Friday, August 31, 2012

Skin On Skin

I love my children's bodies. They are so beautiful and authentic and whole. They are so at ease inside their skins. I am constantly reminded of this in the summer because, hippy children that they are, they spend most of their time at home sans clothing. Finally this year, at 5 3/4, we have convinced Brother-Bug to wear underwear outside most of the time.

My boy turns golden in the summer.

Sharing skin-on-skin contact with my family is something that I treasure. Baby skin is so soft. A child's graceful body is to be marveled at. The intimacy of skin is magical. When I remember all this, I feel deeply saddened that there are people in this world who don't share skin with their family. 

Family nakedness is a delicate, rarely talked about subject. We fear so much - judgement of others, endangering our family because someone misunderstands, repercussions of all kinds. I started thinking about this because I wanted to post a Facebook status about waking up on a summer morning after sleeping naked together on a hot night, and how very blissful that is. I didn't post that because I feared negative, judging, or even repulsive comments. But that doesn't make any sense.

Before I delve further, let's get a little clarity on what I mean; what we do and don't do with our kids.

*We allow our children to run naked most of the time they want to (weather and social situations permitting).
*We often bathe with them.
*We go to hot springs with them and soak naked with them and other adults present.
*We sleep naked on hot nights.
*We explain our adult naked anatomy if questions arise, as well as their youthful naked anatomy and talk about keeping our bodies healthy and safe. We do this in a matter-of-fact way with out shame or tension.
*We support genital play (if your kids run around with no pants they will discover these delights very early and it can get a little awkward) because everyone does it, but ask that they take that play away from other people - it's something we all do and we do it in private. Again, no shame here. It's a privacy thing.

-We do not engage in any sexual adult intimacy (beyond nice deep kissing and loving, but chaste, caresses) while they are around.
-We do not allow nakedness in unknown places or with unknown people. God-parents' house? Fine! Dropping in on the new neighbors? Pants!
- We do not publish any overtly naked pictures of them on the internet. Even "private" can be gotten into.

In this culture we are so touchy about touching that we tend to throw the baby out with the bath water, making sure we don't somehow mis-touch our baby. There are people out there who have dangerous and deeply wrong desires, and so we hide all nakedness from our children lest we are tarred with the same brush. There are men who are parents as well as perpetrators and therefore there are good and loving Fathers who aren't allowed to watch their daughters' friends without another person (preferably a woman) present.

But most of us love our children without these issues; we change their diapers, bathe their bodies, examine injuries and illnesses. We caress their soft baby butts and bury our noses in the folds of fat to smell their special baby or child smell. They trust us with their bodies and we do an excellent job with that trust.

But we hide our love, our tactile skin-on-skin love because we are scared and ashamed?

Well, I'm not ashamed. I love the feel of a sleepy toddler body snuggled next to mine, the way the baby skin reaches out to me. I love seeing my bathtub full of Papa-Bug and Little-Bugs as he gently helps them learn to care for and clean their bodies. I love the play of light on skin when my ever-lengthening son reads naked in a sunbeam.

Look at those lovelies. 

I refuse to teach my children to feel shame or fear around nudity. I will teach them awareness and to respect their intuition and the many ways they can keep their body safe and healthy. I will help them understand that their skin is their largest organ, as well as an extremely powerful sensory organ. I will explain discretion and appropriate behavior and why we have to keep our clothes on in public locations. I will show them that the human body is just a body and nothing to fear or blush at. When they feel a need or want to cover up I will support that need.

I want my children to live comfortably in their miraculous bodies, knowing that they are beautiful
and magical.

One recent morning, I woke up to birdsong. It was a hot night, so we all slept "in our nakeds". When I woke, our skins were all touching, sticking slightly from heat. I marveled at how much skin we have between us and how my skin seems to know the skin of my family, kissed sweet dimpled elbows on a two-year old, rubbed a long lanky back on my almost-six-year old, and snuggled into my husband's waking cuddle. He and I looked at our children's bodies, perfect in the relaxation of sleep, with adoration and disbelief. When Papa-Bug got up to get ready for work, Brother-Bug cuddled close to me, throwing one leg over my side and belly, as if to keep me there or include the new baby. Sister-Bug wrapped a chubby arm around my neck and sighed. Every cell of my skin reached out to them. I fell back asleep, wrapped up in their love and touch.