“Emma, would you please put on some clothing.”
This phrase is uttered by me usually three or four times a day. It doesn’t come as much of a surprise to me when the 7 year old feels the need to come down the steps before her shower, completely in the buff, to tell me about something that happened in school 6 hours prior, although why I bought her a bathrobe puzzles me.
I know why she is standing on the bottom step with her hands on her naked hips in semi-model pose. My kids are not shy about their bodies. For the first fifteen minutes before a shower, one look up my steps will garner you candid access to a burlesque show headlined by a 10 and 7 year old who are laughing, shaking their rear ends, jumping off of my bed, and commenting to each other how good they look in the nude.
And as much as my kids enjoy dressing down, they also enjoy dressing up. They have costumes, dresses, hats, and scarves that, when paired all together, look like they were taken from the dressing room of a Muck City, AL strip club. If dressing like street walkers were not enough, they swing on the bannister of the steps, jump up on the coffee table in the living room, and break out in a 2 girl flash mob in the middle of the dining room, all while outfitted like an undercover vice cops.
But there are no images to live up to in our house (which might go without being said since I have 2 adult dancers on my coffee table). There are no sizes that need to be fit in to via shoehorn and not exhaling. My daughters are not chained down by any perception of perfection other than by the reflection they see in the mirror. So when either one of my kids skip around the house in the buff, it’s not surprising, because their mother and I have always told them to be proud of who they are.
Before my kids were born, I told myself any child of mine would only have to pay their way through college with Pell grants or with money I got from refinancing my house, the pre-shower peep shows and the faux cage dancing on top of the coffee table now notwithstanding (however the day they ask to be paid after a dance is the day they go to a military academy).
The lack of inhibition my wife and I have apparently fostered in our house has been innocent enough and well-meaning as any other lesson I have tried to teach my kids but, because of their ages and their maturing bodies, we are now treading over the 38th Parallel of what my kids should and should not be sharing.
We are now at a point with my oldest where a level of modesty needs to be introduced, regardless of how thin that level covers. My oldest is rapidly approaching her teens and is already beginning to wade through the waters of new hormones and going through body changes that will attract boys like blood attracts sharks. The last thing she needs to be ok with is playing a game of ‘shirts vs skins’ basketball or forgetting to put on pants when she comes down the steps.
I would like nothing more than to have my kids grow out of their exhibitionist ways because like most parents, I live in fear. Fear of the prongs of peer pressure on my kids. Fear of another season of ‘Keeping up with the Kardashians’ and a possible heart attack when they get older and they want to dress for school with what they play dress up in now. Fear that my kids won’t be strong enough to combat something someone might say or do to distort the image of perfection they see in the mirror now. But you can’t let fear and irrationality (something I am typically full of) control you and since the first time I held my daughters in my arms, I told them how beautiful they are. Up to this point in their lives, I have done all that I can to make sure my daughters know they are perfect no matter who they see looking back at them in the mirror.
So I watch my kids as they perform whatever dance they are doing around the living room. I get a good look at whatever scarf they wrapped around their necks and high heels they managed to commandeer from their mother. I watch as they run up and down the steps completely and happily naked. I listen to their laughter; I can hear them admiring the curves and lines of their bodies. I see their faces. I can feel their self-confidence filling up the air in the room.
While part of me is more than ready for my children to grow out of this bare-it-all phase, part of me is not so ready. I don’t want my girls to come to the day when they forget or question just how beautiful and perfect they are be it clothed or not. So for now, I let them dance.