One morning I ran naked from the shower to my bedroom – a very short distance that happens to pass the room of our 12 year-old-son and, I knew, the only other person home at the time. Grant squealed out “DAD! How could you- that’s disgusting!” as he saw me fly by. “Yahoo dude!“ I yelped back to him in delight.
As I drove him to school, Grant and I talked about my in-house streak, and how freaked out he was to see his Dad au natural. Trying to help him see the humor in the event, I explained that being naked in front of each other is no big deal. After all, we were both males and have the same parts. He would have to deal with such situations at school or public gyms where other fellas would be naked in the locker rooms. I shared how modest I was at his age, feeling insecure in the locker room, and hoped my sons would not inherit this trait. Grant seemed fine and we had a good laugh.
That night around the dinner table, our family discussed my morning “overexposure”. Courtney, my wife, disagreed with my assertion that “in-house, same-sex” nudity is no big deal, and shouldn’t be made into one. She was concerned that for Grant it was an uncomfortable situation and should be avoided. I totally disagreed, said “Get over it!” and warned that if I want to walk naked through my own house in view of my sons, they can just deal with it! I would never be naked in front of my daughters, and would not tolerate such behavior between my children. I’m no nudist – but I’m no prude either. I want my children to have a healthy respect for their bodies, and to feel comfortable in their own skins. For this Dad, being in one’s “birthday suit” around his sons is a good place to start modeling a healthy self-image, along with a big dose of humor! (I also reminded them that the U.S. is considered rather prudish in their discomfort with the human body and that in Europe, nudity is just no big deal.)
I don’t think the human body is anything to be ashamed of. It’s natural, and all that. But I’m not comfortable with either Thomas or I being nude in front of the kids nor am I comfortable with the amount of undress I see happening in the media or just walking down the street. It just bothers me. I think some things should be left to the imagination. And as for his Europe argument? Well, buddy, we’re not in Europe, we’re in the good old, pent up, U.S. of A.!
Truth be told, perhaps I have such a hang up because I’m not proud of my own body, ravaged by the carrying and nursing of four babies, a couple of surgeries and extra pounds. I take great pains to avoid letting my children see me naked, even accidentally. I don’t even want my own eyes to see me naked, for heaven’s sake.
Don’t get me wrong – I really do appreciate Thomas’s theory about trying to help our children have a healthy self-image of their bodies as kids or as adults. However, I do think there has to be a balance between the comfort levels we “suggest” or “impose” on our kids and what they are naturally comfortable with. When Grant felt uncomfortable seeing his dad naked as a jay bird, it’s great that they talked about it. But ultimately, a parent has to honor the child’s own comfort level. I hope Thomas will respect Grant’s need to not see his dad quite so naked and that Grant will feel less awkward about seeing other naked bodies including his own – all the while maintaining a healthy sense of what’s appropriate and what’s not. In this society, that’s easier said than done.