Originally published on August 9th, 2012, at The Next Family.
This summer, Kenny has once again spent much of his time in a summer camp program run by Kent Parks and Recreation department. As usual they do a good job getting kids outdoors, running around, meeting new neighborhood kids, and trying new experiences, and at a great price compared to other options. He’s had a great time, especially with their swimming lessons every Wednesday. One little thing has come up, though, on swimming days -peeping and privacy. His camp this year is for “the big kids” (ages 6-12 years) and he’s happy to be with the older group, but older kids mean more awareness of bodies and differences. He’s a red-headed, freckle-faced, blue-eyed, pasty white kiddo, and under normal circumstances, he’d blend in pretty well. However, when swimming, locker rooms and changing clothes are involved and he sticks out like a sore thumb.
See, my husband and I chose not to have our son circumcised. Neither of us is Jewish, so there was no cultural reason to do so, and the science on the benefits of circumcision is questionable at best, so we saw no reason to do something that we considered violating his right to bodily autonomy. It’s the same reason that- had we had a girl- I wouldn’t have had her ears pierced until she could make her own decision, and the same reason that I believe people should be trusted to make their own medical decisions instead of having those decisions legislated. To be clear, this was our choice in our circumstances, and other people may come to completely different decisions, and we respect that. This difference in Kenny does unfortunately make him quite the spectacle in the changing room for other boys. Also unfortunately, for whatever reason, Parks and Rec doesn’t have any males working in their summer programs, so when changing for swimming, the kids are left unsupervised, which wouldn’t be a problem except for Kenny being intact. Because of this little bit of skin, Kenny’s been peeped at, teased, made fun of, and not had any privacy. We’ve worked it out so that he goes to camp in his swim trunks, and simply wears them all day without changing, and it’s worked out reasonably well for us once we adjusted to this situation.
My husband and I made a choice, and it wasn’t the one most commonly made in this circumstance. Would we have changed our minds and had him circumcised if we had known the issues that would pop up from time to time? I doubt it. The same was the case when his hair was long. Fact of the matter is, the husband and I have made a number of choices that weren’t the norm, and nearly all of them have had some repercussions. Those range from a minor inconvenience that our compost jar poses in the summer when fruit flies are about, to major headaches like this episode with the peeping. But every decision has consequences; it’s simply a matter of weighing what you perceive to be the costs and the benefits of each decision. Even making a decision that is in line with what the majority does may have consequences that you don’t expect. Whatever the situation, though, when you make a decision, you have to deal with the fallout, however pleasant or unpleasant it is; that’s the nature of decisions.
How one deals with fallout is an important thing, as well. Compromise is just as important as dealing with consequences, and is sometimes the right way to deal with unpopular decisions. Obviously, there are times that require compromise and changing plans, and times that require holding to a decision. Deciding when to stay and when to hold isn’t just a critical skill for poker players, but for all of us, as we navigate the consequences of our decisions and interpersonal relationships, whether parent and child or representative and constituent relationships. On the larger scale decisions, our Congress last year put in place sequestration measures if they could not come to a long term solution to the national debt and deficit. How they decide to compromise or hold fast will have far larger consequences than an individual’s decision on a relatively minor topic, but the concepts behind both processes are the same.