A friend of mine recently dated a guy who was from, what I’ve come to refer to as, a “naked family” – that is, a family where even as adults, nudity just isn’t a big deal. She learned this the hard way, while on vacation with him and his parents. Her boyfriend’s mom stopped by their hotel room before dinner to ask her son a question. He was in the bath, my friend told her, expecting her to come by again later. Instead, to her horror, her boyfriend’s mother walked right into the bathroom and had a full conversation eye-to-eye with her 30-something-year-old son as he soaked in the tub, naked as the day is long. Later, this guy acted like my friend was some kind of prudish weirdo when she expressed shock at the exchange; they didn’t last much longer after that.
Hey – no judgment. Naked is natural and to each their own! I’m all for body positivity and being comfortable in your own skin. But if you can’t tell, I came from a family where, past young childhood, we never saw each other’s bits if we could help it. “Never-nudes,” some might say. (Granted, some of that modesty fell away when I gave birth to my first child, and my dad, a doctor, asked if he could stay in the room for the delivery. I said he could if he stayed up by my head. Little did I know that in the course of birthing a tiny human, I would be contorted into all sorts of positions that left no corner of the room safe from the view of my writhing, straining, squishy and fully exposed body parts.)
Of course, nudity stops being any kind of big deal when you’re talking about you and your small children. Being naked around their parents and siblings isn’t really a choice for babies and toddlers, and modesty doesn’t become a realistic option until they’re independent enough to bathe alone and wipe themselves clean after using the bathroom (when oh when will this blessed day arrive?). Parents are also forced to let go of any squeamishness in the presence of clingy, curious little ones. I feel like I must put on one heck of a show, because every time my children sense that I’m about to sit on a toilet, strip down for a shower, or stand bare-chested in my closet choosing clothes, there they are. I’ve always got an audience of two kids (and usually a dog and/or cat) staring intently at me in all my naked glory.
But lately, I’ve been starting to wonder just how much nudity is “OK” in my house. Mostly, because my nearly five-year-old daughter is brutally honest with her observations. Typically, she just comments on things like my bad dancing, excessive “fur” inside my nose, or the white “stripes” in my hair. But then there are comments like this:
- I have little nipples. Mommy has giant nipples. Mom your boobies are huuuuuuge.
- (Watching me – of course – as I pee during “that time of the month”) Why do you have to wear that diaper? I thought you were already potty trained.
- I have a cute vagina. Mom your vagina is big and old.
- (Staring straight at my crotch) O.M.G. I came out of that?!?!?! WHAAAATTTT? (Followed by maniacal laughter and my two children running around the house screaming in mock horror.)
Don’t get me wrong, I take these opportunities to teach my kids about biology, their own bodies, and how to speak respectfully to people and adhere to boundaries. My kids (hopefully) know, for instance, that they shouldn’t be staring down their classmates in the open bathroom at daycare or commenting on people’s bodies willy-nilly. But I want my kids to feel free to talk with me about their bodies and ask me questions about mine if they want (there’s a lot to learn!).
At the same time, I am cognizant of the fact that we don’t live in a society where “naked families” are the norm, and I want to cultivate a healthy sense of modesty and respect for privacy in our house. I also don’t especially relish the idea of my kids reporting on my naked body to their friends (which you know they do), and then having those friends repeat things to their parents. Let’s just say that I have some intimate knowledge of my daughter’s friend’s mom’s pubic hair, which I wish I could wipe from my mind.
For now, I’ve decided to let my kids guide the way. When they ask for privacy, I give it to them and then offer it to them moving forward. If the day comes that they start acting weird around my naked body, I’ll do what I can to make sure they don’t see it anymore! From what I’ve heard, the transition away from seeing each other naked usually happens pretty organically, around the time that kids are 8 or 9 years old.
What do you think? How old is “too old” when it comes to nudity in families? Should parents cover up around their kids before kids are expected to cover up around their parents? Or is there no such thing as an “appropriate” cut-off point for this kind of thing?