Childhood Nudity

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I fear that I have fallen into a bad habit of greedily consuming all the wonderful blog posts and pictures you are all posting, but only contributing when I need advice! Forgive me. I WANT to post more, and I know you all feel the time constraints of parenting, but I’ve been (per usual) neglectful of my own space in the blogosphere.

So here’s my issue today. Our nanny has a son who is 4 (April birthday). He is with the nanny and our daughter off-and-on, because he is in some music classes, camps, preschool, etc. He’s with her more than he’s not.

We don’t align perfectly with our nanny’s parenting style (she jokes about infantilizing her only child…still a lot of carrying in the Boba, strollers, nursing, etc.). This isn’t a value judgment on her – to each their own. It’s just not our style. One of the ways this has manifested is that her son has started being naked a lot when we go to drop off our daughter. As a reminder, our daughter is now 13 months. She’s very alert and aware of her surroundings, so she knows exactly what and where boobs are, and she’s recently been curious about why there is hair in certain regions of one of her mothers’ bodies.

Now, as a general matter, we are VERY body positive and feel everyone should be proud and comfortable in their own skin. We let our daughter be naked at home too, because what is cuter than a naked baby? However, I’m really NOT comfortable with him actively tugging on his penis and simultaneously handing her toys or touching her. Maybe that’s silly of me, but ew. He also sits on the carpet, kitchen chairs, and sofa with a naked bum. We all know how stellar 4 year olds are about wiping their butts…

My wife normally does drop off, so if he’s naked, she freezes. She just isn’t the person to address it in the moment, so she panics and we both are silently angry that our daughter is hanging out with a naked kid (she relays the status to me via text).

I did drop off today, and he was naked. I immediately said, “uh oh! Did you forget to get ready for the day?” He ignored me as he danced around playing with rubber stamps. I said, “Should we wait outside for you to get ready? For you to put some pants on?” Again, he ignored me and asked if I wanted to play with his stamps. I said “No, I don’t want to play until you’re ready. As soon as you’re ready, we can play with you.” I didn’t put the baby on the floor, and the nanny silently gestured to her husband to take their son upstairs (presumably to get dressed).

Do I address it again with the nanny? Do I hope my very passive approach sent a clear message? Am I overstepping my bounds by insisting that this kid have pants (or even just underwear!) on in his own house? I personally wouldn’t let my four year old be naked around another child for whom I was being paid to care, because I think it’s important to set healthy boundaries around bodies and privacy. Also, this would never fly at any kind of daycare or preschool. However, I do NOT want to body-shame ANY little kid who is most comfortable naked. I handle sexual misconduct on a daily basis, so I know I’m more sensitive to it than others, but I am also VERY aware that kids start exploring their bodies and the boundaries with others’ bodies VERY young, and I don’t want my daughter to be any part of this kid’s personal exploration.

Ugh. Thoughts? Am I being overly sensitive when he’s just a little kid, or am I right to insist on some limitations, even though it’s his own house? I appreciate your ideas!

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11 responses

  1. He needs to wear underwear while his mom is on the clock. I’m in no means anti nakedness, my almost 4 year olds and almost 3 year old swim naked a lot when no one is over, but that’s not an option when we have people over. I don’t care about changing in front of people, but they are only allowed to be naked around family.

    • Thanks for your insight – I agree that changing is a separate thing and it’s totally normal for kids to change clothes in public (especially swim suits). It’s more of the ongoing playing/eating/running around that is an issue for me.

  2. This is a fascinating blog topic because as often as I see this discussed about sibling groups, it’s rare to see it in the context of friends/employers, probably because it’s pretty rare.

    In our house, we start at a very, very early age discussing and familiarizing ourselves with no-no squares, which are four designated areas that we do not touch on other people and we do not let other people touch on us (breasts, bums, penis/vagina, and mouths) and we practice this at home within our family, making sure to keep our hands to ourselves and respecting other people’s space and bodies.

    With that said, the amount of nudity in my house is unreal. Aside from being unable to escape constant interruptions in the shower, on the toilet, and everywhere in between, the kids are naked in the bathrooms, tubs/showers, getting changed, having new diapers, etc etc etc. At this point, my children are immune to any sight of body parts, which has greatly reduced any curiosity because it’s always sort of in their face. It also starts a lot of really good body positive conversations and they feel comfortable asking questions – about hair, about sizes, about functions. It’s a lot of learning which is great! If they are gonna ask questions, I’d always prefer to give them proper knowledge before their peers start to muddy those waters.

    I was a victim of child molestation, and the very real difference between that situation and normal, peer-related curiosity is very clearly consent-based, and I say that only because whether kids are naked or not, they can and generally do engage in that fact-finding curiosity, but in my experience, it would be pretty bizarre for a four year old to want to engage with an infant given that it’s just not a great peer to play with and that curiosity is very play based. Not that this precludes it from happening, but attempting to set your mind at ease a bit on that.

    As for this situation, I find it intensely bizarre that a business would do this – and I say business because it’s someone who you pay for a service – and I know that as naked as we are in my house, I’d never watch another child and allow my children to be running around naked, though of course I wouldn’t escape to a locked room to change a diaper. Some of that is begrudgingly engaging in the social norm of keeping clothes on in others presence, some of that is erring on the side of keeping others comfortable, and a large part of that is keeping my children aware of showing THEIR no-no squares to others. Just as we remind The Lord to pull his pants before leaving the bathroom – for his sake of privacy, not “because others don’t want to see that!” which I find sort of embarrassing for them and a negatively based, personally.

    I think you could maybe backdoor into this situation by saying something like: While I wouldn’t want to prevent your son from being comfortable in his own home, him being naked runs counter-intuitive to what we are trying to teach OUR daughter, which is to respect others bodies by allowing them privacy. Sort of a “it’s not him, it’s us!” bullshit backdoor excuse. 😉

    Appreciate you shedding some light on this topic. I’ll be curious to see others responses.

    Also, yikes. Sorry. I am just never, ever brief. :/

    • As always, you have such good insight! You’re right – I definitely don’t want to send the message that he should wear pants because we don’t want to see it, but rather that we want to respect his privacy and have the general expectation that everyone’s privacy (and private parts!) should be respected. Also, hygiene.

      I love the idea of private squares – it has never occurred to me to include mouth, but that’s such a good point.

      I think I will have a follow-up with the nanny. I’ll let you know how it goes!

  3. I think it is perfectly acceptable to request that he wear underwear when your daughter is around. I wouldn’t be comfortable with Charlotte hanging out naked around other people’s kids.

  4. I tend to err on the side of naked being cool for everyone because, as others have said, it demystifies bodies and reduces shame. That said, this would feel weird to me too. While I think kids should be raised to feel comfort with their bodies and view bodies as normal, healthy things, kids also need to learn about social expectations and boundaries. One of those is that we wear clothing around others, for our own privacy and for theirs. I don’t think this is concerning in terms of sexual exploration, in part because it’s in front of adults and – unless you see anything else weird – only involves your daughter in terms of her being there, not as an object of exploration. While the ‘I don’t want to see that’ line isn’t productive, it is ok to remind kids that it’s not appropriate for others to see parts of their bodies without consent, either.
    It seems like your approach probably communicated to the nanny, but if it happens again, I’d be more direct. You do get to make decisions about how your child is raised and you are paying her to support that.

  5. I think you’re in the right and I think you handled it well. Hopefully you don’t have to be more assertive about it, but you’re right – you’re paying them for a service and you definitely have a say in this matter (I believe).

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