Little Dude climbed into bed the other morning, warm and mussed from his night's sleep. I barely opened my eyes as I draped my arm around him and relaxed into the smell of his hair. He squirmed, as 4-year-old boys are prone to do, and began rhythmically tapping his feet against my bare stomach. It was cozy and lovely and I could have stayed in bed all day.
Then he turned around and said, "Mommy, your stomach is all slappy."
I know I've been lax about hitting the gym and it is fair to say that summer cocktails have been flowing freely, but "slappy"? Ugh. I don't think "fleshy" or "Rubenesque" would have been better, but I might have been more impressed by his vocabulary.
I got out of bed and started getting ready to take my jiggly bits into the world. Little Dude was eager to help. As I pulled my ratty t-shirt over my head and threw it into the hamper, he grabbed a pair of jeans from my closet and a shirt from the laundry pile. He made his way over to my underwear drawer. While rummaging, he said, "Mommy you'll need this," triumphantly pulling out a bra, "to put on those," turning and pointing to my breasts. He was very proud. So was I -- he hadn't chosen the tattered old bra I wear to garden. The boy may not be diplomatic, but he's got taste.
He offered to help me pee in the bathroom -- I declined, but didn't stop him from wandering in to talk with me while I got a shower.
Before I became a parent, I would have sworn none of this ever would have happened. I'm from the Northeast. We wear clothes. We do not wander about the house in our underwear. Bathroom time is private time. The idea of walking around half clothed in front of my kid? No thank you.
That, however, was my life B.C. - Before Childbirth. I was reserved. I loved privacy. My life A.D. -- After Delivery -- is an entirely different thing. Various states of undress that I never would have considered are now par for the course. I can't remember the last time I closed the bathroom door. It's a whole new world.
Things started to shift during my pregnancy. Months of exams, ultrasounds, and tests softened me up. It's hard to maintain a veneer of reserve when you're walking down the hall with a cup of pee in your hand. In my third trimester, I knew to fold up my sense of propriety along with my street clothes when I entered the exam room. Nothing, however, prepared me for the speed with which my modesty abandoned me once I went into labor.
I tried to hold on to my tattered sense of decorum in the delivery room. I politely declined my doctor's offer of a mirror to watch my son's arrival. I more ruthlessly declared that my husband was to stay "North of the Equator" during the delivery itself. I put on a mask of stoic calm while the 15th person examined me (I gave birth in a teaching hospital, which, while good for the residents, is less ideal for a reserved control freak). But once my son was born, all that was over.
There's something so visceral about giving birth, so completely humbling, that I couldn't hold on to my old hang-ups. Clothes became less important during Little Dude's first year, when, no sooner would I put them on than I'd be stripping them off to wash out spit-up, vomit, poop, or snot. I learned to pee while holding a baby. Practicality sometimes wins out over social expectations. Watching Little Dude's own fascination with his body also makes it seem sort of silly to be ashamed of mine. He is wildly and wonderfully uninhibited.
This isn't to say I watch TV, cook, or greet guests naked. I do not answer the door in my underwear. I am not quite as bold as Aviva Rubin, nor do I think I'll still be flaunting my slappy stomach when he's in his teens. Hell has not frozen over. It is to say that I'm not a mom who insists on being fully clothed when I'm around my kid. This probably doesn't seem odd to the attachment parents out there, but for the rest of us, this is new territory. I hope that helps teach my son to be comfortable in his own skin. I hope he'll grow up to believe that all sorts of different bodies are beautiful, including his own. If that means I am sometimes on the receiving end of frank comments about tummies and breasts and butts, well, I can live with that. I would, however, really like to be able to pee by myself someday soon.
Until then, I'll take honest observations about my one-pack abs in exchange for a healthy, happy and unselfconscious boy. I may also ask my husband to talk with Little Dude about the finer points of tact. He's going to need them.
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