I’m trying to remember how I thought about things when I was seven. I carry a few foggy memories from that age of an awakening awareness of gonads, girls and God. I was on the verge of knowing a few things, but I was still working out the details.
For instance: I knew older boys were terrified of being hit in the ‘nads. That’s what we called them: ‘nads. Or, I suppose I should say that’s what the older boys called them, and we first graders followed suit.
Because that’s what first graders do. They emulate. They’re mostly undifferentiated human templates, absorbing and assimilating the qualities of those around them. What they hear, see, smell, touch, do and dream at that age combines with nature to give them form and substance for life.
At seven, I don’t recall if I had the slightest idea that ‘nads were properly called testicles (and even more properly called testes, but we’re not really sticklers for propriety). I do remember that I didn’t know what purpose testicles served. I only knew they were my constant companions, and that it hurt like the dickens when I they got hit or kicked or smashed by the pointy tip of my bicycle seat, and older boys wore a cup during baseball practice and games, and I wanted to get a cup, too, because it would mean I was a big boy.
So, now, I’m the father of a seven-year-old first grader. In preparation for this piece about testicular cancer awareness, I thought it would be good to start with a lesson for my older son. I thought I’d begin with the generalities then move on to the specifics.
During the drive from Tampa to Walt Disney World Saturday, I asked the back seat the general question, “Hey. You guys know what testicles are?”
Silence. Then …
“They’re, like, well … um, no, not really.”
Turns out my older son knows approximately what I knew almost 40 years ago at that age. Only, instead of ‘nads, he and his buddies call them balls.
(A quick aside here. I envy the years of rich discovery ahead for my sons. The lessons they’ll learn. The colorful vocabulary they’ll acquire. Oh, to relive each and every moment when life served up a new testicular euphemism. It’s all ahead for them: nuts, eggs, huevos, danglers, scrotes, cojones, rocks, stones, the family jewels. And oh, so many more. Use them well, boys. Use them well.)
After our brief chat Saturday, my older son knows now that the proper name is testicles, but I’m still not sure he’s ready to process the concept of testicular cancer. I’ll save the specifics for later.
Not much later, though. One day soon, I’ll explain to my sons that testicular cancer is the most common form of cancer among boys and young men aged 15-35. I’ll explain that catching it early is vital, because 99 percent of those diagnosed with testicular cancer respond well to treatment and can lead normal, active lives. My wife and I will talk to their pediatrician about teaching self-examination, and then we’ll reinforce the importance of vigilance. We won’t be shy, because it’s too important for awkwardness.
All of those details are a bit much for a seven-year-old, I think. But what we can do now is instill the zest for life that will convince him that it’s well worth the few seconds it takes to check for signs of testicular cancer.
So we savor the moments. Saturday, with my wife laid out by a nasty head cold, I piled the boys into the car for the hour-long drive over to Epcot. The annual Flower and Garden Festival has begun, and that means topiary! You might be surprised at how fascinated young boys can be with wired shrubbery shaped like Mater and Lightning McQueen, or like a family of pandas.
We spent a couple of hours Saturday wandering the pavilions, chasing the evil Dr. Doofenshmirtz, enjoying the mild weather, relishing each other’s company. It’s the Year of Disney for our family, and this was the first time it was just me and the boys. They’ll remember these days of Disney, I’m sure. I know I will. Perhaps one day they’ll look forward to days like these with their own kids.
With that hopeful thought in mind, we’ll remind them occasionally when they’re older to self-check for signs of testicular cancer. And then, if necessary, we’ll remind them of why. Hopefully, they’ll already know. Hopefully, they won’t need to be reminded that we check because those few seconds could buy them and everyone who loves them years, decades, a lifetime of moments to savor.
It’s Man UP Monday!
I’m proud to be a member of the Single Jingles Man UP Monday BLOGGING TEAM!
Today, I’m doing my part to spread an important message about Testicular Cancer.
Did you know that Testicular Cancer is the #1 cancer in young men ages 15 to 35?
Did you know that Testicular Cancer is highly survivable if detected early?
Did you know that young men should be doing a monthly self-exam?
What can you do?
Stop by the Single Jingles website for more information on Testicular Cancer.
Request a FREE shower card with self-exam instructions — it just might save a young man in your life!
And if you’re feeling just a little AWKWARD about this conversation, check out this video from some parents who feel the exact same way!
Thank you to Jim Higley of Bobblehead Dad for inviting me to participate in this great series. Here is the first installment, written by Whit Honea and published last Monday at his personal blog, Honea Express. Here’s another entry by Paul Easter, and another by Andy Hinds (aka Beta Dad).
Topiary panda family at the China pavilion, Epcot.