Sunday, December 16, 2007

Sex and The Bhablet

The Bhablet has reached the stage when he gives careful consideration to the sight of his parents hugging. Earlier he used to just bound up for his share, but now he looks, considers and then wriggles in between us. We scoop him up willingly, so that he knows that we both welcome him, that there are also hugs and kisses for him. It still gives me pause to think though. He babbles away all day -- a regular Babblet -- and may soon be speaking in a tongue that others can follow. So how much affection is ok in front of him? Are we sure that we are only doing stuff in front of him that we don't mind him talking about in front of his grandparents or our friends?

There is another related concern. A lot of my great-aunts refer to him as their boyfriend and it's all very cute. So does Giga and that's cute too. But I wasn't quite happy with her 'discovering' that he was 'jealous' of her husband. My uncle does not stay in Cal and visits as often as he can, which is at best once a month. So The Bhablet did tend to see him as a visitor in Giga's house. And he objected to having my uncle [pretend to] drink from his bottle of juice. But by and large The Bhablet is a generous soul and had till then never shown the slightest form of jealousy. Maybe a touch of possessiveness these days when his father or I pick up another kid, but I'm talking of four, five months ago. And it upset me to have my father and his siblings (Giga included) speak of my uncle's little rival. It was bad enough hearing them joke about it among themselves and I would have accepted it if it had stopped there. But when it came to Giga saying, "Look Bhablet, there comes that bad man again, and he will try to take over your portion of the bed," I did mind. Why put a negative thought into a mind that doesn't have one? I understand it's all sweet and innocent now, but what about two years later when it's far from cute? He's not to know that what was ok earlier is not now.

Come to think of it, I try to incorporate that basic philosophy into my parenting. Perhaps that makes me a more severe parent. Hell, I'm sure it does. But I'd rather teach him from day 1 that something is not acceptable than confuse him by allowing it now and telling him it's wrong later. For instance -- late nights. He has a fixed bed-time, but it's broached pretty regularly. I know the time will come when he has to wake up at a fixed hour every morning but that time is not now. Yet mealtimes I do not play with. I insist that he sits in one place and has an entire meal at a time. This is not negotiable, now or ever. When he is ill or has had a snack just before (not encouraged) then I do make an exception, but he knows it is only an exception. But I digress.

The Giga problem took some time solving but when she understood that I really did not like what was going on, she readily stopped it. (This is why she is the only babysitter I trust him with.)

But the problems in my own head remain. Should I think about letting him have a room of his own? Not possible. Our new flat-to-be has only one bedroom. (Oh yes, we have found a place at last.) Should I consider putting up a screen and giving him and ourselves some privacy at nights? I think that would only scare him. He is used to seeing us when he wakes up and I know it reassures him to know that we are right there. Should we not kiss each other in front of him? But I don't want him to think that affection is only shown in private or behind closed doors. When we are not fighting, V likes to sneak up and hug me. And I sit on his lap or cuddle him if I'm in the mood. I can understand an older Rahul being uncomfortable with such PDA but surely it's ok now? Then again, what if he brings it out in front of his grandparents? Ah, who am I kidding... our parents have seen us in plenty of embarrassing positions way before we even got married.

I don't know, really. I don't want him to be jealous of his father ever. I did go through a particularly bratty phase when I delighted in showing my mother how I carried more influence over my father than she did. Which I did. I'm ashamed of the stuff I did then but I also wish my father had nipped it in the bud. My mother put a brave face on it and got on with her life. I don't want The Bhablet trying any such tricks. Nor do I want him to think he has no place in our cuddling. To me it makes sense to pick him when he comes in on us hugging, because we both enjoy attacking him from both sides. The Bhablet squirms and squeals with laughter and finally just protests when he thinks he's had enough. It's awfully cute. But are we traumatising him for life?

Some friends and I were discussing childhood memories and a girl said that she could remember stuff from when she was two years old. Now, I wouldn't want to have The Bhablet wake up while we have sex and then be scarred by it and turn into a homicidal maniac twenty years later because of the resultant trauma. Damn.

It reminds me of what Ma used to say. Still says, I think.


I got the feeling I'm making a mountain out of a molehill here. Perhaps some of you feel that too. But sexuality is a tricky concept to get across to your child. That and physical affection. How do I teach him that it's ok to hug a friend and yet not cross a boundary so that the friend doesn't feel uncomfortable? How do I teach him that he should accept an aunt's kiss with grace and also that nobody should kiss him against his will? Come to think of it, he hates being kissed, always has, so maybe that's a non-issue.

I grew up in a household where there was very little physical affection. My father must have cuddled me and kissed me but since I don't have any very clear memories of that, it must have stopped early on. We didn't hug. I never felt deprived about this until I saw my friend S hugging his mother. He was in his late teens and I was fathoms deep in love, so everything he did was perfect. So I thought to myself, since his mother enjoyed it so much, maybe i should give my mum one some time. And I did, and it was a great feeling. Since then I tried to be more physical in my affection. But it still felt odd when my first boyfriend kissed and cuddled me. And since the sense of doing something forbidden was strong, it felt very natural to let that develop into a physical relationship. I have no regrets about it, even though I was only 17 when I lost my virginity. (Eeeek!) But when I think back, perhaps, if the cuddling had come more naturally then I wouldn't have felt that I had already crossed barriers and gone further. Because, let's face it, 17 is rather young. And it's not an age at which I want any daughter of mine having a physical relationship.

It's all retrospective, of course, but that's how I feel now. I treasure those early memories, but they would have been equally precious had they happened a year later.

So I have grown into the kind of woman who would rather her son goes "Gah, you guys are so disgusting," when faced with his parents getting physical than him thinking that sex is only about internet porn and furtive fumblings. (Ok, give me a second to snigger at other memories here... done.) I think the day may come when the condoms will be placed at an accessible place so that if he needs one he can have it. I can't stop him from experimenting but I can teach him how to go about it safely. And while a child of V's may not want to experiment at all until he meets the girl of his dreams, a son of mine may not be so steadfast. Either way, I want him to protect both himself and the girl he sleeps with. Or the boy, because I don't really mind him being gay. I'd worry about the security issues, but so long as there are grandchildren and a loving partner, I'd be ok with it. I think what I would mind is him staying alone all his life.

I know, I know, the poor boy's not even fifteen months old. But I happen to believe you can't decide how you feel about these things too early in your parenthood. Also, I believe in planning ahead!

Achchha, before you go, tell me, has it every struck you as weird that condoms are sold in family packs when they are supposed to be preventing that very same family from happening?


Moppet's Mom said...

You're right in that one usually underestimates how much these babies actually understand, but I do think it's perfectly fine for The Bhablet to see that his parents share a physically affectionate relationship, especially since he always gets his share of hugs and kisses too. When he's a little older, he may demonstrate some possessiveness - of either you or V - but I think that's a phase. Moppet used to scream and complain if anyone, even her father, sat too close to me or hugged me, but she seems to be over that now.

About the sex though, I don't know. I think he's still too young to be traumatised by the sight of his parents 'in flagrante', but one never knows...I'd just say be more careful (no screaming! :-D)

Oh, and your mom's right, as all moms always are.

Sue said...

MM -- Yes, Spock does say there will be a jealous phase around 2-4 yrs, I think. But I did it when I was 13.

I don't scream anyway, I'll have you know. We have a light sleeper in the room and we even breathe as shallow as possible so that we don't wake him up.

And Ma was NOT right! So there.

B o o said...

Oh Sue. I did that thing all through my teenage. Possessive of dad and my mom not caring about it all. Im so ashamed now but I would freak out if Ashu did that to me. Cant say what might happen but there should be some difference as my parents did nt so much touch each other in public and they were never a team. It was always "Ask your father!" Ashu by default is only possessive of her dad. She did nt like me touching him. She would push me even if Hubby was hugging me. But thankfully, we are over that phase now. What a relief!

Regarding sex, its better you sneak to the hall. Mainly, because of the embarrassment factor than the trauma factor. I know of a child who said "I sleep in between my parents. But when I get up in the morning, Mom is in between dad and me" loudly in the classroom to the teacher! ;)

Sue said...

Boo -- Exactly! Now that we are on the other end, I don't want to lead to such a scene. My parents weren't a team either and my brother and I exploited that to the hilt.

Your story reminded me of my cousin: she once remarked at a family meal (they were a joint family then) that her parents were no fun. They would send her to bed and later ask, "Is she asleep yet?" before enjoying themselves. Of course, neither she nor her parents ever defined what the 'enjoyment' had been...

Ankit said...

Well interesting to read what kind of problems can pop up once u have a child

Rimi said...

I haven't read the other comments, since my comp's being dreadfully volatile (keeps switching itself off, despite new'nimproved hardware bits), but from experience, Sue, kids understand a lot more than parents think they do, and at least as far as I'm concerned, it has no adverse effect at all, except perhaps a temporary feeling of exclusion, which you and V are more than capable of dispelling. And really, I think if Rahul walks in you kissing, it's fine.

Sex, of course, is a different matter (and perhaps a flat with two bedrooms when he's a little older is a good idea), but seeing the affection my parents had for each other sort of emphasised the fact that they are as human as the next person (and that my conception wasn't like our lord Jesus Christ's :-) ), and really, that helped a LOT while I still had growing up to do.

Also, while I'm all for including the kid in everything, I really think it's a good idea for him to know, when he's a little older, that mom and dad need a certain amount of privacy, and that it should be respected. This is how I grew up, and I'm not messed up, am I? Much? :-)

Rimi said...

Now that I HAVE read the comment, I must add that the fact of my parents being an inseparable team helped a lot. There was no scope of playing them off against each other, and while I did once say, or so I'm told, that I'd marry my parents so I never have to leave them (I WAS four, so...), overall, the idea that they would be an united front -- despite occasional fights -- was deeply reassuring. Even when Daddy refused to say a word against Chonu despite my tears, only patted my head affectionately and told me I really must behave; and vice versa.

D said...

I agree with Moppet's mom. And kissing and hugging before your child isn't exactly PDA. Most of just happened to grow up in a society which saw physical affection between husbands and wives as taboo, but it doesn't have to be like that with our children. Let your child see the physicality as an extension of your love. And forget about the embarassment before elders; they've all probably gone through this.

Rohini said...

Hmmmm... I am in agreement with most of the other comments. I think hugging and kissing is perfectly okay in front of kids - nothing wrong with kids knowing how a healthy, loving relationship works.

On the sex bit, all I can say is that I am bloody glad Ayaan sleeps in his own room. Furtiveness can be quite a turn-off for me... :)

Preethi said...

Oh my.. you have me thinking again.. we routinely display affection in front of Nantu... hugging and kissing..he has not protested so far... but like you say children are so precocious... so we really ought to be more careful!!
also overdoing the privacy thing might just not be the answer...
He does need to know that it is natural for couples to hug and kiss.. if not you, he will definitely see others outside and that might instigate curiosity...
Regarding sex I would suggest you take it to a diff room.. maybe the living room?!

Grafxgurl said...

I know we dont have kids yet,,,, but this is what we learn in our pre-parenting class ( and this is not just for Americans)..

kids need to see.. actually SEE parents sitting on the couch for at least 15 minutes a day talking to only each other, or hugging, or kissing ( without it going into sexual boundaries)..that makes them feel like the family IS a strong unit.. it helps build security. PLus...its what God intended for parents to teach kids.. how to show care, love, and hey... its way better than letting him see you fight.. thats another thing.... try not to fight in front of him.. and if you do, then each time, reassure him that that is NOT right and that mommy and daddy are sorry that they fight.

Anamika said...

Interesting concern, Sue. I like that you explained to Giga your discomfiture with the joke about 'rivals'. You are so correct. Most people think it's so cute when toddlers say things about love and marriage, and the same ones get uncomfortable whent the toddler starts putting together visual information and abstract concepts and asks or saws awkward things.

As for PDA, I think it's fine. He will occasionally see couples hugging and cuddling on the TV as he grows up and it's best for him to think it normal. Plus, he is part of it, so he knows it means love.

The sex part ... hmmm. I really don't know what I'd do. I don't think I will have babies for a loooong time :)

Sue said...

Ankit -- :)

Rimi -- I think the feeling of exclusion is starting to creep in at this age so we make sure he is never left out if he is around at all. As for the privacy thing, both V and I are very fond of our space, so I think it's something he'll learn to respect anyway. That or get horribly embarrassed.

Vicky and I do show a united front. Of course, it's not been tested so much yet, but we try to disagree with each others' decisions (re Fudge) away from him.

D -- I guess you're right. It only makes sense. Anyway, I do want him to be comfortable with V giving me the occasional kiss, because we do as much in front of our friends, so why not our child?

Rohini -- I would have liked him to have his own room. Hopefully, by the time he goes to school he will!

Preethi -- See, if you live in a place as small as ours, another room is not going to necesarily ensure privacy. But yeah, we obviously don't want to have sex with him watching, dammit.

Grafx -- Yeah, once we have made up, we do try to show him that everything's fine. The idea being, that fights may happen but the family stays intact regardless. When V walks off I still discuss him with Rahul -- "Baba had to go out on work, but when he comes back, we'll all etc." You get the idea. When he is older I'll have to be clearer, but hopefully we'll be fighting less.

Anamika -- Yes, I figure he'll see it and want to try it himself. On the other hand, if he sees us cuddle, perhaps it'll stop being that delicously forbidden thing it was to us. So he'll do it only when there is affection involved.

I think I'll add a couple of updates to this post.

dipali said...

Human beings crave skin contact. I think this was something that earlier generations were unaware of (or preferred to be so). My generation at least was.....after toddlerhood I do not remember being hugged, and kisses were not at all part of my family's culture.
I was happy to let my mother comb my hair rather rigorously, because when she combed out the parting, she would grasp my chin in her hand! And that felt nice. I was the child who would pretend to be asleep so that my father would carry me to bed. I'd love going for walks with him as I'd rather slyly tuck my little paw into his hand.
I was older when I saw my nephews tell their mother when they needed a 'cuggle'. And I realised that verbalising/expressing this basic need was far better than having your child all whiny and cranky because he wants to be held and doesn't know how to express this need. I'd rather that my kids fought off kisses and hugs than be deprived of them!
So mutual parental affection, hugs, kisses, all are desirable. Sexual privacy remains a must, though, because the sight of the act to a young child may be very frightening, and disgusting to a somewhat older child. I do think that you are right in saying that craving hugs and physical affection may have been one of the causes of your losing your virginity so young.

Sparx said...

Hi Sue - really interesting post. The spud is the same age as the Bhablet as you know and we make a thing of having a group cuddle the three of us so that he grows up in a real bubble of affection. We're lucky in that he doesn't have to share our room but I don't think he'll be traumatised by anything he sees as long as you don't act as though you are traumatised by him seeing it! Maybe having some bumpers around his cot to obscure his view a little wouldn't be such a bad thing!!

karmickids said...

The brat sleeps with us. I have gotten used to saying yes, yes, yes, in sign language. In the middle of the night. In pitch darkness. Between the covers. Uffff!!!
My two bits. A healthy relationship between parents needs some demonstrative affection. All children are okay with that. But I have told the brat no one kisses him on his lips or touches his nu nu. Done. SE for the moment.

Mona said...

i agree with most of the comments here, that definitely affection between the parents is not just okay for the child to observe, but s/he needs to see it, understand it.
sex, i don't know. i'm desperately hoping to move into a two bedroom apartment soon, so that i don't feel guilty about wanting to make love or making love, even while hana's asleep.

Sue said...

Dipali -- Damn. Reading your comment made me want to go cuggle my mum. She's so nice and fat, it's great cuggling her.

Sparx -- Those bumpers... he tried ripping them off. Failing which he was using them to scale the sides of the cot. It's ok though, he's sleeping sounder these days, thank god!

Kiran -- LOL! I was going to say, "I can imagine" -- but I don't want to imagine it! Anyway, thanks for the SE tip, that sounded fairly simple.

Mona -- We're moving to a larger place next month, but it'll still be the one bedroom for the three of us. Oh well.