14 March 2007


One of the complexities of adopting older children is what I will term “the nudity factor.”

When babies are born, they emerge naked from the womb. We count fingers and toes, inspect them from top to bottom,examine and count up all their body parts. Daily, through diaper changes or baths, we see our children’s naked bodies.

For adoptive parents with younger children, I’m assuming that early in the relationship, they become familiar with all of their children’s naked parts. Five-year-olds need help in the bath. A two-year-old may need help on the potty. A six- or seven-year-old may need help getting dressed. In the course of daily living, the naked body makes a regular appearance.

We adopted Bella (11) and Bubaloo (9) who are perfectly capable (at least, we think) of bathing, eliminating and dressing themselves. There’s no everyday circumstance where we would just happen to see our kids naked. As a parent, it’s quite a bizarre thing to have never seen your kids’ bottoms or to know whether or not your son is circumcised.

Even more so, as our kids are older, nudity has been a site of awkwardness in the home. Before kids, Wifey and I would sleep naked or walk around the house as such. With kids, we don’t do that, but especially more so because these kids are older kids and carry the entire social stigma around bodies with them. Our kids are no more comfortable seeing the naked parts of the strangers that became their mothers’ overnight, than they are parading around in their birthday suits. Mix the privacy needs of their age with the presence of strangers and we no longer have a naked house.

Over the past two months, as the familial bonds and intimacy have been slowly building, we’ve seen more and more of their naked parts. Seeing a chest while putting on a shirt. Looking at the wound on a leg. Running around the house in their underwear. The oldest one has seen more of us naked than she’s wanted, as she doesn’t understand that the invisible cue given by a shut bathroom door is not “enter” but “knock first.”

With the little one, building that bond of trust and comfort have been ever more prominent in my mind because we do have some medical concerns.

He had a hernia removed over a year ago somewhere in the region covered by underwear that was only discovered accidentally by his foster father when Bubaloo was walked in on in the bathroom. Apparently the hernia was the size of a baseball.

Bubaloo had a few anxious nights before he finally shared with us that he was worried because it looked like the hernia was growing again. After a Dr’s visit he checked out okay.

We’ve also have some concerns around his bladder and urination.

Swimming lessons for us have turned into an opportunity to challenge the nudity factor. We use the family room, and to make sure we get out of there in a reasonable amount of time, I’m directing the kids through changing so they can see what our expectations are.

Showering after the swim lesson has revealed the soap touches every part of Bella’s body and Bubaloo doesn’t believe that washing involves any amount of soap.

For the most part, the kids have been changing from swimsuits to street clothes behind strategically positioned towels. I’ve also showed Bella how to hold onto the towel if she’s not comfortable with being completely naked while changing.

Last night, we got our full exposure in this change room event.

Me: Okay, kids time to get changed.
Bella: Okay Mom. (And she gets right to it.)
Me: Bubaloo, would you like me to hold the towel for you?
Bubaloo (as he points to his sister): I can’t change with her in here!
Bella (already standing stark naked): But we’re brother and sister, Bubaloo! It doesn’t matter!!
Me: Okay, Bubaloo take your swimsuit off while I’ll hold the towel as a screen.
Bella (still standing naked): Bubaloo, it’s okay. See, I’m your sister.
Me (parent with a sense of humour): Bubaloo, why don’t you moon her?

Bubaloo, naked as a jay bird, drops his towel to shake his front three times and then turns around to shake his rear another three times.

Not only have we overcome the nudity factor, as his did his sun and moon dance several times in succession for us, we also had to explain that a moon is the butt cheeks only.

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