Richard, my 17-year-old, went through a long period of grieving the loss of his foreskin when he was around 5 years old. He saw other boys with theirs, he asked questions, which I answered honestly, and explained I was sorry and I would do it differently if I could (which I did with my second son, who wasn’t born or conceived when Richard went through his grieving process.)
Richard cried many times, saying, “I want my foreskin back.” All I could do was say, “I’m sorry, I wish I could give it back to you. If I knew then what I know now, I wouldn’t have allowed them to do that to you. It was a mistake. I’m sorry. It’s understandable you’d want it back. It was part of your body. It’s a terrible loss.” I said, “I’m sorry” many times and held him while he cried, and affirmed his feelings, until finally he moved through it and accepted it. It took a long time, probably 6 months before he stopped bringing it up and crying about it.
Maybe he’ll have more grieving to do as an adult, but I think it was good to get that out when it came up for him. I was glad to be able to be there for him through his process. It’s one thing I was able to do, since I wasn’t able to reverse my decision and give him his foreskin back. I made amends by being there for him in his feelings. That felt good for both of us.
The interesting piece of this story is when I reflect on something I was told by people promoting circumcision. I heard numerous times by friends, family, and doctors, “It’s important for boys to be like their dad. It will affect their self-esteem, they will feel different, they will ask questions you will not be able to answer if they aren’t circumcised like their dad.”
Well, I had the opposite experience. Richard did not want to be like his dad. He wanted his foreskin back. He’s the one, not Barry, my second son, who asked questions that were difficult and painful for me to answer. Barry is uncircumcised, unlike both his dad and his big brother whom he adores and emulates in every way.
Barry has never wanted to be circumcised like his dad or Richard. He has never felt “different” from them because of it. (I think he would tell me; he is very open with his feelings.) Barry noticed the difference and asked questions when he was younger. I explained why he wasn’t circumcised and his dad and Richard were. It made sense to him. End of discussion, pretty much. It didn’t take him 6 months of grieving to get to a place of acceptance. It took a few questions and simple answers. Barry likes his penis and his foreskin.