Robert Graves Was Onto Something
My son is eight and prefers showers to baths. My daughter is six and takes about a month and a half in the tub, so often showering is more expedient and leaves us time for some other trivialities – like eating meals and occasionally leaving the house. I loved giving my babies baths when they were, well, babies, but now it’s just a pain in the ass, so I’m perfectly happy for them to shower instead. The only hitch in this is that they are both terrible at thoroughly washing and rinsing their hair. My kids have a lot of hair. Well, my son does anyway. Think Troy Polamolu, but blond. And 61 pounds. And without nearly that much hair.
So instead of reaching in and scrubbing heads and getting good and soaked anyway, and because we’re always short on time, a few times a week my husband or I ends up showering with one of the kids. Except for the one time when my son was about 2, pointed to my crotch and said, “Uh oh. It broken,” (thus proving once and for all that men are hardwired to assume that the penis is of central importance and the source of power to be guarded and protected at all costs) neither of them has ever said or done anything to make any of the four of us uncomfortable about our nakedness in the shower. I wasn’t exactly thrilled when my daughter pointed out that I was fatter than her father, but I can’t really blame her for being an observant little shit girl, now can I? Yes. Yes I can. I will hold it against her until she is 17 and on her way out the door to the junior prom and then seek revenge in a way that only a mother can.
I mentioned something like “we were talking while we were in the shower and…” the other day and a friend of mine almost fell off her chair. She was semi-cool enough not to say anything judgmental but was clearly rattled by the thought of my husband showering with his six year old daughter or me showering with my eight year old son. Hmmm…and then I was forced to think about whether this is OK or not. Which I resent, because thinking is hard and makes my head hurt and takes time away from more important activities like trying to decide if I like the edges of brownies better and therefore should buy one of those weird shaped brownie pans or if I like the middle better, especially when it’s a little undercooked and smushy.
I did what any self-respecting parent would do, asked a bunch of women who were drinking margaritas and eating tater tots and wearing bowling shoes what they thought about parents bathing with their non-infant kids. One woman out of the ten said it creeped her out and she’d never done it. Everybody else sort of shrugged and said, “I dunno? Does it seem weird?” And the one whose kids I know the best so I can attest to how normal and cool and fun and smart and well-adjusted they are said that she’d wondered the same thing and asked around, too. The response she got made perfect sense: The kids will let you know when it’s weird.
Sometimes you ask for advice and the advice you get seems sort of kind of OK but doesn’t really fit. This advice clicked into place in a very satisfying way. It felt right and got to why I don’t think it’s a big deal to be naked around my kids. Nudity does not equal sex. Nudity does not even equal sexuality. Assuming the connection of the two on my kids’ behalf is weird. Like all obscenity trials have demonstrated, obscenity or indecency is in the eye of the beholder. And nobody here is beholding anything obscene or indecent. We’re just showering. And showering is something you do naked. And naked is the way we all are under our clothes.
I reckon my kids will develop their own body image and self-concept issues without me adding the burden of making their bodies secret or potentially shameful. In the meantime, at least everybody is clean.
The Naked And The Nude by Robert Graves
For me, the naked and the nude
(By lexicographers construed
As synonyms that should express
The same deficiency of dress
Or shelter) stand as wide apart
As love from lies, or truth from art.
Lovers without reproach will gaze
On bodies naked and ablaze;
The Hippocratic eye will see
In nakedness, anatomy;
And naked shines the Goddess when
She mounts her lion among men.
The nude are bold, the nude are sly
To hold each treasonable eye.
While draping by a showman’s trick
Their dishabille in rhetoric,
They grin a mock-religious grin
Of scorn at those of naked skin.
The naked, therefore, who compete
Against the nude may know defeat;
Yet when they both together tread
The briary pastures of the dead,
By Gorgons with long whips pursued,
How naked go the sometime nude!