Unlike Sarah, I didn’t have a poetic, thoughtful, and profound reason for my decision to let my children see me (and their father) naked. My reason was pretty much the same reason I do all things; my belief that what’s easiest for me to do is ultimately best for my kids (a.k.a. I am Occam’s Mother).
But, when I wrote the above post, my oldest son was 12. And now he’s 14. There’s a big difference between 12 and 14–especially when he’s a boy.
Everyone told me that there would come a natural point when my children would begin to feel modest in and of their own. That hasn’t happened yet. My 6-year-old daughter still likes to take baths with her 10-year-old brother. They’ve been doing it together for so long, I suspect they don’t even notice that they’re naked; it’s just how it’s always been. And because we share a bathroom, a child who can’t wait barging in while my husband is taking a shower in the morning can’t be avoided.
Finally, my oldest is that boy whom the teachers always tell us “is so quiet” at school. That’s because he saves it all up for when he comes home. He literally walks through the door and begins talking in a manner that even he describes as talking “at” me, not “to” me. And he doesn’t care what I might be doing at the time (we’re working on it, we’re working on it). I might be in the kitchen, cooking, or I might be at my computer, racing a deadline–or I might be in my bedroom, changing. He doesn’t care. He’s got to talk, and so he does. Clearly catching me topless doesn’t bother him (since he hardly breaks conversational stride).
But, it is starting to bother me. Or, rather, I’m starting to wonder if it should be bothering me. I still don’t mind if he sees me naked. But, I’m starting to wonder if I should mind if he sees me naked. For his sake, not my own.
On the one hand, I think that I’ve spent 14 years showing him that the human body (male or female) isn’t something to be hidden away or tittered about like a dirty secret. It’s not meant to be shrouded in mystery to the point where catching a forbidden glimpse becomes an all-encompassing obsession. It’s simply a functional thing, there to keep our internal organs from falling out. If I suddenly, out of the blue, begin covering up, won’t that send the message that we (he) have been doing something wrong all these years?
On the other hand, 14 is a very volatile time, with hormones pumping all over the place. The reason boys of that age are advised to keep away from porn (especially the truly fetish-y stuff) is because it literally hard-wires all sorts of unreasonable expectations and ideas into their heads at a time when the brain is still developing, and attitudes about sex are in the process of being formed.
To that end, I don’t know if this is exactly the optimal time to be throwing your casually naked mother into the mix.
Then again, it’s not like I’ve suddenly started disrobing in front of him. Like his brother and sister in the bath together, it’s such a commonly occurring event that it’s possible he doesn’t even consciously recognize it.
(I seem to have as many hands at this point as Tevya’s famous bit from “Fiddler on the Roof.” He’s right and he’s right? They can’t both be right!/And you are also right.)
If I suddenly begin covering up, what message am I sending him? And what message am I sending him if I don’t?
The only thing I am certain of at this point is my own mother’s best parenting tip ever: Don’t worry, whatever decision you make about your children, you will be wrong. (Liberating, no?)