by Karen PlattMy son has always showered with his son who is now eight years old. Lately, he was told this was not “normal.” I have never felt there was anything wrong with it; my grandson has always followed his dad around wanting to do everything he does. I asked around and found it very common for parents to be showering with their kids, the oldest I heard of being nine years old. What is your opinion?
Beware those who presume to tell you what “normal” is. As a very good friend of mine is fond of saying, “Normal is a setting on your dryer.”
As long as it’s comfortable for both your grandson and his dad to shower or bathe (or snuggle or read or build stuff or whatever) together, it’s not only “normal,” but fine. Trust me, in another few years, simple logistics (e.g., your grandson will take up a lot more space in the tub or shower than he does now) will likely consign the fun or practicality of showering together into that place in the fond memories book, along with toilet-training, bedtime stories and family sing-songs. These times are to be treasured, not wished—or washed—away.
It’s also possible (although not guaranteed) that one of the guys—most likely your grandson—will decide that he simply doesn’t want to share showers any longer. Many kids develop a strong need for privacy, certainly around the time of puberty, if not before. But some kids never develop this need and I suspect most of them are quite “normal” too.
Sometimes, a parent will make a choice. For whatever reason, Dad or Mom may begin to feel uncomfortable about sharing shower time. It’s important for parents to recognize that those feelings are valid and need to be honoured. Consider it a positive message to say to your child, “I’d like to have my shower alone from now on; I need my privacy.” As sexual health educator Meg Hickling says, that statement gives a child permission to say the same thing when he decides he wants his own privacy. It’s also setting clear, responsible boundaries.
The same thing goes for siblings who bathe together. While shared bathtime can be great fun for kids (and easier for parents), inevitably one child or the other will eventually want her privacy. It may be a younger sibling or an older one—as always, there are few, if any, hard and fast rules about the timing and individuality of human development. Regardless, as soon as one child says she wants to bathe alone, her wish should be respected by the rest of the family.
Sometimes, a parent will sense a change in a child’s comfort level without the child saying anything. A child who suddenly behaves differently—who is unusually shy at bathtime, for example—may be feeling changes in his need for privacy. Keep tuned into your child’s non-verbal signals. As we know, young children are much more fluent with action than language. This could be a great opportunity to help a child figure out what he needs and have his needs respected. Essentially, it’s an early lesson in setting healthy boundaries and one we hopefully continually reinforce.
People can be quick to judge others as abnormal based upon some pretty limited, exclusive criteria—usually what they know from their own families and history or what they are comfortable with themselves. This is not to say they are wrong; you may simply hold different values based upon different influences and experiences. What is normal in some families, cultures, religions, countries, neighbourhoods and generations may be seen as not normal in others.
Rather than holding ourselves to someone else’s standard and no matter what your beliefs, I’d suggest one cardinal rule as stated by Hickling: “the person who says ‘No,’ rules.” If or when your grandson (or his dad) feels it’s time to shower in blissful solitude, everyone needs to respect the decision and move on. Until then, lather up.Karen Platt, MA, is a sexual health educator who works with parents and youth. She is currently completing post-graduate studies in Sexual Health. Send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.