I am going to start with a disclaimer. I understand my home is considered pretty unconventional by most people, so this is not a call for anyone to do it like we do it. Rather, it is a way to say, perhaps you should consider trying something a little different …
I am very big on sexual education for children. Having myself grown up with little or none, having to navigate the dicey terrain of sex by myself, I wanted to give my child, something better than what I got. From the time my 3-year-old son asked me why “mine is different from yours” and I bought How Did I Begin, to teach him about baby making, I knew there was little I wasn’t ready to talk to him about.
To begin, how did he discover him and I had different organs? Well, back in the day, I would once in a while bath him naked. Me, being naked, I mean. I was a working mother who was also in a Masters program; as such time was not a luxury I had in abundance. Thus, I often have to give my son his bath first, send him off to dry himself up and begin with his breakfast, while I myself rushed through my own bath.
Living overseas at the time, financial considerations meant we shared a bedroom. So my son would still be in the room by the time I returned to dress up. I hadn’t thought much about what he was seeing or not understanding… until he asked about the difference in our privates.
Giving sex education is often awkward for both children and parents, because it usually requires a B-I-G M-O-M-E-N-T of two people barely prepared for it. Maybe Mom had noticed 16-year-old Wole paying particularly close attention to Ijeoma, the neighbours’ 15-year-old daughter. Mom decides she’s not ready to be a grandmother, calls Wole into her bedroom and bumblingly tells him not to shame her. Stern warnings are issued: “If you get her pregnant, you’ll marry her oh! Do you hear me very well now?!” Wole may or may not ever sleep with Ijeoma. Maybe it is Hauwa he will do the do with, and maybe he won’t use condom. Perhaps he will, but will not know the proper way to use it. By the time Hauwa misses her period, a frightened Wole tells her to find out from her friends what to do about this problem of hers.
So I did not want a B-I-G M-O-M-E-N-T with my child. The way he’s seen his father and I kiss so much it was now commonplace that he doesn’t pay us any mind. That’s how I wanted our conversations about sex. Like the time he was four and he walked in on me in the toilet cleaning up, and asked why I was peeing blood. Because of his question, we had a little talk about menstruation and a quick revision of what he read in How Did I Begin. Apparently, he forgot all about that, because come the following year, he was back asking me about peeing blood again. Other questions he has asked over the years include: why do his father and I have hair on our pubic area and he doesn’t? Why is his father’s penis bigger than his? What is his scrotum called? (he’d asked this one about a million times, very fascinated he was with the thing) I believe the ease with which these questions have been asked, and equally answered is due the efforts we made to remove that clumsiness that often surrounds those subjects.
Of course, we teach him about privacy. He’s been made to understand that seeing us naked is not a privilege that extends to his friends. Once they are around, he is not to enter our bedroom without knocking (in case anyone is trailing behind him). Our bedroom door must be kept closed (in case anyone is peeping in). He also knows it is only ok for him to be naked within the house. Also, while he can ask us any question about our body (and he can count on us to answer candidly), it’s highly inappropriate to ask outsiders. Every other week, he is reminded that nobody is to touch his pubic area and he is not to touch anybody’s. This is body integrity.
The other day, when we had a family sleep over, he refused to undress completely in the presence of our hosts. He took off his shirt and shorts, but when it came to his pants, he went into the bathroom and closed to the door. We hadn’t told him to do that; he decided that all by himself, and made us so proud.
Body confidence is a big, though secondary, reason I had no qualms my son seeing me naked. Though it may be a lesser talked about aspect of sexual health, it is very important. As children, it may not seem to matter so much. But children who develop body issues from childhood grow up to become adults who struggle with their bodies. So it mattered to me that my child should be confident in his nakedness.
Hopefully, when he grows up, other people’s nakedness will not weird him out…or make him lose his mind, and think it gives him the right to touch it. However, like I said at the start of this article, I haven’t written this piece to try to convert anyone to our way of life. The purpose is to provide a different perspective, in case you hadn’t considered it before.
Photo Credit: Sam74100 | Dreamstime.com