Thursday, May 8, 2014

Rub A Dub Dub, A Boy and Girl in the Tub

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We came home from the hospital with our new baby girl and almost 3-year-old son in tow. Of course, said baby needed a diaper change. I laid her out on the floor and began to change her. Big brother just stared........and stared.........

K: "Where's her penis?"
Me: "She's a girl. Girls have vulvas. Boys have penises."
K: "Oh." Keeps staring.
Me: Pause. Long pause........Is he just going to keep staring? What should I say?
K: "Oh." Like he finally accepts that she's different from him. He ran off to play.

After the novelty of figuring out that his little sister looked a little different from him, he never really brought up the genitals again. It didn't come up during diapering, bath time, or her potty training much. But, inevitably, there came a time when
he was getting old enough to take baths without his little sister.......
and old enough to bathe without mom leaving the door open.......
and old enough to not want mom seeing him naked anymore at all......

The general rule is that opposite sex children should stop bathing together when one of them becomes too giggly or uncomfortable. Young children do not see naked bodies the same way adults do, so bathing opposite sex siblings together is totally appropriate. There will come a day when it isn't appropriate anymore. You will be able to know when that day comes if you pay attention. Usually you will notice that the older child is starting to want more privacy. It could be just with changing, or going to the bathroom. It generally starts with a measure of privacy and then requests for more privacy follow. This is usually when the natural desire for modesty begins (about ages 4-7), although some children may not ever really desire much privacy (most do, though). This is a good time to transition bathtime. This is more a rite of passage than a discipline (so if they've been giggly in the tub and you are upset and think it's time to separate, don't bring up that you're going to separate them in the heat of the moment). Before the next bathtime, sit down with the children and explain that the older child is now big enough to take baths on their own. We transitioned from baths to showers with our older son. We told the kids our son was now old enough to take showers on his own and didn't need help anymore with washing his hair. Little sister didn't mind so much because little brother was now taking baths with her and she had someone to play with. Older brother took a little while going back and forth between baths and showers before he was able to comletely transition to independent bathing. He was seven years old. He probably would still be bathing with little sister at 8, but my husband and I felt like he was getting old enough and wanted more privacy in other areas. It was time to make a change. Remember, it's may take a little time, too. They may still need mom's help with washing hair for a little while if they are younger when you transition them.

This general rule also applies for seeing parents naked. Admit it, you don't close the door when you go to the bathroom if it's just the kids in the house. Or, you take showers with the door open. Or, you shower with your kids. There is a point where kids see their mom or dad naked or partially naked. When you get uncomfortable with your child seeing you naked, start closing doors. Tell them you need privacy. Our son was about 3 1/2 years old when I felt ready to start closing all doors, all the time. It began with a desire to not have to explain sanitary napkins to him........yet. You decide what feels right for you and your family. If you just keep an eye on the clues, you'll know.......

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