Do you let your children see you naked?
When I was growing up, nudity in our family was no big deal.
I wouldn’t call us nudists, or exhibitionists in any way, it was merely the fact that the human body is normal and natural, and wasn’t anything to hide. Nudity is a part of life, and was not sexual in the slightest.
My parents didn’t cover up when we walked into the room while they were changing. They didn’t lock the door when they were bathing. I remember showering regularly with both my mom and my dad (and mind you, as a child, you know what is right around eye level). On hot summer nights (we did not have air conditioning) we would all decide to do a family skinny dip in our pool to cool off before bed.
Summer time especially, it was fairly commonplace that we would be nude out in our backyards playing in the pool. It was even when there were other people around, not just when it was just us (there is even evidence of such activity in our family photo album – on every third page or so – which made for some awkward moments when a boyfriend would get the “wanna see some pictures of Erika from when she was little” routine).
Interestingly enough, now as an adult, I’d consider myself on the more modest end of the spectrum. In my freshman year of college, I remember being a bit taken aback by one of my roommates who would spend inordinate amounts of time walking around topless while she was getting ready, and thinking, “Is it so hard to put on a shirt?”
So flash forward about 30 years, and now I am a mom. And as a conscious parent, I realize that the choices I make as a parent have long term implications. I have never hidden my naked body from my daughter because I, too, want her to grow up comfortable with nudity as a natural part of life.
I kind of thought that all parents did that.
Recently, my daughter has become, shall I say, obsessed with seeing male private parts. Her curiosity is getting the best of her.
Because I never had that intense interest, I wondered how it came to be that she is so laser focused on seeing what they look like.
Come to find out, though, that my ex has never once let our daughter see him naked.
What he does not realize, is that by doing what he thought was a good parenting practice (because that is what his parents did) he has now created a monster.
Add to the mix that my little girl also has a stepfather now. My husband has never allowed her to see him nude, not because he has a concern about it, but out of respect for my ex. He feels it is not his place to make that type of choice for her dad. He also shares a similar philosophy to me, and because he’s been in my daughter’s life since she was 2 years old, she always remembers him as one of her dads. It’s not like all of a sudden, a new man is in a 10 year old’s life….he has been there from when she’s got any conscious memory. And his step mom was always naked in front of him and his brothers, so he didn’t think it was any big deal, either.
So now my husband is getting REALLY good at playing goalie, defending his privates from curious 7 year old eyes, (and hands actually), trying to sneak a peek any time she can by pulling away his sweatpants or bathing suit to see what she can see. It sounds funny when I write it, but it’s really anything but.
And, to make matters worse, she has now escalated her curiosity to include talking about it all the time. She asks me questions, she reiterates how badly she wants to see them, because she does not know (and the suspense is clearly killing her). She even asked her dad why he doesn’t let her see him, and his answer was, “Because children should not see private parts.”
Oh… how I wish I could go back in time and communicate to my ex when she was a baby how we wanted to handle the nudity situation.
But now I fear it’s too late.
Talk about an incredible example of forbidding something that ends up becoming such temptation. Reminds me of that great quote, “What you resist, persists.”
No wonder many teens especially are tempted for those forbidden things like smoking and alcohol.
What is interesting also is that like the nudity thing, my parents did not “forbid” drinking, or smoking. They didn’t advocate it in any way, they just didn’t make it a big deal. My dad even offered to buy me the cigarettes and alcohol, if I wanted to “do that to my body” as long as I did it at home, so that I could figure out what that was all about.
The funny thing is, I never took him up on it.
Which is fascinating because unlike many of my friends, I did not have a huge urge to experiment with things such as alcohol, or smoking. It was around me, but I was never really curious – probably because it was “available” to me if I ever felt like it.
While I eventually tried both, I was very tame in those growing up rites of passage, relative to my peers who were strictly forbidden by their parents. And we all know how well THAT strategy works.
Because of that, I made a choice to parent my daughter that way as well, and have, but now I’ve been thrown a curve ball because this situation was something happening out of my jurisdiction (one of the lovely challenges of co-parenting after a divorce).
Given this scenario, I tried something as a solution. I thought I was being super clever by agreeing to show her illustrations (nothing more than you would see at any fine art museum). Not making a big deal of it, just matter of factly showing her a medical illustration, or the statue of David.
Phew, I have a work around. I take her to the computer (after pre-searching for appropriate images) and she is unimpressed.
Nope, that didn’t suffice.
She wants to see it in person. Live. In the flesh. (pun intended).
So what to do? At this point, it would be weird to have my ex suddenly change his mind and show her. But I also don’t necessarily want to have her first exposure in some situation where there is some energy of being hidden, or forbidden, like on a computer at a friend’s house, or on someone’s cell phone, or worse, in person with a boy interested in more.
Which is the lesser of two evils?