My husband recently asked me when I was going to stop walking around naked in front of the children. He said he was sure that when he was Prima’s age (6 years old) he did not see his mother naked. The thing is, I don’t think of myself as naked around them and they haven’t noticed it either. Plus, his mother breastfed his brother until he was two (yep) whilst driving the car, because you could get away with that sort of thing in the 70s.
My husband told me (a) It was time to let go of his mother’s eccentric breastfeeding habits and (b) the two issues of parental nudity and breastfeeding were not related.
I said (a) I was the only person in this relationship who was allowed to gratuitously use alphanumeric paragraphing and sub-paragraphing in conversations and (b) see (a) above.
Had I been sufficiently quick-witted I would have given him the following (c) with sub-paragraphs.
(c) Mothers and their children have a unique (which some might call weird) physical relationship. For example:
1. When I use the loo I am accompanied by one to four children. The three older ones helpfully tear toilet paper and hand it to me, one sheet at a time.
2. When Secundo (aged 5) uses the loo, he likes me to inspect his offering and rate it for size and consistency. This assessment helps him work out how much more avocado he wants me to add to his diet (because I once exaggerated the laxative effect of avocado in a ploy to make him eat it). At the end of his ablutions, I am called upon again to inspect the royal bottom and reassure him that all is clean.
3. When Newborn empties his bowels after much anticipation and effort, I absolutely love the smell. I feel an intense, visceral relief for the poor little boy. I have been known to inhale deeply in joy.
4. When Tercero takes off his shoes, I can’t help but grab a small foot and hold it to my nose. There is something strangely reassuring about the evolving foot odour of a growing child. At some point their feet stop smelling like a baby and they start to smell like a man.
5. As a present for my 36th birthday, my husband pinned down Tercero so I could release my inner-primate and pick his crusty and clogged nose in peace.
6. When Prima was a baby and suffered from congestion, on the advice of my mother I squirted saline into her sinuses and to help her breathe I sucked out the mucus. With my mouth. She was my first born, what can I say.
7. I once made myself a cup of coffee with the last stored remnants of my breast milk because I sweated blood to produce that stuff and every drop is worth gold to me. I may have also spiked my husband’s coffee with it as payback for his inexplicable and irritating dedication to breastfeeding.
8. When Tercero was about 12 months old he used to stand between my legs and try to return to his place of origin.
9. Now that Tercero is two years old he runs up to my bottom and hangs off the back of my jeans, exposing my postpartum bum crack to the elements and the public. He then tries to park his toy cars in said crack.
10. The children ask surprisingly insightful questions about the effects of childbearing and ageing on the human body. In public.
11. I love the smell of the children’s morning breath.
12. I love the smell of their necks just underneath their jaw, the space there is exactly the size of my nose.
13. I know all their birthmarks and they know all my stretch marks.
My point is that it is too late for discretion and the usual rules of privacy and personal space or even dignity. It was too late from the moment they came into the world and saw far more of me on the way out than I would want any one to see. Ever.
I have loved their naked bodies from the first time I held them and in due course they won’t want to jump in the bath with me or each other. They won’t want to tell me about their day whilst I am in the loo. So until they actually realize that I am naked from time to time, and that after four children in seven years this is really quite unsightly, I am going to enjoy being with my children in whatever state of dress or undress I can manage at the time.
At least I am not breastfeeding a two year old whilst driving. That’s just hideous.