Moments Of Mothering Embarrassment--Has It Happened To You?

Oh, honey, sit down. 

I must be having a momentary lapse of sanity because I'm inspired to tell you about one of my most embarrassing parenting experiences ever. If you are at all sensitive about the term used to describe the male reproductive organ, I suggest you read no further because this story contains many ummm, biological references.

Are you still here?

Ok…don’t say I didn't warn you...

When Patrick was 3 years old, Meaghan-2, and Mary Bernadette--an infant, I had to drop something off at John's work one afternoon. (His lunch? His cell phone? I can't remember, but thanks for playing along anyway.) I pulled my green swagger wagon into the parking lot and as I did, I saw my husband and one of his favorite colleagues (we'll call him Phil) walking into their office building. John and Phil stopped when they recognized our van and strolled over to say hello.

John opened the sliding rear door and Phil, lifted his hands in feigned surprise and announced,

"Look at these adorable children!"

He winked at me and said,

"Great to see you, Colleen."

"Likewise," I smiled.

Phi, a very successful salesman, was dressed in a crisp white button down, black slacks, and was sporting a blinging gold wedding band on his left hand. He and his wife could never have children even though they wanted them, so he enjoyed the funny kid stories John shared over tepid coffee at work. Phil also appreciated John's rich Irish Catholic background and over the years, both he and John had developed a warm repartee. Though I had met him on several occasions, Phil had never met our Clan, until of course, our fateful morning in the Air Liquide parking lot.

"This is Patrick and this is Meaghan," John said as he began the introductions.

"Patrick, can you say 'hi' to Mr. Phil?" John prompted.

Phil leaned in close to Patrick and with the passion of a slick salesman said,

“Hello, Patrick! What a well-behaved little boy you are!”

All eyes were turned on Patrick and we waited for him to acknowledge Phil.

"Hi, Penis," Patrick said.

I gasped and John went white.

Out of the corner of his mouth, Phil said to John, “Did he just say what I think he said?”

John fumbled for words.

Surely, Patrick didn't call Phil a penis. No, he wouldn't do such a thing,

I thought.

"Hi, Penis," Patrick repeated.

Wrong. He did. Patrick called Phil a penis.

I gulped and Meaghan started giggling.

"Patrick," John warned, "that's not appropriate."

"Ok, Penis," Patrick replied.

I bolted around in my seat and glared at Patrick and when he saw my death stare, he covered his eyes and threw his head back against the seat, his entire body shaking with laughter.

"Patrick," I warned through gritted teeth. Aware he was now in trouble, Patrick tried to smother his laughter by covering his hands over his mouth. He nodded his head to let me know he had heard me and I wiped at the cold sweat developing on my forehead.

John, glancing at me with a deer in the headlights kind of look, pretended to ignore Patrick's subdued hysteria and turned his attention to Meaghan.

"And this, Phil," John said, "is our Meaghan."

Phil bent down so he could look at Meaghan, who was strapped into her car seat, and in a put-on Irish brogue, Phil jovially said, "Well, hello, Meggie dear."

"Hi, Penis," Meaghan responded.

Patrick, who had only just composed himself, gyrated with laughter when he heard his sister’s introduction and Meaghan, encouraged by her brother's giggles, started to shout repeatedly in a singsong tone,

"Penis, penis, penis. Penis, penis, penis!"

"Meaghan," I said firmly. "That's enough." I gave them both my best “You better knock it off or else” look, but it was too late; they were lost in bad word revelry. They started chanting the word penis over and over again like they were cheering on their favorite football team at a playoff game. With their fists pumping the air, they shouted it.

"Pe-nis, pe-nis, pe-nis! Pe-nis, pe-nis, penis, Peeeeeeeee-nis!"

Phil looked at me in shock and I shrugged my shoulders.

"We taught them the anatomically correct terms. Obviously," I said, my face tomato red.

Phil backed away from the van and John slammed the door.

"Bye, Colleen" John nodded through the window. The chanting of body parts wafted out the passenger side automatic window and echoed off the office building walls. I quickly closed the window in an effort to contain the noise and watched the men walk into the building, John disgustedly shaking his head the whole way.

After I threatened the children with their very lives if they ever dared to use those words in public again, I phoned John to determine the level of scandal we inflicted.

"Is Phil ever going to talk to us again? Was he totally horrified?" I asked John when I had him on the phone.

"No, it was ok," he assured me. "When we got back in the office, Phil saw Henry and said to him,

'Hey, Henry, you know what Duggan's kids called me?"

"No, what?" Henry said.

"Penis! They called me a penis, Henry!" Phil said, pretending to be shocked.

"If you ask me, that's an accurate assessment of one of our best salesmen," Henry replied and everyone laugh.

Crisis semi-averted.


The moral of the story?

No matter how convicted you are about teaching the correct terminology in reference to the male/female reproductive organs to your offspring, consider the public consequences of that particular educational approach. I daresay, it’s possible to save face when your child is loudly shouting the word hoo-hoo loudly from your grocery store shopping cart because no one but your family knows what a hoo-hoo is. However, mud will be yours if you teach them the appropriate words like penis and vagina. I can guarantee not only will those kids use the appropriate terms but they will do so at the most inopportune moment.

I promise you.


Do you have a embarrassing moment to tell?  Write up your story and be a guest on my blog.  We'd love to hear your tale.


Moments of Mothering Embarrassment Has It Happened to you? Colleen Duggan Catholic Writer