I Didnâ€™t Realize Bathing Alone Makes Me The â€˜Prudeâ€™ Parent In The Neighborhood
I didnâ€™t grow up in a naked house. This is not to say that my childhood was particularly reserved or that my family was prudish in any way, rather that ours was a house where doors were shut when people were in the bathroom, showers were taken individually instead of communally, and kids and parents all slept in their own, separate beds.
I never really thought much about it until I had kids of my own. Before having kids, I had grown older and lived on my own, all the while maintaining a pretty open and free philosophy when it came to my mind and body.Â What I mean to say is, that I really enjoy being naked. I spent a good part of my pre-motherhood years walking around without clothes in the various places I lived, and even in various places I didnâ€™t.
And then I had kids, first one baby and then another, both boys. I donâ€™t remember being particularly concerned about my sartorial propriety when they were very young, but as they got older I became increasingly, though not exactly neurotically, conscious about changing behind closed doors and reminding them to use the bathroom privately. And to aim into the toilet better, but thatâ€™s a different story altogether.
And all of this was fine. But then, as my kids got older and I started talking to more and more parents in my progressive Brooklyn neighborhood, I realized that my parenting choices were, in this regard, viewed as archaic in the world of attachment parenting and co-sleeping. It suddenly seemed like family vacations to nude beaches were similar to wearing your child in a slingâ€”just another way to establish an irrevocable bond.
I found that the nudity norm was not where Iâ€™d thought it was.Â That instead, while pushing their children on the swings, parents would casually reference skinny-dipping with their kids, family bath time, and co-sleeping well past toddlerhood. I would nod my head, partake in these conversations, and cringe inside, mentally filing away all of the imagesâ€”oh, the images!â€”so that I could share them with my childless friends and see if they think itâ€™s normal to be a naked family.
Instead of being comforted by the assurances that my childless friends have provided, namely, that I am not a complete prude, and that it will not be my children who will be in therapy recounting tales of reaching for the soap in murky bathwater and coming up with a handful of Daddy, I am still uneasy. Maybe it is not that I am a prude exactly but, instead, it is that I have not given myself over as whole-heartedly to parenting as the naked parents have.
What these families seem to have that I do not is a more complete acceptance of what their life is now and they have no desire to compartmentalize who they are, in all their relative glory, whereas I feel a real and almost tangible need to keep some things private. I think that part of this has to do with being a single parent and investing so much of my time and my identity in my children. When it comes to things that I can keep private, I happily do so. Thereâ€™s only so much I can share. But even though I realize that I am not comfortable with being too open around my children, I can at least refrain from wincing anymore when I hear about other peopleâ€™s family vacations to nude beaches. Boundaries with regards to privacy can, and will, be drawn in all sorts of unfamiliar ways. Who is to say whatâ€™s normal? I mean, we all scar our children one way or another and whether itâ€™s by making them overly familiar with every hairy patch of their parentâ€™s middle-aged bodies or by forcing them to watch Dirty Rotten Scoundrels over and over again until they have it committed to memory, weâ€™re all just trying to get the job done.