Cover Up Your Hoo-Ha
“Nice pubes!” my nephew jokingly exclaimed as Cade walked down the hallway. Cade was feeling fresh and clean as he strutted carefree with his towel in hand.
“Cover up your hoo-ha Cade,” he told himself in the third person. “Nobody wants to see your privates. That’s weird.”
Teaching an autistic child issues related to sexuality is very challenging. I recall sitting in sex education class in high school giggling every time the words penis and vagina were mentioned. Who am I kidding? I still giggle. Sex is a very delicate subject. It evokes many different emotions. There are countless aspects of sex I need to address with him. However, the two most concerning matters are safety and social appropriateness. Don’t get me wrong. I truly believe he needs to learn about manscaping. I hate that he has to search for a needle in a hay stack every time he goes to the bathroom. Nonetheless, I am glad he knows to lock the stall in a public restroom. He hasn’t quite grasped the idea of locking the main door when its a single restroom. I am still working on that. I am also working on him not dropping his pants to his knees when using a public urinal. “Just the front Cade. Just the front,” I explain as I lift his pants to cover his rump.
Cade attends a school for children with disabilities. There are very limited programs in his school to teach him about sex and sexuality. Unfortunately, sex education is a missing component in most of the special education network. Cade takes everything literal so “spanking the monkey” means just that. Teaching him about “the birds and the bees” means tutoring him on flying creatures. I have to be very concise and use words such as penis, vagina and hoo-ha. It’s easy to assume that he will be innocent forever. But that type of thinking can lead to great risks.
Our first lesson on appropriateness with Cade was “No Naked Time in Public.” At one point Cade’s streaking was spreading faster than the herpes epidemic in the late 80’s. I recall a stop at a fast food restaurant. Cade was still wearing diapers. We ordered our food and sat in the children’s play area. Cade was fascinated by the vibrant colors and assorted textures. I removed his shoes and he began exploring. “Oooh!” he exclaimed as he entered the bright red tube. Sounds of wonderment echoed as he crawled his way through the plastic maze. Before long a young girl joined in on the fun. “I’m a princess,” she proclaimed as she kicked off her Little Mermaid sneakers. Her feet drug along the ground causing her hair to rise with static. “Look at my hair mom!” she shouted. Bouncing and giggling she made her way to the tube entrance.
“Maybe he’s right,” she spoke in her best Ariel voice. “Maybe there is something the matter with me. I just don’t see how a world that makes such wonderful things could be bad.” Her Little Mermaid impersonation was on point. She began singing “Part of Your World” as she flapped her fins through the tunnel.
“Hey,” the singing paused. “Somebody’s socks.”
The singing resumed as she continued her journey. “Mom! Somebody left their pants in here.” There was no telling what treasures awaited the young princess. “And a shirt too!”
From the bottom I could hear Cade’s voice as he prepared for his slide down. The singing mermaid wasn’t far behind. “Ewww!” She yelled out in disbelief. “Somebody’s diaper!”
Inch by inch Cade’s tush scooted down the slide. The fairy tale was over. The mermaid princess transformed into a sea witch and she back tracked her way out. “I will not go down a butt slide!”
I am pleased to say the public streaking stopped years before he developed a hairy hoo-ha. His streaking is now limited to our house. However, as most parents know when one phase ends another one begins. It’s like that spinning carnival ride that makes you dizzy and a bit nauseous. You’re glad when it’s finally over. Then, as you breathe a sigh of relief, the attendant announces there’s no one in line and gives you another run.
Guests at our home may occasionally spot the bushy eagle’s nest drifting through the hallways. Nonetheless, I am confident that one day the majestic bird will be confined to the walls of our bathroom. I have managed for him to limit other activities to the bathroom so I know I can manage this as well.
On a visit to one of his favorite Italian restaurants with a few of our friends I noticed Cade’s hands below the table. I leaned over to let him know, “There will be no playing with your meatballs at the restaurant.” He got the point as I moved his hands back beside his plate. Understanding the importance of the situation, we had numerous discussions on when and where this is acceptable. He needs to know that masturbation is normal. However, masturbation in public is reserved for a select few freaks of society. I was careful not to give him the same lecture my grandmother gave me.
I was fifteen and laying in bed thinking about a late night movie I watched on Cinemax the previous evening. The channel was scrambled so I had no idea what the film was about. All I remember was squiggly line, squiggly line, boob…squiggly line, squiggly line, boob. My thoughts were quickly interrupted by a shake at the door knob.
“Hello Grandma Mary,” I quickly turned to face the wall.
“Boy what are you doing with that devil in your hand?” she queried.
I really didn’t know how to answer that question. I just shamefully faced the wall as she continued her speech. “Don’t you know that’s the devil making you do those things?” Her sermon went on for at lest ten minutes as I laid there facing the wall. I waited for the sound of her fuzzy slippers to go clopping off in the distance. “Helen,” I heard her call out to my mother. “That boy better put that devil away.” My grandmother had the most beautiful crystal blue eyes. It took me quite a while to be able to look into those gems once more.
Every parent (or grandparent) is going to have to deal with sexuality and other sexual issues at some point. It’s best to be proactive. Cade is innocent in many ways. On the other hand he is a teenage boy. Therefore, he has the same desires as many other teenage boys. It’s obvious by the bashful look on his face when he’s online searching for pictures of Selena Gomez.
Growing up I learned many things from my peers. I realize that Cade doesn’t have the same opportunity. I do what I can to be his best friend as well as his dad. Having a hoo-ha is complicated. If I can teach him appropriateness and safety when it comes to issues related to his hoo-ha then I consider that a job well done.
Kelly Jude Melerine
- The Little Mermaid, Directed by: Ron Clements and John Musker, Screenplay written by: Ron Clements and John Musker, Fairy Tale written by: Hans Christian Andersen, Additional Dialogue by: Howard Ashman, Gerrit Graham, Samuel Graham and Chris Hubbell, Distributed by: Buena Vista Pictures, 1989.