I can’t say if it’s an Asian thing or a generational thing, but there are these adults who tell kids who undress that they’re “shame shame”.
It infuriates me.
I was at the library with the kids a while back and there was a mom who was reading to her kid. From what I could gather while sitting across the room, it was about a kid who was learning to take a shower. While reading, she would pause and comment on the illustrations. So she got to this portion where the kid got undressed and she pointed at the photo to her child and said, “so shame shame right?”. Her 3-year-old responded with a giggle but after a stern look from his mom, became decidedly subdued and said, “the boy never wear clothes, so shame shame.”
Ok, first of all, where I come from, people get naked when they have a shower. There’s nothing shame shame about it.
And second of all, even though I haven’t actually read the book, I think that’s not really the point the author was trying to make.
The lady was reading loud enough for my kids to hear but since they didn’t really seem to hear it, I decided to leave it alone. Besides, I try not to comment on other parents’ teaching methods because I know how sensitive it is.
Then a couple of days ago, I was showering Kirsten when she turned to me and said, “See, I shame shame.” I was taken aback for a while so I asked her where she learnt it from and she said her teacher in school told her about it.
“Sweetie, listen to me, you’re not shame shame ok. You’re beautiful. If teacher ever tells you that you are shame shame again, you say “I’m beautiful” and then tell mommy when you get home.”
“But teacher said if I never wear clothes, I’m shame shame,” she said.
“That’s not true baby. Remember mommy told you that you’re not allowed to show your vagina to other people? It’s because it’s special and you’re supposed to keep it secret. But you’re not shame shame and if you have to bathe, it’s fine to not wear clothes ok.”
It was hard explaining this to a 2.5-year-old and I was mad at the teacher for making it worse.
Ok seriously, this whole shame shame thing has got to stop. I know why adults do it – to discourage kids from running around stark naked in public but there has got to be a better way to do it than shaming a child. They’re going to have to deal with feelings of inferiority and self-doubt and shame soon enough, they don’t need to feel ashamed about their bodies when they’re 2.
Besides, if there’s anything I’ve learnt from parenting toddlers, it’s that they’re compulsive little people. It’s like they can’t help themselves. If they want to get naked, THEY WILL GET NAKED. We try to contain it and scramble to make them put their clothes back on but they will do it until they’re old enough to control their impulses. And they’re not doing it to be bad or intentionally flashing their penises at you to make you uncomfortable. They’re just compulsive and all we need to do is give them a little time to learn that their private parts should be kept private.
But you know what really gets me? When teachers or adults in positions of power do it, the kids under their care will think that it’s ok to “shame shame” their peers. The kids who are waiting for their turn to shower will see the naked kids and think it’s funny to point and say “eee, shame shame”. And maybe even laugh.
I’m all for being fully clothed in public. I mean, I do it all the time. But there are situations in life which requires us to get naked and showering is one of them. My kids don’t need to feel ashamed when they undress to bathe. And so what if they do a naked streak around the house right after their shower? I doubt they’re going to be doing it when they’re 14, so if this is the way they need to express themselves right now, I’m ok with that.
So now every time I shower the kids, I make it a point to tell them that they’re beautiful the way the are.
Today, when Kirsten got into the shower, she said, “I’m not shame shame, right? I’m beautiful!”
Damn right you are, princess.
photo credit: Lynn Davis