Are you ever naked in front of the kids?

Let me set the scene for the last time my son ever saw my penis…

It was between the second and third period of a junior hockey game. There were not enough toilets to accommodate the ‘beer-bladdered’ home town hockey fans. So there we were, father and son, hand in hand, waiting patiently for an open stall (as the urinals were way too high up for my 4 year old and the thought of ANYTHING from that urinal touching my son was revolting!).   A drunk, red faced fan turned out to be a hero as he somehow, through blurred vision, spotted my son and I waiting and gave up his spot in line for the toilets – oh the nobility!

My son urgently and proudly went first while I waited and read the bathroom wall. After he was done, I decided I had better go while I had the chance (and he was preoccupied with the bathroom lock). I guess the lock became less interesting as the sound of urine hit the bowl. Unbeknownst to me, I now had an audience of one, who loudly declared to a suddenly quiet bathroom, “Wow Daddy, your penis is huge!”

While I received a few high-fives and some hilarious comments from other fellas, that was the last time my son (or any of my children) ever saw my privates. Fun family baths became a cherished memory. While my wife still occasionally showers with our young daughter, I don’t think my nudity and/or my privates being visible serves any purpose, so I am never naked around our kids. I should make clear that I am comfortable with my body. I don’t mind being naked around the hockey dressing room or with my partner (I actually look for opportunities to be naked with her), but it is a choice to never be naked around the kids.

Am I an uptight prude about nudity or simply practical and sensible?

As a conscientious parent, I want my children to have a healthy understanding of their body and a positive body image. Real bodies are not like the magazine covers. Real bodies are wonderful machines and can do many amazing things. I do want my children to be comfortable with their own bodies and so we talk openly and matter-of-factly about body parts. “Yep, it’s a penis. I have one, you have one, grandpa has one, the prime minister has one, etc.” I actually believe my choice to be ‘not nude’ serves to begin teaching modesty and privacy (because no one really likes the ‘ripped-6-pack-shirt-off guy at the corporate family picnic).

It’s no secret our western culture tends to be pretty uptight about nudity. If you were to travel the globe, while you might find some cultures even more uptight about nudity (Hello UK), you will easily find many cultures that embrace and celebrate the human body. At an upscale wellness centre/spa near our home, there is a “European hour” from 8-9pm in the saunas and steam rooms. Sadly, I am too shy, self-conscious, and essentially fearful of shrinkage (there is a cold pool) to participate. On our last trip, we met an entire naked Austrian family in a hot wooden sauna, and I felt bashful and ashamed of my conservatism. Part of me yearned for the total freedom they seemed to enjoy because to that family and many other naturalists, a body was just a body, used to move dem’ bones around.

A friend of mine confided in me that his wife is naked all the time around the house. That didn’t sound like a problem to me, until he clarified that their young children were always around to witness her natural state while vacuuming, dusting, and cleaning. While she didn’t seem to care, but her constant nakedness really bothered him. Should it have bothered him? Is that a conversation that you need to have with your partner about boundaries and limits of your bare living? Why are my friend, myself, and most of our society so uptight about nudity?

A key point to remember: a naked body doesn’t equal sexuality. There is nothing wrong, dirty, or shameful about nudity. So maybe we all need to relax! Now if our kids happen to walk in while we are changing, we don’t shriek and slam the door. We just get dressed as casually as possible and continue on. No big deal.

At what age should you stop being naked in front of your kids? There doesn’t seem to be a hard and fast rule anywhere. Most of my research led me to a simple conclusion: do what feels right for your family and your values.

If we are preaching the nudity has nothing to do with sexuality, should we have different rules for opposite gendered children? Or are bodies just bodies?

The maturity of your kids may dictate when to start promoting privacy and modesty. Your kids will likely give clues that it’s time for privacy – for both you and them. If your nudity is a big snickering deal to your kids, where they laugh and point, then you probably can start the conversation of bodies being private and respecting other people’s privacy. All things considered, I think 6 years of age is when parents should stop being naked in front of their kids.

I distinctly remember seeing the Hay family jewels for the first time, early one Sunday morning, through my dad’s damn billowy three quarter length robe. I was around 7 and while I was not shocked or scarred by the sight (many parents fear their nudity may inflict permanent scarring which is extremely unlikely), the fact that I still remember the colour of the bathrobe is interesting.

Let’s talk nudity at your house. When was the last time your kids saw your privates?  Yesterday?  Last year?  Never?   Have you had those naked conversations with your kids or partner?

Where do you fall on the “Naked in front of the kids” continuum? Never? Sometimes? Occasionally? Or all the time?

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Until next time…