7.16.2009

When Do They Need a Fig Leaf?

Funny coincidence. We were getting a little flack (a bit) from some about a photo on the blog below that shows a little tush. And, then today, an article appears in the NY Times written by Julie Scelfo discussing the public nudity of children. The overall feel of the article was that more people than not seem to accept the nudity of children as natural and nonthreatening.

The United States is a funny place like that. We are at once all about making almost everything sexual in our lives, but then on the other hand we can be equally prudish and moralistic when it comes, not only to our own bodies, but those of our little kids. We are often all about mixed messages.

Around our house, we try to take the more natural approach - call it European or whatever. Perhaps it's a bit easier for us to let our kids go nude because we are not pressed right up against neighbors. Nonetheless, our kids like to be nude/naked and often like to romp around doing so. We neither encourage it or discourage it .... in our home. When our little guy was around 2-3 (same with our daughter now) years old we also didn't mind having him naked at the beach. It seemed so natural to us. Of course, you'd get strange looks at times, but our opinion was that if there was a problem with having a little one naked it was more often than not the viewer who was at fault - bringing something to it that was not intended.

Now, nobody likes to see a small child naked if the circumstances are obviously such that having our kids naked make people very uncomfortable. But, usually, you can rely on a basic common sense to tell you this. We don't allow our kids to run around in the nude at other peoples homes unless it is obviously clear that they (our friends and neighbors) feel much the same. Nor, in many public places do we consider it acceptable. As for the ability to control ones own bathroom habits, that is another thing we wanted to be sure of. Our kids were/are not really allowed to be naked in a public place especially if they did not know how to control their 'bathroom' habits. Nobody wants to see your kid peeing on themselves or in the sand or grass right in front of where everyone is playing - or worse. But, that is even fairly true with a kid in diapers too. The same thing goes for exploring the body too. Our kids, even at a young age, are/were fully aware that being naked in public is something different to being naked in private. We discouraged touching oneself in public. Our kids are also fully aware that others should not be touching their privates unless Mommy or Daddy says it's ok.

The main thing for us is that you provide some limits, but that overall a childs nudity is just that - a childs nudity. To make it something dangerous or explicit is to make it something else entirely - something adult. And once you make it adult, then it is unnatural and unnacceptable.
We don't even go there. What would be the point? Now, our boy is coming up to 8 years old, and though he thinks nothing of having his younger sister prance around naked, we have noticed that he is starting to differentiate much more between being naked in public and being naked in private - all on his own, and naturally. As parents, it is our opinion that we are most often here to guide them, not lead them. Why give them hang-ups when there shouldn't be one in the first place. No?

What do you guys think with your kids?

9 comments:

Kelly Jasper said...

but this isn't your home-it's the internet.what place is more exposed?(and your kids don't have a choice in this case). i'm sorry that i can't link people to your blog anymore

srichards said...

I have to agree with you. Although sometimes my husband (who was brought up much in a much more conservative home) questions it. My daughter is 3 and I let her run around the beach naked last weekend when we forgot her suit. I didn't think much about it. However, she has some early breast tissue development and we do get stares even though you can clearly see that she is quite young. You just have to go what you are comfortable with I guess.

jlie said...

Good for you. I was just discussing this yesterday with a friend about violence and gruesome images in movies (Braveheart) but that we'd only freak out if someone flashes a beautiful nipple.

We're like you: naked beasts at home, normal people outside of the home. :) Our unspoken rule with sharing nude baby pictures is no genitalia, tush is ok. I like that you shake up conventional thinking. Keep it up. They're just kids. Let them be. We can get all moralistic fatalistic with them when they're older.

Colleen Schaeffer said...

My 18 month old is pretty much perpetually naked and has been so more or less since birth. We practice infant potty training, and he's great about getting himself to the right place to do his business if he's not clothed. He wears clothes when we go out, but we're mostly somewhere where he can be naked. And he's so much happier nude!

I have to say though, that I was a little taken aback by the recent bare buns post. Not because it's remotely offensive to me--but because we live in a society replete with twisted predators, most of whom dwell on the internet. I just can't stand the thought of anyone looking at a beautiful innocent child that way.

I'm all for kids getting to cruise around naked, it's just the issue of sharing that with an unknown internet audience that disturbs me.

Anonymous said...

I have no issue with kids being naked. here in the UK its not the norm basicly due to the weather! BUT, I know that I am wary of others finding it a bit too interesting since my eldest (Now 16) was spied upon for quite some time before another neighbour pointed it out to me by my next door neighbour (I did catch him in the act of spying on my son too, i didnt just witch hunt him!). Also, being a bit 'tight' about money Id rather cover my kids up than use a whole tub of sun creme on each chubby toddler tummy at the beach! of course it is up to you, they are your kids...

Anonymous said...

As the parent of three young kids who have no idea they are 'naked' when they run around the house naked, or the beach, or in our back yard (never elsewhere) - I find it disturbing that something so natural, so un-selfconscious, so young, and so sweet has to be turned into this dark storm of fear. Anything can be compromised - anything can be ruined. But, I won't let that change my belief that my children are still just my children - naked or not. Because once you start hiding from one fear, you start the cascade for all the fears. I'm sure there are horror stories - there always are. But I remain optimistic that the vast majority of people in this world can recognize that an innocent child naked is just an innocent child being natural. nothing more and nothing less. That's my opinion. Thanks for asking! JP in San Diego :)

nonchalant mom said...

You all know how I feel on the subject, I think that everyone is free and should live free with their bodies! But I did take off the photo that is referred to in this post, it meant nothing to the story below (on vintage bottles) and I questioned putting it up, so I just took it down. happy summer to all!-carina

jmmij said...

I am a parent of 3 healthy children age 14,13 & 6. I completely agree about nudity being natural and I truly want them to be comfortable with their bodies and sexuality. We have always let them run around naked and we have never treated our own bodies with shame. They do get to an age and you will know when, when it is appropriate to cover up. That said, all of this is done at our house. I wish the world was a different place but it is not. Everything I have read about pedophiles and chid predators has made me feel very strongly about covering them up in public. It is a basic safety issue, like looking both ways when you cross the street. I hope anyone who lets their child run naked among strangers will do some research after reading this. Good luck.

Anonymous said...

Like JLie, I don't really understand how it is OK to expose our children to so much violence, especially on tv, but it's not OK to have young children, who are not even aware of their sexuality, run around naked. It must be such a great feeling to be completely uninhibited, no? Unfortunately, I can't remember. So let them enjoy that feeling while they can.