Sometimes a shower is just a shower

Posted by Barbara F. Meltz  June 3, 2010 06:00 AM

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Barbara,

Is it appropriate for young boys to shower together? My son and his friend, both almost 8 years old, took a shower together at my house after playing in the mud. It was my son's idea, but both were excited about it.

I received a call for his mother the next day expressing her dissatisfaction with this action. She and her husband and mine too felt it was completely inappropriate. I thought it was completely innocent at his age. I asked his friend if he was comfortable with it before the shower and he said yes. The boys seemed to enjoy it. It seemed non-sexual and just fun.

Was I completely off base? I certainly will not do this in the future without checking with the parents first.

Thank you very much.

Sincerely,

LImom, Sayville, NY

Hi LImom,

I'm with you. The boys were muddy. They needed to get clean. Showering together was a novelty. Fun. Boy-bonding. It's human nature for children to be curious about each other's bodies. Do these adults really think that it encouraged or condoned homosexual exploration? Ask them to think back on their own childhoods. Boys are naked together in shower rooms all the time. Do these folks want to put an end to that, too?

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22 comments so far...
  1. Yes, you were worng.

    When another parent allows their child to visit there are certain rules you should follow and one of them is making sure they keep their clothes on and not get naked with your child.

    If they wanted to drink a beer or smoke a cigarette would you have let that happen, I doubt it, it's not a matter of what they did, it's a matter of you not having the right to let another person's child do that in your home.

    Think about it from their perspective, how would you like to hear from your son that he went over to his friends house and they took a shower together, I don''t think you'd like that very much, I know I wouldn't.

    Posted by JT June 3, 10 07:23 AM
  1. Sorry Barbara and LImom - but JT is right. It was quite a lapse in judgement to allow that without knowing what the parents would think. I would have been furious.

    Posted by carol June 3, 10 08:54 AM
  1. The more the parents obsess about it, the more the children will feel that's something's wrong - and the children will grow up feeling shameful about their own bodies.

    It's a shower, not an initiation. If the other parents feel so strongly about this, have the boys wear swimming trunks. The parent who doesn't have a problem can couch this in terms of sanitation - just like I wore flip-flops when I showered in the dorm.

    Posted by reindeergirl June 3, 10 08:56 AM
  1. I think your assessment of the situation was correct - It's completely innocent and freaking out just introduces homophobia at a young age (Do these parents freak out when boys have to shower together in a gym?). JT, I think it's unfair to compare taking a shower with underage drinking and smoking. What the boys did was not illegal or harmful in any way.

    That being said, if the other boy's parents are uncomfortable with it, then that's that. They are the other boy's parents and have final say with what is and is not appropriate for their child. Now that you know they have a problem with it you should not let it happen again.

    Posted by Mother of a little boy June 3, 10 09:01 AM
  1. JT, your beer drinking and cigarette analogy's are ridiculous. They are illegal for children. Taking a shower is not. If the boys wanted to take one at the same time it is their choice and totally innocent. That being said, a parent always has to worry about uptight parents who would have a problem with something like this. They place their own hang ups on their kids which is too bad. What in the world is the worst thing that could come out of the boys showering together other than a little self awareness. The parents of that other boy probably shamed the poor kid when he got home - he will grow up just like his parents.

    Posted by Dad June 3, 10 09:22 AM
  1. We have a big bathtub and several times we threw my son and a muddy friend or two in to get cleaned off and warmed up. They didn't think it was strange nor did their parents. I don't understand what the big deal is. They are eight years old!

    Posted by Cordelia June 3, 10 09:23 AM
  1. Oh please, JT! A shower is not a vice! They are 8 years old, give me a break!

    I think a lot depends on how well the boys and parents know each other -- I got the sense they were not close family friends. The LW probably should have told the boy's parents upon pickup that they got muddy, took a shower to get cleaned up, etc. The parents could have expressed any dismay at that time, but I bet they would have been LESS dismayed hearing a matter-of-fact report from LW ("They got muddy, so they took a quick shower") than hearing an off-hand 8-year-old version from their son at home, which might have given the impression the boys had no supervision, etc. Of course if the parents do not want their son to do this, defer to their wishes, but the context makes all the difference here.

    IMHO the shower itself was no biggie....I think I'd rather my son showered at his friend's house than picking him up covered in dried mud! :) I also think there's some subtle sexism at work here -- if these were two little girls getting muddy and then taking a shower together, would people blink? I think not.

    Posted by serafina June 3, 10 09:30 AM
  1. LOL JT are you for real? You are equating what goes on in every male locker room with illegal activity. For instance, some boys who play hockey strip down to their underwear when getting in and out of their gear and some - gasp! - will shower after a game IN VIEW OF OTHER BOYS!!!!! if they are particularly sweaty. The horror! And here's a thought - when using the restroom they can - another gasp! - see each others' private parts! Of course as they get older they learn to not look but younger boys look and compare and giggle over it. This is really not a big deal. The letter writer is right and the others are over-reacting. I've got three sons and it wouldn't bother me if a friend's parent threw them in the shower together with a friend if they were dirty and in need of a shower.

    Posted by Jen June 3, 10 09:33 AM
  1. I see both sides and I believe both are right: 1) Two children showering together at this age is completely innocent, and there was no ill intention or hidden agenda from Llmom. 2) However, parents have the right and responsibility to protect their children and decide what activities they want to allow/disallow their children.

    Unlike allowing children to drink beer or smoke (which would be illegal), this case truly seems like an innocent disagreement in parenting style that never came up until then.

    Llmom should explain her innocent intentions to the other set of parents and that she never meant to cause distress to anyone. She should express that in the future she will be more mindful and consult with them because she fully respects the choices in their family, and she values the friendship of their boys. The other parents should accept her words and, perhaps, make more clear the kind of interactions that they do not find acceptable.

    It's a good lesson that they can all turn into something positive, without pointing fingers, to help them each set some ground rules that will make both families more confortable.

    The children should not be made feel that they did anything wrong since this was an unfortunate misunderstanding. It would be sad that the friendship of this children be ruined by this disagreement. They should all move forward and nurture their friendship.

    Posted by rmg June 3, 10 10:01 AM
  1. Boys are in locker rooms, restrooms, barracks . . .

    What would the other mother's reaction have been if her kid was sent home dirty?

    Posted by qbqt June 3, 10 10:11 AM
  1. First, it is not illegal to server your own child (regardless of age) alcoholic beverages in your own home, and while it would be illegal to server someone else's child, one could argue the legality of having another child removing their clothing in your home with your knowledge and permission.

    The locker room analogies are wrong, a parent understands that when their child is involved in sports this will occur, but when they send them to play at a friends house they have no expectation that the kids are going to get naked and start showering together.

    It's not the act itself, it's the fact that the LW did not have the explicit permission of the other parents for this to occur.

    Posted by JT June 3, 10 10:27 AM
  1. JT - you're 100% wrong. It's illegal to give a minor alcohol regardless of their relationship to you or whether you're in your own home. Your kid or not, they're a minor.

    Posted by IK June 3, 10 11:12 AM
  1. It's just a shower! Yikes.

    I think the appropriate course of action would be to apologize to the parents for not asking their permission in advance, but making it clear that you don't see anything wrong with it. Also, maybe suggest that next time their son comes to play, they send him with a bathing suit. If the parents are opposed to that, too, I think that perhaps it's their own issue.

    Posted by sabend June 3, 10 11:16 AM
  1. Again, JT, do you send your children out to friends' homes with an explicit list of dos and don'ts? Of course now that the LW knows this child's parents are uptight reactionaries she can be more cautious about what she does and doesn't allow while that friend is over but really, this is not something a normal parent would fuss about. In all my years of playdates I think the only things I've discussed with other parents and expressed my wishes or sought out their permission on ahead of time were related to safety and media. Things like pool safety and weapons in the home, whether or not it was OK to watch a particular movie or play a certain video game, whether or not it was OK to leave them home unsupervised for a short while, whether or not computer use is supervised, etc. I wouldn't think that I would have to check with another parent regarding whether or not their mud-covered child should be cleaned up, nor would I expect someone to check with me. And kids showering and changing (and sleeping at a sleepover) together at that age is so normal that wouldn't have registered with me either. People have to get over their hang ups. Little kids seeing each others' bodies in an appropriate context is not a big deal.

    Posted by Jen June 3, 10 11:33 AM
  1. If the kids were three, maybe. But for eight year olds, I wouldn't have done it -- they are not babies nor are they all that innocent about bodies. Either way, I would not shower (or otherwise remove the clothes of) another person's child unless I had the permission of that parent, either explicitly stated or implicitly understood because of my relationship with the other parent.

    Posted by anita June 3, 10 11:37 AM
  1. I agree with rmg. while I don't think the shower in and of itself is shameful or harmful, I would be uncomfortable with the thought of my 8 year old being naked in someone's house without me knowing. I would not end the friendship with LW and her child, but I might say, "Please give a call if this comes up again - before the shower occurs - just so I know."

    I don't think it makes a parent uptight to want to know if her child is getting naked in someone's house. And we're talking CHILD here, we're not talking about 17 year old guys in the locker room. Besides, the issue here is the parent didn't KNOW, and - as it turns out - didn't approve. If your child plays sports you KNOW they are getting naked in the locker room with others. So that is a lame argument.

    Posted by poppy609 June 3, 10 11:41 AM
  1. The shower itself is not a big deal. The boys were excited about it because kids like water and at that age, it is no different than going into water with a bathing suit. My friend and I did the same thing around that age once or twice, and I know we changed together all the time. No big deal.

    However, if the mom was bothered by it apologize for not asking her first and next time her son comes over, don't allow it without a bathing suit.

    Posted by Kate June 3, 10 11:59 AM
  1. These parents need to calm it down, it was just a shower, and I agree with someone else who posed the question, what would the mother have said if her son had come home all muddy? Would that have been inappropriate too? Honestly, they are 8 years old - give me a break. And by the way, what's the problem with being gay anyway? Can it really be helped? And I also agree that freaking out in front of an 8 year old about how taking a shower with a friend is inappropriate is just going to create a homophobic CHILD! Why would anyone want to suqash a child's innocence like that? Honestlym get a grib and let your child be a child.

    Posted by nmac8953 June 3, 10 12:00 PM
  1. My 2-y/o daughter's best friend is a boy and she usually goes up north to stay with him and his family for an overnight once a month. His mother's tossed them both in the tub together many a time and to her, that's a fun novelty. His mother never asked though and I can't see why she would. The kids were covered in paint or dirt or painted dirt and there's no sense in washing them separately.

    People are WAY too uptight. And to compare showering together at ANY age to drinking, smoking, or drug use is just ridiculous.

    LW: I feel bad for your son's friend but my God, you did the right thing. No worries there.

    Posted by Phe June 3, 10 01:08 PM
  1. Either the kids are unsupervised naked or you are seeing the boy naked - neither of which are within my comfort levels. There are plenty of things that I let my kids do that I wouldn't allow visiting kids to do because I know it's a judgement call. You are very lucky she called you to express her disapproval rather than simply spreading the word around the PTA circles.

    Posted by KathleenD June 3, 10 02:22 PM
  1. I don't think it was wrong. But my opinion, like everyone else's here, doesn't matter. The other boy's parent's opinions are paramount. You obviously knew that something could be taken amiss since you say that you asked the boy if he was comfortable with the situation. Next time, ask the Mom as well. She's overreacting in my opinion, but it's most likely because she didn't control the situation and she was surprised to find that her son was nude in someone else's house. I bet though, had you called her first, she would have given permission. Call first next time, or set up a lawn sprinkler. The examples offered here about boys showering together in the locker room are valid. However, likening hosing this kid down to offering him alcohol or cigarettes is a tad over the top though, yes?

    Posted by JBar June 3, 10 08:13 PM
  1. they probably felt uncomfortable.

    Posted by jacob September 12, 10 04:48 PM
 
22 comments so far...
  1. Yes, you were worng.

    When another parent allows their child to visit there are certain rules you should follow and one of them is making sure they keep their clothes on and not get naked with your child.

    If they wanted to drink a beer or smoke a cigarette would you have let that happen, I doubt it, it's not a matter of what they did, it's a matter of you not having the right to let another person's child do that in your home.

    Think about it from their perspective, how would you like to hear from your son that he went over to his friends house and they took a shower together, I don''t think you'd like that very much, I know I wouldn't.

    Posted by JT June 3, 10 07:23 AM
  1. Sorry Barbara and LImom - but JT is right. It was quite a lapse in judgement to allow that without knowing what the parents would think. I would have been furious.

    Posted by carol June 3, 10 08:54 AM
  1. The more the parents obsess about it, the more the children will feel that's something's wrong - and the children will grow up feeling shameful about their own bodies.

    It's a shower, not an initiation. If the other parents feel so strongly about this, have the boys wear swimming trunks. The parent who doesn't have a problem can couch this in terms of sanitation - just like I wore flip-flops when I showered in the dorm.

    Posted by reindeergirl June 3, 10 08:56 AM
  1. I think your assessment of the situation was correct - It's completely innocent and freaking out just introduces homophobia at a young age (Do these parents freak out when boys have to shower together in a gym?). JT, I think it's unfair to compare taking a shower with underage drinking and smoking. What the boys did was not illegal or harmful in any way.

    That being said, if the other boy's parents are uncomfortable with it, then that's that. They are the other boy's parents and have final say with what is and is not appropriate for their child. Now that you know they have a problem with it you should not let it happen again.

    Posted by Mother of a little boy June 3, 10 09:01 AM
  1. JT, your beer drinking and cigarette analogy's are ridiculous. They are illegal for children. Taking a shower is not. If the boys wanted to take one at the same time it is their choice and totally innocent. That being said, a parent always has to worry about uptight parents who would have a problem with something like this. They place their own hang ups on their kids which is too bad. What in the world is the worst thing that could come out of the boys showering together other than a little self awareness. The parents of that other boy probably shamed the poor kid when he got home - he will grow up just like his parents.

    Posted by Dad June 3, 10 09:22 AM
  1. We have a big bathtub and several times we threw my son and a muddy friend or two in to get cleaned off and warmed up. They didn't think it was strange nor did their parents. I don't understand what the big deal is. They are eight years old!

    Posted by Cordelia June 3, 10 09:23 AM
  1. Oh please, JT! A shower is not a vice! They are 8 years old, give me a break!

    I think a lot depends on how well the boys and parents know each other -- I got the sense they were not close family friends. The LW probably should have told the boy's parents upon pickup that they got muddy, took a shower to get cleaned up, etc. The parents could have expressed any dismay at that time, but I bet they would have been LESS dismayed hearing a matter-of-fact report from LW ("They got muddy, so they took a quick shower") than hearing an off-hand 8-year-old version from their son at home, which might have given the impression the boys had no supervision, etc. Of course if the parents do not want their son to do this, defer to their wishes, but the context makes all the difference here.

    IMHO the shower itself was no biggie....I think I'd rather my son showered at his friend's house than picking him up covered in dried mud! :) I also think there's some subtle sexism at work here -- if these were two little girls getting muddy and then taking a shower together, would people blink? I think not.

    Posted by serafina June 3, 10 09:30 AM
  1. LOL JT are you for real? You are equating what goes on in every male locker room with illegal activity. For instance, some boys who play hockey strip down to their underwear when getting in and out of their gear and some - gasp! - will shower after a game IN VIEW OF OTHER BOYS!!!!! if they are particularly sweaty. The horror! And here's a thought - when using the restroom they can - another gasp! - see each others' private parts! Of course as they get older they learn to not look but younger boys look and compare and giggle over it. This is really not a big deal. The letter writer is right and the others are over-reacting. I've got three sons and it wouldn't bother me if a friend's parent threw them in the shower together with a friend if they were dirty and in need of a shower.

    Posted by Jen June 3, 10 09:33 AM
  1. I see both sides and I believe both are right: 1) Two children showering together at this age is completely innocent, and there was no ill intention or hidden agenda from Llmom. 2) However, parents have the right and responsibility to protect their children and decide what activities they want to allow/disallow their children.

    Unlike allowing children to drink beer or smoke (which would be illegal), this case truly seems like an innocent disagreement in parenting style that never came up until then.

    Llmom should explain her innocent intentions to the other set of parents and that she never meant to cause distress to anyone. She should express that in the future she will be more mindful and consult with them because she fully respects the choices in their family, and she values the friendship of their boys. The other parents should accept her words and, perhaps, make more clear the kind of interactions that they do not find acceptable.

    It's a good lesson that they can all turn into something positive, without pointing fingers, to help them each set some ground rules that will make both families more confortable.

    The children should not be made feel that they did anything wrong since this was an unfortunate misunderstanding. It would be sad that the friendship of this children be ruined by this disagreement. They should all move forward and nurture their friendship.

    Posted by rmg June 3, 10 10:01 AM
  1. Boys are in locker rooms, restrooms, barracks . . .

    What would the other mother's reaction have been if her kid was sent home dirty?

    Posted by qbqt June 3, 10 10:11 AM
  1. First, it is not illegal to server your own child (regardless of age) alcoholic beverages in your own home, and while it would be illegal to server someone else's child, one could argue the legality of having another child removing their clothing in your home with your knowledge and permission.

    The locker room analogies are wrong, a parent understands that when their child is involved in sports this will occur, but when they send them to play at a friends house they have no expectation that the kids are going to get naked and start showering together.

    It's not the act itself, it's the fact that the LW did not have the explicit permission of the other parents for this to occur.

    Posted by JT June 3, 10 10:27 AM
  1. JT - you're 100% wrong. It's illegal to give a minor alcohol regardless of their relationship to you or whether you're in your own home. Your kid or not, they're a minor.

    Posted by IK June 3, 10 11:12 AM
  1. It's just a shower! Yikes.

    I think the appropriate course of action would be to apologize to the parents for not asking their permission in advance, but making it clear that you don't see anything wrong with it. Also, maybe suggest that next time their son comes to play, they send him with a bathing suit. If the parents are opposed to that, too, I think that perhaps it's their own issue.

    Posted by sabend June 3, 10 11:16 AM
  1. Again, JT, do you send your children out to friends' homes with an explicit list of dos and don'ts? Of course now that the LW knows this child's parents are uptight reactionaries she can be more cautious about what she does and doesn't allow while that friend is over but really, this is not something a normal parent would fuss about. In all my years of playdates I think the only things I've discussed with other parents and expressed my wishes or sought out their permission on ahead of time were related to safety and media. Things like pool safety and weapons in the home, whether or not it was OK to watch a particular movie or play a certain video game, whether or not it was OK to leave them home unsupervised for a short while, whether or not computer use is supervised, etc. I wouldn't think that I would have to check with another parent regarding whether or not their mud-covered child should be cleaned up, nor would I expect someone to check with me. And kids showering and changing (and sleeping at a sleepover) together at that age is so normal that wouldn't have registered with me either. People have to get over their hang ups. Little kids seeing each others' bodies in an appropriate context is not a big deal.

    Posted by Jen June 3, 10 11:33 AM
  1. If the kids were three, maybe. But for eight year olds, I wouldn't have done it -- they are not babies nor are they all that innocent about bodies. Either way, I would not shower (or otherwise remove the clothes of) another person's child unless I had the permission of that parent, either explicitly stated or implicitly understood because of my relationship with the other parent.

    Posted by anita June 3, 10 11:37 AM
  1. I agree with rmg. while I don't think the shower in and of itself is shameful or harmful, I would be uncomfortable with the thought of my 8 year old being naked in someone's house without me knowing. I would not end the friendship with LW and her child, but I might say, "Please give a call if this comes up again - before the shower occurs - just so I know."

    I don't think it makes a parent uptight to want to know if her child is getting naked in someone's house. And we're talking CHILD here, we're not talking about 17 year old guys in the locker room. Besides, the issue here is the parent didn't KNOW, and - as it turns out - didn't approve. If your child plays sports you KNOW they are getting naked in the locker room with others. So that is a lame argument.

    Posted by poppy609 June 3, 10 11:41 AM
  1. The shower itself is not a big deal. The boys were excited about it because kids like water and at that age, it is no different than going into water with a bathing suit. My friend and I did the same thing around that age once or twice, and I know we changed together all the time. No big deal.

    However, if the mom was bothered by it apologize for not asking her first and next time her son comes over, don't allow it without a bathing suit.

    Posted by Kate June 3, 10 11:59 AM
  1. These parents need to calm it down, it was just a shower, and I agree with someone else who posed the question, what would the mother have said if her son had come home all muddy? Would that have been inappropriate too? Honestly, they are 8 years old - give me a break. And by the way, what's the problem with being gay anyway? Can it really be helped? And I also agree that freaking out in front of an 8 year old about how taking a shower with a friend is inappropriate is just going to create a homophobic CHILD! Why would anyone want to suqash a child's innocence like that? Honestlym get a grib and let your child be a child.

    Posted by nmac8953 June 3, 10 12:00 PM
  1. My 2-y/o daughter's best friend is a boy and she usually goes up north to stay with him and his family for an overnight once a month. His mother's tossed them both in the tub together many a time and to her, that's a fun novelty. His mother never asked though and I can't see why she would. The kids were covered in paint or dirt or painted dirt and there's no sense in washing them separately.

    People are WAY too uptight. And to compare showering together at ANY age to drinking, smoking, or drug use is just ridiculous.

    LW: I feel bad for your son's friend but my God, you did the right thing. No worries there.

    Posted by Phe June 3, 10 01:08 PM
  1. Either the kids are unsupervised naked or you are seeing the boy naked - neither of which are within my comfort levels. There are plenty of things that I let my kids do that I wouldn't allow visiting kids to do because I know it's a judgement call. You are very lucky she called you to express her disapproval rather than simply spreading the word around the PTA circles.

    Posted by KathleenD June 3, 10 02:22 PM
  1. I don't think it was wrong. But my opinion, like everyone else's here, doesn't matter. The other boy's parent's opinions are paramount. You obviously knew that something could be taken amiss since you say that you asked the boy if he was comfortable with the situation. Next time, ask the Mom as well. She's overreacting in my opinion, but it's most likely because she didn't control the situation and she was surprised to find that her son was nude in someone else's house. I bet though, had you called her first, she would have given permission. Call first next time, or set up a lawn sprinkler. The examples offered here about boys showering together in the locker room are valid. However, likening hosing this kid down to offering him alcohol or cigarettes is a tad over the top though, yes?

    Posted by JBar June 3, 10 08:13 PM
  1. they probably felt uncomfortable.

    Posted by jacob September 12, 10 04:48 PM
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Barbara F. Meltz is a freelance writer, parenting consultant, and author of "Put Yourself in Their Shoes: Understanding How Your Children See the World." She won several awards for her weekly "Child Caring" column in the Globe, including the 2008 American Psychological Association Print Excellence award. Barbara is available as a speaker for parent groups.

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