“Daddy penis, small penis,” my daughter said, then laughed, as we were getting changed after a parent and tot swim class. I hastily replied, “I just got out of cold water!” She didn’t understand, of course; it was more for the benefit of the other men in the change room anyway.
As my partner can attest, I have always had a penchant for walking around our house naked or in my underwear. It’s comfortable, especially in the hot summer months, and I’m not self-conscious. When our son came to live with us, I thought, “We’re all men here.” But when we adopted our daughter, it became a different matter.
We have no privacy, as the children walk into the bathroom all the time and have seen us shower too. And as a daddy and a papa, we have to take her into the men’s washroom when we’re out. In we go, past the row of urinals to find a stall. And we always have to take us with her into the change rooms at public pools. We try to keep her focused on changing but of course she looks around. She’s an observant girl and not shy when asking questions. And she has a lot of questions.
I do not want to impart a sense of shame by covering up. My daughter knows that I have a penis, but she doesn’t need to see it all the time, especially because of the height she’s reached and what is now at her eye level. Basically, she doesn’t need my junk all up in her face. I try to maintain a little modesty now.
She’ll only be able to come with us into bathrooms and change rooms for so long. At some point, we’ll have to let her go by herself. It’s going to be hard to let go, and to trust that she’ll be fine with changing by herself, keeping track of her belongings and finding her way back out. She’s pretty independent and I’m sure she’ll be fine. But it’s also a matter of trusting all the other people in the room with her.
A new pool recently opened in our neighborhood that has a “universal” change room, with lockers for people’s belongings and individual cabins in which to change. No one is publicly naked and no family has to be separated. (Nor do people have to make an either/or choice and declare a sex identity based on which room they go into.) I think it’s all pretty progressive and admirable. And successful, apparently – another pool is being designed nearby with the same setup.
At their age, our kids still think it hilarious to be naked. In fact, my daughter thinks it's especially funny to take off her underwear secretly and then flash us once we’re out in public. Let's hope it's just a phase. I find it’s best to carry a spare pair of her underwear with us. My worry is that one day I’ll be heading to work and will pull something out of my pocket and a tiny pair of Hello Kitty underwear will pop out. But I shouldn’t be embarrassed about that either.