I’ve seen a lot on Facebook in the last few days about being nude in front of your children. It’s a pretty contentious topic, with the ‘ewww’ factor running high for a lot of people at the thought of letting it all hang loose in front of their kids.
I guess I have a perspective that’s a little out of the norm. Spending so much of my childhood in Finland, where naked bathing is de rigueur and swimsuits are actively banned in public saunas and steam rooms (on the basis it’s totally gross to sweat into your swimsuit and then go bob about in the swimming pool), I’ve grown up pretty comfortable with nudity. Studying as a massage therapist cemented the feeling that meh… a body is a body. So while I don’t waltz about the house with various appendages flying around, I don’t exactly scuttle crablike from the bathroom to the bedroom covered neck to toe in towels.
The children don’t care. Quite possibly because I don’t care. Sometimes my five year old son will accuse me of having boobies. I confirm that’s the case. Conversation over.
Added to that, my kids are well aware of the difference between men and women, and I have a blanket rule that anything they ask me, I tell them the truth about – while keeping it child appropriate.
Sometimes I wish that I didn’t have that rule. We’ve covered, unprompted by me, boyfriends and girlfriends versus husbands and wives, marriage and why it both is and isn’t important, gay marriage and why it’s pretty ridiculous that it’s still illegal, why there are so many religions and none of them can really claim to be the right one, breastfeeding and bottle feeding and the fact that feeding your baby somehow is the really important bit, how babies grow within and get out of the womb, how they get into the womb in the first place (precipitated by the immortal line “I know about the egg and the seed, Mum, but unless he unscrews her neck and pours it in I feel like I’m missing something…”), how sex works, why people don’t only do it when they want to have a baby, and how important it is to respect your own and other people’s bodies.
Most of these subjects have been prompted by questions from my daughter, who at seven and a half has the kind of inquiring mind that could wear me into a nervous breakdown. Strangely, she seems to prefer pitching subjects at me at around six thirty in the morning, tenderly peeling back an eyelid and whispering, “Tell me again about how we don’t really know for sure what happens after we die…” Possibly she’s worked out that I’m going to be way too bleary to make up some nonsense about storks and cabbage patches and angels reclining in clouds strumming harps.
I’m hoping, with fingers and toes and everything else I can think of crossed, that this approach will mean that they can come to me with anything and know they’ll get the truth. The questions will get harder. The answers will get trickier. But with all the truly crappy messages that children get, every day, about how life should be, what relationships should bring you, how the only acceptable body is the perfect, unattainable, airbrushed version that is on every poster and in every glossy magazine, maybe it’s a good thing to have a parent that keeps it real.
The naked truth, from the sometimes naked mother.