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?