Dear Dr. Brilliant Cliché,
A week ago my mother, during a visit, asked me if my wife was still showering/bathing with our 5 1/2 year old son. In fact, she is, about twice a week as is convenient or timely. I, likewise, find I shower with him also on average of twice a week. It is the case that I am asked by my wife to shower with him at least 90% of the time, so as to ‘have him ready’ for when she arrives home to whisk him off to ‘the store’, her mothers, etc., etc.. As I consider this, perhaps I shower with him ONLY when my wife places a time-effective demand, of sorts, on me; I am sitting here thinking I voluntarily took maybe 2 showers with him, and no more than 4 bubble baths, over the past 365 days, purely of my own volition.
Are we screwed up? Am I screwing him up; contributing? There is nothing unnatural about this, and he has never posited a question or comment regarding. I guess what I am asking, as my wife and I are now in a bitter debate about this topic presently, what is appropriate regarding a child’s witness to his parent’s nakedness.
This is a great question. The context of course is culturally driven; many cultures treat nudity as no issue at all. It isn’t nudity but boundaries and intent that are the real issue.
If you consider cultural correctness you don’t want your kid talking about something that all the other kids will make fun of him and beat him up for. The YMCA has guidelines about this issue- at 5 yrs old they no longer let girls shower in the men’s locker room and visa-versa. But as far as same sex nudity in the locker room its 0 to death.
As far as showering with your child… let them learn that skill when they are able. If your child is capable of showering by themselves and wants to do so, by all means let them. Otherwise what’s the big deal? Kids shouldn’t be embarrassed over their bodies and neither should their parents.
Another issue which is more important is this: why can an outside opinion like your mother-in-law’s cause friction between the two of you? I think this is a far more important question than whether nudity psychologically damaging.
Dr. Brilliant Cliché
The Granny Doctor says- I remember taking baths with my mother when I was five or six, but not with my dad. It was made clear somehow that this was not alright. I grew up in the Hippy Era though, and by the time I was 16, communes where families ran around nude with the animals in the woods were common place. So were nude beaches. It didn’t seem like a big deal to many people.
Interestingly, as an adult, when I see mothers and daughters being close and affectionate it seems like a nice thing. When I see fathers and daughters being close and affectionate, it makes me uncomfortable as hell. This makes me realize how much my own childhood programming affected me.
I sense that your mother is uncomfortable with family nudity for reasons of her own and this is where the source of the problem lies. She may have had an unfortunate experience as a child, or perhaps it was drummed into her head that nudity equals sexual lewdness. You may have this idea in your programming too, which is why the issue is spawning fights now.
Family nudity is accepted as the norm in enough places that you can safely assume there’s nothing wrong with it… unless you feel icky about it. If you feel weird about being nude with your child, they will pick up on it. And THAT can mess them up.
One sure piece of advice- don’t let your son take a bath with grandma!