My kids saw everything
Photo by: sylv1rob1 / Shutterstock
For a few years, we lived in a two-storey townhouse with a very small space in the back (calling it a backyard feels like a stretch).
Because we were so close to the fence we shared with our neighbors, we could see into their backyards from the second floor window.
We moved in the fall, and there wasn?t much to see. One family had a desperate, still-clinging-to-summer barbecue. Another family?s yard was like a toy graveyard. And there was a couple of retirement age who had lots of plants and flowers and some deck chairs from which to admire them.
Then came winter and we saw the planters and flower beds get covered in snow and no one was brave enough to throw a barbecue in those conditions.
And then in the summer we got to see our neighbors again.
And I mean really see them.
Naked Granny and Grandpa
Our older kids were only 4 and 5 years old at the time. One day, they were giggling loudly and incessantly in their bedroom.
When you have young children, there are two sounds that worry you the most: complete silence and uncontrollable laughter. Either of those can be a sign that they?re up to no good.
And the last time we ignored that kind of noise, we later discovered they gave each other haircuts. So, we decided to go upstairs and check in on them.
They were both staring out the window, still laughing their heads off. We asked them what was so funny.
?We?re looking at the naked granny and grandpa!?
Saying it out loud somehow made it even funnier for them and they doubled over laughing.
When we looked out the window, we got to know our neighbors a lot better than we had before. We never spoke with them or shook their hands, but on that day, we found out that the retirees next door weren?t just gardening enthusiasts ? they were also nudists.
This was our children?s first real exposure to nudity, and they thought it was the most hilarious thing they?d ever seen.
Living with Adam and Eve
Throughout the summer, our naked neighbors were just part of our lives.
They weren?t naked, exactly. They were more like those fig-leafed depictions of Adam and Eve. He in his traditional briefs, her in her white control panties. But otherwise, it was just letting everything hang loose while they did their gardening, hung their laundry, or just sat around enjoying their little Eden.
We didn?t go out of our way to look at them. We just happened to see them through the boards in the fence when we were in the kitchen, or from above when we were replacing the sheets on our daughter?s bunk bed.
The kids, though, they went out of their way to see them. These days, they just whine when they?re bored. But back then, when they ran out of things to do, one of them would just say ?Let?s go see if the naked granny and grandpa are outside!?
They seemed to find it even more entertaining than watching Spongebob.
Then the weather turned cold and our neighbors started covering up.
Eventually, things warmed up again. People wore t-shirts and sleeveless tops. Our next door neighbors took their beers out to the porch instead of drinking them in front of the TV. And my husband was done marking exams.
But it only really felt like summer when we heard our son yelling ?Hey! The naked granny and grandpa are back!?
I Miss My Naked Neighbors
In our house, the kids are naked or semi-naked whenever they?re allowed to be. We dress them to go out, but once we?re done with errands, they strip almost as soon as they walk through the door.
They don?t feel self-conscious about their bodies in any way whatsoever. They just know they?re comfortable naked and they?re aware that there are no taboos about it when they?re not in public, so they spend most of their time running around in their underwear.
I love that they?re not self-conscious about their bodies. It doesn?t even occur to them to feel embarrassed about any part of themselves. No one has shamed them yet.
But I worry that they?ll lose that. I worry that they?ll get some pretty negative attitudes about the way they look, especially the way they look underneath their clothes or in their bathing suits.
I worry about that because I?m part of the 80% of adult women who don?t like their appearance. I feel shame about my body, and I?m trying really hard not to transfer some of my self-consciousness to them. At the same time, I know I won?t always be able to do a whole lot to combat it. I can avoid shaming them and disparaging myself out loud, but it?s hard for me to model pride in my body.
I miss my old nudist neighbors. Not because I got some kind of naughty thrill from seeing them or because I love seeing naked people (though I do love seeing naked people). I miss them because I admired how comfortable they were in their own bodies. Seeing them watering their flowers in the buff was genuinely inspiring.
I also miss them because they were able to give my kids a lesson I couldn?t.
My kids will see depictions of nudity while they?re growing up. With nearly unlimited access to movies and the internet, they?re bound to see some flesh at least a few times. But the nudity they?re going to see is almost certainly going to be sexualized. It will be a naked actress in a titillating shower scene or something a little more explicit they accidentally stumble upon online. It?s going to be a performance. It won?t just be ordinary people doing ordinary things without their clothes on.
Neither myself nor Mr. Austin are going to be first-hand examples of people just being comfortable with their bodies. We?re not never nudes, but as far as our kids are concerned, we might as well be.
But for a couple of summers, our neighboring Adam and Eve were constant reminders to our kids that not every adult feels ashamed of their body, and that you can be perfectly happy with yours.
And for that, I?m incredibly grateful to them.
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