As a mother raising four sons ages 7 to 17, I know that kids absorb and repeat what they hear at home. They listen to the words we use and in turn use those words themselves. But seriously, who thinks it’s cute when a 7-year-old says “boobies” or “boobs”? They’d get sent to the principal’s office.
How not to raise a sexist pigThat’s why, even when my boys were babies, I never used slang terms for any body part, especially my breasts. My twins were three when my third son was born. As I nursed him, they were naturally curious about what I was doing, so I showed them and talked them through it. “This is mommy’s breast and milk comes out of it for your brother,” I explained. I know some women find it jarring to say breast to a kid and prefer terms like boobies, but it never occurred to me to use any other term because my mom was so body positive with me and my brother. Even when I’m talking to my girlfriends I never say “boob” or “tit”. Those words just don’t roll off my tongue.
But my motivation for teaching my kids the proper words for body parts went well beyond keeping them out of the principal’s office. I wanted my boys to become men who respect and honour women. In all my parenting, raising men that I, and the rest of society, want to be around has always been my primary goal. I wanted my boys to grow up respecting women in every way including how they refer to their bodies. I remember my single days and guys who used those terms were an instant turn off to me and many other women. I didn’t want any of my boys to be that kind of guy.
Raising sons in the era of the #MeToo movement also hits home the importance of the messages and language we use with and around our boys. I watched the Kavanaugh hearings (when the supreme court nominee was accused of sexual assault), with my three teenaged sons. They heard the language being used and read the news regularly. We talked about how women are viewed and discussed.
I recently had a breast tumor scare. It involved multiple mammograms, ultrasounds, a biopsy, and ultimately surgery on my breast to remove a thankfully benign tumor. The word “breast” was used daily in our home, especially during my recovery as I was bandaged and needing to ice the incision site. What could have been awkward wasn’t because my boys were comfortable with the term and have seen me nurse all of their siblings. My boys told their friends and I overheard them say, “My mom has a breast tumor.” Another texted a friend, “My mom had surgery on her breast but she’s doing OK.” It made me proud of them and happy to know that if confronted with a future friend, girlfriend, or wife with any sort of issues like mine, they’ll be comfortable and know how to handle it and talk about it.