It took me a long time to get pregnant. Years. When I finally did, I wrote long letters to my baby girl full of all the hopes I had for her life. I wrote over and over again that she could achieve anything she wanted for this world if she worked hard enough at it. I still believe that, and if you could see my three-year-old today, you’d have no doubt that she believes it too. She’s a firecracker, ready to do anything you suggest if it doesn’t require “cleaning up.” She’s also a nudist.
Those naked tendencies are genetic. I passed most of my early childhood sans clothing as well. My mother laughs at my naked child anecdotes and swears this is karma in action, the payback for my own nudist beginnings. More often than not, the old family polaroids show me standing with my cousins, grinning ear to ear without a stitch of clothing on me. I even had my nursery school interview naked. (I was accepted, by the way.)
My three-year-old also loves breasts, mine especially, and she’s not averse to squeezing the breasts of her grandmother or my girlfriends. She likes nipples too, and with summer just around the corner, our excursions become fraught with the peril of public embarrassment. Trips through the grocery store turn dangerous.
Inevitably she will point and yell, “look, mama! NIPPLES!”
Sure enough, there they are, poking in our general direction. Someone didn’t care to wear a bra, and my girl noticed. Then she had to gleefully announce it to the rest of the store.
For right now she’s very young and oblivious to any sexual aspect related to nudity. She’s innocent yet enthusiastic about appreciating the female form. Honestly, I can’t fault her. Hell, I love to enthusiastically appreciate the female form. Let’s not throw stones, shall we?
I try to curb her exuberance without associating any judgement or shame with enjoying her body or admiring others. I’m acutely aware of how I view my own body and know that any negative comments I may make will impact her opinions of her body and others. Like a lot of other parents, I can’t help but worry about how her self-image will develop.
My biggest fear is how my ex-husband’s criticisms will influence her self-esteem. Now that we’re living apart, I can’t shield her from his stony silences or cutting words. I worry that he’ll watch everything she puts in her mouth like he did me, or pinch her waist to measure any extra inches. I’ve tried to address his vocal criticism of overweight people, or the people he finds “ugly,” and how that might affect how our daughter views herself. He was deeply offended, of course, that I implied that he would impact her negatively. He still doesn’t understand how his disparaging words hurt me, so how could he possibly understand his influence over a child? It’s an unsettling thought that her biggest challenge in developing positive body image may be her own father.
But fostering healthy body image is only one of the parenting challenges ahead of me. I realize that it’s easy to get caught in the trap of ‘what if’ as a parent. I have years (I hope) before we have to talk about sexual intercourse, but the future is a minefield of ‘ifs.’ What if she’s kinky like me? When will the questions start about my bi-sexuality? Will she question the poly aspects of my life? The list of questions may be a long one, and if I think about it too much I start to hyperventilate.
Someday it will be me perusing the search history on the computer and calling Nikki on the phone to yell about chastity belts and garage imprisonment for my daughter. At the moment, though, she’s wearing only a diaper and painting at her easel. The rest may happen or not. I love her regardless.