One of my youngest daughter’s favourite things in the world is to have a bath with Mummy. I don’t do it very often, because her other favourite thing in the world is to throw bubbles in my face, but every so often I strip off and hop in the tub with her. It’s really special, maybe more so because I know it won’t last.
At seven years old, my child has no issue with me being naked. Little kids aren’t yet socialised to associate nudity with naughtiness. Naked Mummy is just Mummy without her clothes, not gross or rude or scary-naked Mummy.
But I know it will change. As kids grow older, social conditioning kicks in. Boys don’t want to see their mums naked, girls don’t want to see their dads naked, and many stop wanting to see either parent naked, full stop.
My son used to love to bathe with me, too. But somewhere around puberty, my naked body became an object of horror. If he ever accidentally walks in on me changing now, he will scream, cover his eyes, and run in the opposite direction.
And I respect that. It doesn’t please me (I mean, no woman wants to hear “Oh god, that’s hideous!” when she’s naked) but I accept it. And, quite frankly, I’m not going to force the issue either. I’m not going to walk around my home naked if it makes my son distressed. After all, we live in a society in which public nudity is taboo, and we can’t expect our children to change their programming when they’re at home.
Still, while my youngest is still comfortable with me being naked, I can’t see any reason to cover up around her. Why create an issue about nudity where there is none?
I know plenty of parents who walk around naked in front of their children, and others who decided at an almost arbitrary moment that it was no longer ‘appropriate’. I know some primary-aged brothers and sisters who bathe together, and others who haven’t seen each other naked for years. Different families have different norms, and what works for one family wouldn’t work for another. And that’s fine.
THE WARNING SIGNS
If families are comfortable being nude then that is a wonderful thing. There is nothing at all wrong with the human body, and demonstrating a comfort with your own naked body can surely only send a positive message to your children. But I do believe parents need to notice and respect the subtle signs that kids give when they are no longer okay with seeing them naked – subtle signs which include wincing, turning away, or screaming and running from the room.
Until such (ego-crushing) time as this occurs, enjoy your freedom to roam around nude. And rest assured that you are not going to hurt your kids by letting them see you naked at any age. But don’t think that gets you off the hook altogether. Trust me. You’ll have plenty of opportunities to mortify them, fully clothed, later on.