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Saturday, August 30, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 73.0° F  Overcast
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A touchy subject
What should I do when the kid I'm babysitting starts playing with himself?

I'm a high school sophomore who sometimes babysits to make extra spending money. My parents thought I should e-mail you to see what you thought about something. One of the kids I used to babysit for, usually on Saturday nights, was a 3-year-old boy who was no trouble at all until it was time to go to bed. Then, when he was changing from his regular clothes to his pajamas, he would start fondling himself to the point of erection. At first, I just ignored it, pretended I didn't notice. But if I didn't say anything about it, he would just keep going, even after I'd turned out the light. So I decided I should tell his parents, so they could decide what they wanted me to do. I told the mother, and she seemed shocked, as if this had never happened to her before, which I find hard to believe. She said if it ever happened again while I was there, I should firmly tell her son to stop immediately.

I wasn't really comfortable with that. And I felt like this woman wasn't being totally honest with me. So I made excuses the next couple of times she called to ask me to babysit, and she quit calling after that. I don't really care whether she reads this or not, but even my own parents weren't quite sure what I should have done under the circumstances. So they said I should write and ask you. What do you think?

Saturday Night Fever

Saturday Night Fever: Well, you've certainly come to the right place, SNF. I've been playing with myself since the age of 2, according to my dearly departed mother, and during that time I've developed quite a little rap on childhood self-stimulation. Notice I don't call it masturbation. I don't think there's anything particularly sexual about what's going on here. It's sensual, not sexual. And as one of the 50 million children of Dr. Spock, my position continues to be: If it feels good, you should.

You haven't heard of Dr. Spock? No, not that guy with pointy ears on Star Trek, Dr. Benjamin Spock, the best friend a kid ever had. With the publication of his book Baby and Child Care, this level-headed pediatrician taught an entire generation of parents not to freak out over how to raise their children. Instead, they were supposed to relax and enjoy the show. And that included allowing boy kids like me to play with our pee-pees. Ah, I think of the guy every time I...well, let's just say I think of him often.

Before Dr. Spock, which is basically before World War II, childhood self-stimulation was considered bad, even evil. It could lead to blindness, insanity, death or ' worst of all ' hairy palms. So what did responsible parents do to prevent this potential scourge? They heaped on the verbal and physical abuse. Some even went so far as to tie their children's hands to their cribs, which had the added benefit of keeping them from sucking their thumbs. (And we all know what that can lead to.)

Dr. Spock changed all that, for which I'm eternally grateful, but even the good doctor felt there was a time and place for what's essentially a private activity, not a public display. I believe he recommended the bedroom and the bathroom, bedtime and nap time, which sounds entirely reasonable, although I've always had this thing about the kitchen...

But what I really want to say is that I think you did exactly the right thing, SNF. When you saw that 3-year-old boy's towering erection, you immediately recognized that it was no big deal. Dr. Spock would be so proud.

To accompany me to Bed, Bath & Beyond, write to: MR. RIGHT, ISTHMUS, 101 KING ST., MADISON, WI 53703. OR CALL 251-1206, EXT. 152. OR E-MAIL MRRIGHT@ISTHMUS.COM.

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