Being Naked in Front of Your Kids: Yay or Nay?
Yay for me. Nay for my husband. We send two different messages to our kids, and hope, like everything else, that we don’t screw them up.
Coming from an open Jewish family, I can recall my father’s big naked hairy body, small saggy tush and stick legs. I saw him naked from time to time when I’d walk into my parents bedroom, and as he was getting in or out of the shower, or looking in the mirror while he shaved. As a young girl, I remember thinking “IT” looked like an elephant’s trunk. IT. Was. Grotesque. I was very happy to have a vagina.
It was never made into a big deal, but I did take notice. “It’s just a body,” my mother would say. Or, “Honey, go put on some clothes. The kids are getting older.” I had two brothers so I was familiar with the male body. I knew what a penis was, and other than being fascinated by the fact that boys could stand up to pee, I didn’t really care.
Then there was my mom. I remember showering with her at a young age, and being amazed by her womanly body. I couldn’t believe that one day I’d look like that too. But when would it happen? How does it happen? Are you there God, It’s Me Margaret? by Judy Blume answered some of my questions as I got older.
My mom never made it a point to get dressed or not get dressed in front of me. Although I can instantly picture her in white silky granny panties and a strapless bra. “Can you believe this body?” she’d say distastefully, patting her stomach on more than one occasion, while looking in the mirror. “As you get older, everything sags.”
I remember thinking she was beautiful. I couldn’t understand why she didn’t think so.
In my teenage years, I can remember my mom walking around wearing a black see-thru neglige with purple velvet flowers, without any underwear on underneath. I could see her bushy vagina. I was mortified. To this day that memory burns deep. I told her in my Valley Girl tone of voice, “None of your kids want to see you practically naked, especially Josh and Ben.” (My brothers). The funny thing is, my adult brothers don’t recall this at all. She didn’t seem to care. Sigh. Deep Breath. That was my mother.
As a young girl, I saw it as beautiful. As a teenager, I saw it as inappropriate. What was okay at one time is not at another time… but how do you know when that time is?
My husband, Grant, came from a very different type of family…Christian, conservative and the youngest sibling of a brother and sister. They didn’t talk about nudity or get naked in front of one another. (Gasp!) It was private.
Fast forward to having two young daughters, Addy, 6 and Stella, 4.
I walk around naked in front of our girls. I’m not an exhibitionist. I don’t dance naked throughout the house. At least not while they are awake! But I don’t run to cover up when they come in my bedroom either.
During a recent shower with my youngest daughter Stella, our conversation went something like this:
Stella: Will I have boooobs? (pointing at mine and laughing)
Me: They are called breasts and yes, you will.
Stella: Eww, I don’t want them. What are those round pokey things sticking out called again?
Stella: Oh, yeh. That’s where milk comes from to feed babies.
Me: Yes, it’s amazing, huh?
Stella: Your stomach is big.
Me: Things look bigger when you look up at them.
When Stella said my stomach was big, I immediately went into defense mode, and made a joke but then tried to recover. If I had said, “No, it’s not” I’d be dismissing her thoughts and feelings. If I had said, “Yes, I need to exercise more,” which is what I thought, I’d be saying a big stomach is bad. Fat = Bad. Not good for her self esteem.
Grant locks our bedroom door when he showers. He is adamant about his privacy, and doesn’t want to “scar the girls for life.” I don’t think they’ve ever seen him naked, just with a towel wrapped around his waist. I don’t want my daughters to see his penis everyday, but I also don’t want them to think it is taboo. When I say, “Daddy needs privacy,” they say, “He’s nakey,” and start laughing hysterically.
For me, growing up in an open household with more males than females, penises, farting, burping, booger picking and flicking, all became passe. I wasn’t curious about boys in the same way as my friends who didn’t have brothers or openly naked fathers. My girlfriends would come over and be fascinated by my brothers. My friends watched everything my brothers did, studying them like a species from outer space with goofy smiles plastered on their faces.
I wonder if the pendulum tilts strongly one way. Will it actually be producing the opposite effect? Will my girls become more interested in penises because of the unknown?
I wish there was a parenting manual on how to be appropriately naked that will ensure your kids will become comfortable in their own skin. But like parenting teaches us, you’re not always going to get it right.
Crossing my fingers that this one is a win.