sounds like your family is a very well adjusted one in terms of gender info. Your comments along with others (Carolyn and Amanden) have made me realize that ignoring this issue is not a very smart way to go. Good on you and thanks for the reply.

  5. Carolyn says:

    I remember when I had my first child and I was discussing with friends what names they used for their kids genitals. A child psychologist suggested we use the correct terms, penis and vagina, as kids who don’t know what their genitals are called are more likely to be taken advantage of by predators who give these parts cutesy names. Apparently some children who have been sexually abused are over looked as they can’t say where they’ve been touched as they don’t know the correct terminology. It certainly changed the mood of a light hearted conversation!

    As for letting your daughter see you penis, I’d say the sooner the better. My daughters have showered with their Dad (or me) right from birth and neither of them have ever questioned why Dad is different, they just accept that women have a vagina and men have a penis.

    Good luck!

    • james says:

      Thanks Carolyn – That sounds like awesome advice. I guess by not showing her and telling her the correct names I was actually protecting myself from a potentially awkward situation when in fact her lack of knowledge about such things could actually make her more vulnerable. OK – undies are off from today. Wish me luck!

  6. Sarah says:

    That’s hilarious! My husband worries about this same thing and won’t get naked in the shower front of my daughter for fear of this happening! You handled it well 🙂

  7. Amanden says:

    I can’t imagine a more natural way for your daughter to learn about gender difference than showering naked with her. Why do you feel the need to cover up? . I am mum to 2 boys 8 & 4 and have shared the occasional bath with them from birth….yes, I imagine that will start to change now with the eldest, but it’s just been a very ‘normal’ thing for us and one they have enjoyed. Over the time they have had the odd question about the obvious gender differences which we have talked about and then moved on. As a result, I think they are both very comfortable with the whole thing 🙂

  8. serena26 says:

    Thank you for this blog. In our family we share the time with kids at home, so in a way both are SAHP (as we work from home part time). My husband has gotten weird comments sometimes from the older generation about quitting that childcare nonsese and getting a proper job. Well… it makes me sad and angry, but I do tell them to mind their own business 🙂
    About genitals and genders – I have two boys and I shower and bath with them (3 and 1 year old). They know I look different and we have also discussed it in more detail with the oldest now as he wants me to pee while standing and I can not do that. So I explain that I and other girls do not have a thing like him and other boys, so I have to sit down to pee. And that is the end of discussion. I know that it is easier for mothers, as the boys have actually come out of the vagina and it sort of makes it easier to see that being naked in front of them is normal. For a dad it can seem more awkward to be with a naked daughter, when in fact it is not. It is just aour perception of gender roles (again). When your girl will start asking fom mum to accompany her to the bathroom or shower, you will know that she has reached the age when she wants more privacy. But the current age is really good to show that this is the way people are built. Children do not ask too much. Like if a child asks what is this daddy? She asks just that – what that is. And you can give an honest answer, without going into details of all the functions of this organ. I had a similar experience with condoms. Our oldest found a pack of condoms and asked me – what is this? I went red, muttered something like – put it down, it is daddy’s. Later my friend, who has 4 older kids said to me – why did you feel awkward. You were asked what is this and you could have answered e.g. – semen catcher for daddy. And that is it. When time comes they will ask more questions and you will have to tell more, but until that day – one honest answer at a time.

    • james says:

      One honest answer at a time is an excellent strategy and one that we will be implementing. Thanks for taking the time to add to the knowledge of myself and any other readers who have similar issues.

  9. Tara says:

    God! Nude up alright! Should walk to the shower naked from when they are born, so at 2.5yrs old she suddenly sees a penis for the first time, its going to be a big deal!!! My daughters shower with my husband and me. They see us naked. I remember seeing my parents naked. No big deal, but start early!!! Its only a willy!

  10. Danielle says:

    I grew up in a house full of girls. My Dad was the only male in the house. I have to admit that I only saw him Penis once and it was by accident cause there was a hole in his shorts. By this time I had already seen penises in books and Sex Ed so I sort of knew what it looked like. Now a days my husband and I have 3 girls 6, 5 and 16 mths. We finally have our Boy on the way. We are very liberal around here. My husband and I walk around naked, our girls walk around naked and my sone will undoubtedly walk around naked. It’s your house, the one place you should feel free to walk around naked. Like some others have commented, children ask questions and all you’ve got to do is give brief honest answers. At a young age, you don’t have to go into detail. It was hilarious when our 6b year old noticed the difference between boys and girls though. She walked in on her dad peeing standing up, she called out to me from the bathroom doorway, ” When will my peep grow big like Daddy’s?!?!?” lol. That’s when I explained to her disappointment that boys have a penis and girls have a vagina. Her would not be getting any bigger it would be staying the way it is. My younger daughters haven’t asked these sort of questions yet, I’m assuming their older sister has filled them in, lol. We’ll find out eventually. Good luck and remember to be comfortable. Teach boundries. It teaches them to be comfortable, confident and safe. The sooner the better.

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