“I don’t want my child seeing your child naked.”
I’m still shaking my head at an incident that happened at one of our favorite parks in Berkeley yesterday.
A mother told me that to my face about my toddler son. She was “protecting” her under 5 year old child, a boy, I believe, but why she felt that way or what was going through her mind but I will never know. I was shocked but quickly and confidently responded with Berkeley’s law protecting children from unnecessary body shaming: Any person ten years old or younger is allowed to be naked in public. (13.32.020) Why? Their skin isn’t unacceptable, indecent, or lewd. They are just children. That law also protects mothers breastfeeding in public from rude people telling them to “cover up and stop disgracing themselves” like a police officer in Nebraska did earlier this week. I think the thought processes are the same. Bare skin is unacceptable, especially “private” parts, and anyone breaking the “rules” should be shamed.
She said she wasn’t aware of the law and didn’t say another word.
This was my offending child, with his big sister, playing hide and go seek with their friends.
Why are people uncomfortable with naked babies and young children?
I can’t pretend to know all of the reasons people are uncomfortable but I believe much of it is rooted in religion, about our bare skin being shameful or something to hide, or too pure so it must be hidden. They think that it’s against good morals and is disrespecting one’s body to be naked. Clearly, I don’t buy into any of that. Others may have had an experience with a sexual predator, or have uncomfortable feelings from their own childhood, or have thoughts themselves that make them feel aroused. Some parents, I have found, find my children’s freedom of choice an inconvenience. They don’t want my naked and barefooted children around theirs because their children immediately start stripping down and they have to fight with their kids to keep them clothed. That’s agitating for them. They either have to give up and break their own rules or stay firm and deal with the crying.
And of course, many American parents are fearful of pedophiles around every corner, getting off seeing kids, and are worried about strangers snatching up their kids, taking photos or videos of them, or following them home. I am aware of these concerns and the risks but I choose to educate my children instead of living in fear and shame.
Most child sexual abusers do not find their victims by frequenting schoolyards and playgrounds. Sex offenders are not allowed to be within a certain distance of parks, and if they are, because they’re breaking the law or not registered yet, it doesn’t matter if the child is clothed or not, they will select who they feel like and have their thoughts. Period. So targeting strangers at the park really isn’t helpful. If we’ve learned anything about sexual predators, they are usually someone the child knows. Those that say a child should only be naked in the privacy of their own home or only around family to be safe from harm should learn that the abuse happens at home, not at the park. 90% of child victims know their offender, with almost half of the offenders being a family member.
Regardless, the law sides with allowing children being comfortable with their bodies and just be kids. Reason and common sense over fear or morality pushing.
How do I move forward in a positive way from here?
I decided to share my incident, the law, and my thoughts about letting kids be kids here so others may benefit. I hope I left a positive impression on the mother and her family. Perhaps being aware of the protection that is afforded children will help her see the inherent innocence of bare skinned children instead of feeling defensive or awkward about it. If she’s got her own thing going on, fine, but telling others to cover up isn’t okay.
My thoughts are simple. We are animals. Humans don’t need to get all pretentious or overly worried about bare skin. We all have skin and naked bodies under our clothes. We shouldn’t scold kids for being themselves and enjoying nature, the sun, and the wind on their bodies. They are not born with an inherent desire to wear clothes and until they start feeling like they need to cover up (or it’s a place people are expected to wear clothes, like the bank, you know – I do have some limits), I let them enjoy their skin and the freedom. It’s an important part of their childhood development.
How have you responded to unnecessary comments about your children?
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