July 2, 2012 at 1:49 PM ET
When it comes to my 6-year-old seeing naked grown-ups, I’m pretty permissive. My daughter sees me prance around the house in the buff, and cheered on tons of pastie-clad ladies in Coney Island’s annual Mermaid Parade. But when she asks to go naked or even just topless in public, my answer is no. I don't mind her streaking in the house. However, outside these walls, her body is for our eyes only.
Now that summer's here and sprinklers are on, I see lots of kids slipping in and out of their bathing suits in the middle of the playground. Even though I understand why other parents are okay with that (they're probably the same folks who allow their kids to pee in public), I prefer to hold up a towel to give my kid a little privacy.
But a quick change is different than playing naked, and I must admit I was pretty shocked recently when I saw a 7-year-old girl from my daughter's school frolicking in the park sans shirt for an entire afternoon. She was there with her father and, as sexist as this may sound, I suspect her mom might not have been so cool with it. My daughter kept asking why her friend was "showing her nipples." I told her she was having a wardrobe malfunction. (Confusing my daughter usually ends our awkward conversations.) I wish we lived in a world in which kids could publicly run around in all their innocent nakedness without worrying about pervs with cell phone cameras—but we don't. So I’m not taking any chances.
I even think there are times when going au naturel at home is questionable. A dear mommy friend of mine lets her elementary-school-aged daughters run around the house unclothed even when guests are over. I always feel like I'm walking onto the set of Hair. It's their house, of course, and they can do as they please. But it baffles my daughter and gives little boys a living anatomy lesson.
All this nakedness makes me wonder if I'm some kind of parent prude, not to mention a hypocrite. Because I’ll drop trou in a heartbeat while my daughter's got to keep her pants—and everything else—on.
A version of this story originally appeared on iVillage.