Its time to show some skin around here and bare the naked truth (and part of the naked truth here is that I am still posting from the IE app on The Hubby’s XBOX and have no spell check, so please forgive the copious typos and misspellings that I have endoubtedly missed due to the small font size I have to use to see the whole screen and the excessive scrolling I have to do to see all of what is written in a font size that is legible).
Lets talk birthday suits.
Of course, half of the conversation about birthday suits involves the suits we put over them…
When we come into the world, its in the glory of our unadorned and marvelous skin. And then it gets covered up. Along the way, and over time, with ever article of clothing we don, we are given a whole set of taboos, hangups, rules, issues, judgements, and stigmas about clothing, nakedness and everything in between.
Do you remember the first time you were teased or taunted for not having the “right” clothes? Or the first time you tried to explain to your mother or father why what you wanted to wear was so much better than what they wanted you to wear? What about the anxiety of changing clothes in gym class or showering in a communal shower at the pool? How many outfits did you try on for the first day of school, or to pick out a dress for the Homecoming dance? Heck…I’m not sure that one ever changes–how long do you linger over your closet before a job interview, a date, or the class reunion? Do you remember your first trip to get fitted for a bra? Was your first trip to try on and buy sexy underwear on your own as uncomfortable? Guys, sorry…I don’t know what the dude equivelent is here, you’ll have to clue me in!
What the heck is it about nudity and clothing (and navigating between one or the other) that makes us so darn uncomfortable? And how the hell do we deal with our own hang-ups about this when parenting?
There are as many approaces to family nudity as there are families. Some do not want to have their children naked anywhere outside the bedroom and bathroom. Others are happy to have a seven-year-old cruise around the house nude except when friends are around. For their part, children from birth to somewhere between ages four and nine are eager to see and be seen and are, generally, unaware of any reason to keep their pants on. What should you do? Should you have them cover up, and if so, when and where? How will your descisions abou tnudity affect your child’s feeling about his own naked body?
Your own reactuion sto your children’s nudity probably derive froma hodge podfe of rational and emotional influences, some recently learned, some picked up in your childhood, some your’re aware of, some you’ll probably never know. Beware: Unconscious motives are rarely reliable instructors. For the sake of your child’s sanity and yours, take some tiems to consider what norms you would like to establish, and why. The specific rules you make about nudity at home are probably less important than the way you choose to convey them.
“Everything You NEVER Wanted Your Kids to Know about SEX (but were afraid they’d ask)” by Justin Richardson M.D. and Mark A. Schuster, M.D., Ph. D.
I have issues with my body. Who doesn’t? Seriously…I’ve come to the observational conclusion that not having issues with one’s body either makes them a liar or wierd. Like many people, those issues mean that I am uncomfortable unclothed and around others. Unlike some people, I don’t blame my uncomfortablness on the nakedness, but on myself. Being uncomfortable in the buff is my problem to overcome, not my proble to cover up.
I don’t have a moral or philisophical objection to naked. Quite the contrary–from a spiritual perspective, being naked is liberating, exhilirating, enegizing, and inspiring. There is a greater connection and a greater freedom that can be found in nakedness, particularly nakedness in the wilderness (and less chance of the neighbors stumbling on you then). I’m pretty darn lucky to be part of a religious movement that places just as much stock (and sacredness) in being naked (thanks Gerald!) as it doe being clothed, where there is room for either end of the spectrum (and everything in between). I’m also lucky to have been raised outside of any religious traditions that practiced “modesty”–more correctly (at least as I’ve seen most of them handle it), body shaming, by a mother that was a medical professional who believed in her daughter being educated. And I have a spouse that (despite–or perhaps out of spite for–his more conservative upbringing) is comfortable with naked.
And why shouldn’t we be? Why shouldn’t we be comefortable with naked? Naked does not mean sexual. And even when it does mean sex, sex is a basic and biological fact of life. We all got here with sex (maybe I’ll save this part of the discussion for another day). We all came into this world naked. Under all of the layers of society and personality that we hide ourselves with….we are naked. Naked is a basic and biolofical fact of life. And if there is anything that I can appreciate, as a Pagan, as a parent and as a student of science…its biological facts. (Its also a biological fact that hypothermia is a danger, as is sunburn and other exposure illnesses and conditions, and for that reason, the ability of humans to concieve of clothing is an evolutionar adaptation we can be proud of.)
So where does that leave day to day parenting decisions? I’m sure some of you that are reading this are incredible uncomfortable (and if so, and you are still reading it, I commend you)…not every person or family finds a value in nakeness, or in teaching children to be comfortable in and with their bodies. Some families probably find even more value in nakedness than ours. And (with the idea of body shaming being left out of this discussion) I think the continuum of stances that can be found between almost never naked and completely nudist are of equal validity…though neither are of my preference.
I’ll have to look for it again one of these days, but a few years back (when Chickadee was still in the womb, I believe), I ran across a news article which led me to several articles on the benefits of being raised in nudist families. It seems that the high school and college-aged children of nudist families, whether or not they considered themselves nudists or not, were more (pardon the pun) comfortable in their own skin–they had better self-esteem, a better sense of body image, less chance of eating disorders, and some other differences that were thought to trickle down into things like sexual health and relationship security. If I wasn’t having technical difficulties (see my previous post, First World Problems, wich I can’t even link to because of my technical difficulties), I’d try to dig up some of those studies and link them (I do hate to make claims with out the accompanying evidence for them).
Whatever norms you choose, consider following these three guidelines:
First try to be as consisten as possible with the norms you have decided upon, but adapt them as your child grows.
Second, when encouraging modesty, be sure to explain your reasons in a way that is not shaming. Any limit to a child’s happy delisplay of his form should be conveyed in a way that remains admiring and respectful of his body: “Just like with grown-ups, your body is special. Only people who are especially close to you should get to see it now.”
Tho goal is to distinguish our attitude toward his abody (always favorable) from your opinion of his showing it in certain situations. Keeping this principle in mind witll help you raise a child who is modest about public nudity but not ashamed of his body.
And third, however much modesty you endorse, there should be at least one setting in which your child’s naked body is accepted and enjoyed.*
from “Everything you NEVER wanted your kids to know…”
*The interesting thing here, is that the authors never out right describe that setting–the writing implies that it is at home, with family (indluding parents and siblings), epending on the comfort level of both parents and children, which changes the attitudes and actions regarting nakeness and the acceptability of nudity, which will vary from family to family and over time as children mature.
The Hubby and I (perhaps unsurprisingly for regualr readers of my blog) have chosen a sort of middle ground. Social mores (wether we like them or not) and even legal stuatue (rightly or wrongly) dictate that there are times and places where clothing should be worn, and what the appropriate clothing might be. Therefore, it is our responsibility that our children understand the written and unwritten rules about wearing clothing, about the reasons for those rules, and about how they differ between cultures. Lets face it…clothing is a symbol, and (IMO) part of being a respomsible Pagan parent is teaching my children about the appropriate use of symbols as a form of expression, connection and empowerment. But naked is also a symbol and a form of expression, connection, and empowerment, and being okay with naked is crucial to being okay with one’s self at its most basic level. It is our responsibility to teach them that as well.
Its easy to talk about the why of the what–in this case, the why of making naked an okay thing. What’s hard though, is usually the how. How to do nekkit so that it works for one’s family without throwing the grandparents or neighbors in a tizzy? How to do nekkit in a way that respects varying beliefs and comfort levels in single family? How do we develop our own body images and combat our own body issues in a way that allows us to get past our hang ups and hopefully let our children avoid them–or better yet, learn from them? How to change what is an acceptable expressuion of nakedness, and where its acceptable as children mature, physically and mentally?
I don’t know how your family should decide to handle nudity–I barely know how our family should decide to handle nudity in the future! I know how we handle it now, and I know how we would like to continue to handle it…but I also know that children are individuals, and as they grow their comfort levels will be determined by outside factors. It is our job to be sensitive to them in this matter as well…and that will change the day-to-day rules, though not our underlying philosophy on the matter.
One of the most important gifts we can give our children is an acceptance and even an enjoyment of their bodies…and an acceptance and enjoyment of their naked bodies is a crucial part of that development.