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Yes, I Still Take Baths With My 6-Year-Old Son

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You know when you think you’re totally messing up your kids for life? Maybe you scream at them (too much and too hard), let the F-bombs fly (guilty as a MF) or let your kid sleep in your bed rather than deal with their fears of the dark.

Well, of course I do all of the above. I do them, I worry about them, and then (because I’m me) I do them again. And then worry again. What will all these screw ups add up to when they become adults? A co-dependent kid, a rage-a-holic or someone who has to sleep with another person all the time?

Now I think I might be stumbling into another bumble that is sure to cause irrevocable damage. I Googled, "when to stop bathing with your kid," recently and a slew of articles and first-hand experiences came up.

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For example, in an article bashing the bashers, The Washington Post reacted to the controversy that erupted last year when Perez Hilton posted a shower selfie of him and his son on Instragram.

"Modern psychology recognizes that making something taboo or forbidden often leads to a fixation called the forbidden fruit effect. By hiding our bodies from our children as if they are something shameful and elicit reinforces for them that all bodies are dirty and thus subject to dirty thoughts. Instead, we should use bath time as an opportunity to show our children that bodies come in different shapes and sizes, some wrinklier and saggier than others, and that there is nothing strange about noticing some obvious differences in the genders."

For some reason I don’t really think it’s a big deal with my daughter, who is 10, mostly because we don’t fit in the tub together. But oops, my 6-year-old son and I still do.

We certainly don’t do it a lot because I’m just too damn busy trying not to burn the chicken nuggets. But maybe once a month, we do this thing where AJ decides he needs to play hairdresser and pretends to cut my hair. It’s probably the most engaged drop into pretend playtime with him, because I’d much rather have him pour water on my hair than play “car accident emergency scene,” which is his favorite because he thinks since I played a paramedic on TV that I really am one.

At what age do I stop worrying that I'm doing something wrong (to my kids)?

And here’s the thing, for the trifecta of vagina/penis/boob fascination kids go through, none of it happens when we’re in the tub. It’s like it doesn’t exist and we are just two humans playing a very elaborate game. My kids take more note of my butt and boobs when I’m in a shirt.

In a recent PopSugar article, moms shared when they thought showering with the kids should stop. For some moms like Julianna M., children should shower independently at a certain age even if both parents and kids feel comfortable. "It doesn't matter if it's the opposite sex or not. One day showering with my daughter will feel inappropriate," she said.

But I have a sinking feeling—one that no doubt could be confirmed in less than a second with a type into Google—that maybe they're right. Maybe it is “wrong.” Maybe I’m causing yet another layer of psychological damage that will take even more therapy to undo. It's not like they won’t need a lifetime of analysis as it is to rewire from my parenting.

So in another frantic Google search, I looked for advice. Andorra Pediatrics suggests, "Take cues from your children. In the next few years, your children are likely to become more private about their bodies, and they will probably let you know that they are not comfortable bathing together anymore. Pay attention to clues such as being unwilling to undress in front of each other, resisting bath time or seeming embarrassed; this is a signal that the time for shared baths has come to an end. And if you find that you are uncomfortable bathing or showering with your children before they are, you can simply tell them 'Now that you're growing up, it's time for you to bathe alone'—and then just stop."

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My bigger question though is at what age do I stop worrying that I'm doing something wrong that will turn my kids into serial killers, drug addicts or online shopping addicts? When do we get to just chill? When do we just let the answer organically appear and simply make sense "just because"?

As for this choice to bathe with the kid, I'm done questioning. I'm positive I'll be out way before the first sign of pubic hair, anyway. And I have a feeling that this year is our last hurrah because my bathtub is small and my son will lose interest in playing hairdresser and move on to other things. But for now, I'll take the free hair wash and conditioning treatment while I can.

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