Childrearing

Love & Sex Week: Teaching My Child To Keep Her Private Parts… Private

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What is it about a young child that just compels you to lift your clothes above your head in public? Why is it that anyone under the age of six has an inherent need to run around without their underpants on? And as adults, why do we care?

My daughter and I aren’t quite ready for the sex talk just yet. Thankfully, I have a few  more years to prepare myself for that one. But that doesn’t mean that I’m getting off easy until we have the tampon talk. We just headed into the murky territory surrounding public nudity.

My little girl is four. She’s smart and she’s so tall that people assume she’s well-past kindergarten, but she just turned four years old. And while I don’t see a huge problem with her running free and clear through our house, others are beginning to get a little uncomfortable. More than anything, our five nephews, all of them other than my little girl. To them, she’s an odd thing with odd parts that really need to be kept to herself. So when my daughter decides to strip down to her skivvies to change into her dress-up clothes, they automatically avert there eyes or tell her to get changed in her bedroom.

Then, there’s the public nudity factor. Obviously, the US is pretty conservative when it comes to embracing nudity. In general, we have a “live and keep clothed” policy going on. Someone, my little one hasn’t gotten the message. We could be sitting at the dinner table, and she would decide that her shirt is itchy. Before I have a chance to put my hand out, the thing is stripped off her head and I have a topless toddler happily munching on her chicken nuggets. What’s a mom to do? [tagbox tag=”childrearing”]

Lately, I’ve started to introduce what my mother calls “the bathing suit” approach. I’m pretty sure that I learned it in school when I was a kid. Anything that’s covered by a bathing suit is a private area. These are the places that we might want to keep covered when we’re in public and the places that no one else is allowed to touch. I know that it’s the safest way to start the conversation about good touches and bad touches, a talk that all parents should have with young kids.

The problem is that we’re not a particularly self-conscious family. Or really, I’m not a self-conscious mom. I leave the door open when I shower, just in case Brenna needs to run in and tell me something. I have no problem walking through the house without my top on. For the record, my daughter thinks that boobs in general are hilarious. The fact that milk comes out of them is a never-ending source of amusement to her.

I’ve always believed that feeling comfortable in my skin would ultimately help my daughter much more than teaching her modesty. If she’s going to model something, I would rather it be confidence and self-acceptance. Now, I just need to learn to combine that body acceptance with a general sense of appropriate attire. I don’t want to break her free spirit, I just want to stop creeping out those elementary-age boys. And maybe teach her to keep her shirts and skirts down in public.