The Shower Problem – UPDATE

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After reading all of your comments on yesterday’s post, and on Facebook, and much (much!) debate and discussion, my husband and I made a decision.

This morning, he went to the Superintendent of Schools, and told him that at home, we teach our daughter that her body is sacred and private, and no one has the right to look at or touch her without her permission. Therefore, if she doesn’t want to strip naked and take a shower with her peers, she doesn’t have to, and maybe it’s time for this policy to be re-examined.

He also pointed out that we live in the age of social media, when everyone and their brother has a cell phone capable of taking video, and anything can be posted on the internet. So, why do we still think it’s appropriate to expect our young children to take their clothes off at school?

The superintendent listened to his concerns, and said that he would talk to the principal, and the P.E. teachers about what the policy entails, but my husband said that Bee will NOT be showering next year if she doesn’t want to, and he expects that she will still pass P.E.

I just LOVE that man! He is a fierce protector of his wife and children.

The Bible is very clear about the shamefulness of exposing our bodies outside of marriage. As Christian parents, I think we have both the expectation, and the right, to insist that our daughter be allowed to preserve her modesty.

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Heather is a minimalist in love with a recovering packrat. 7 years ago, she and her husband sold pretty much anything that wasn't nailed down in order to pay off their mortgage, and they've been living happily debt-free ever since. They have 3 hilarious little kids who were conceived with the help of in vitro fertilization, and they haven't had a good night's sleep in the last decade. Heather is an anglophile who loves all things British, and spends her free time looking at real estate listings in Cornwall. Every day, she and her family work toward a simpler, more meaningful life. Some days are awesome, some are disastrous, and you can read about all of them here.

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42 comments… add one

  1. Twintalk2 January 13, 2012, 4:08 pm

    Stand up for what is right.  There is too much lack of modesty in our world.  Now I don’t mean that you have to wear a burka but people have no sense any more about moral values.  You go girl.

    Reply
  2. Groenewegenk January 13, 2012, 4:08 pm

    AMEN! You guys are GREAT parents. I am so relieved for your daughter and she will remember this for the rest of her life. Men who stand up for their daughters proved such an awesome example of what a husband/daddy should be like. Good for you guys!!!!!

    Reply
  3. Bronwen Masemann January 13, 2012, 4:16 pm

    While I am sure that for you the religious argument is the strongest one (and rightly so, based on your beliefs), I am sure that other kids and parents will be relieved if this policy changes, regardless of their reason for not wanting to be nude in front of almost-strangers. I did not have to shower after gym until grade 10, and I went to a quite small highschool where most of the girls were friends. I was also not particularly shy about it, so if I needed to shower I just did it in the public area, which was less of a hassle for me. However, I have NEVER been in a school or public pool where a private option was not available, and my twin sister, who is more modestly inclined than me, would generally take it. I think this is the key point – privacy should always be an option when it comes to our own bodies.

    Reply
  4. Brittany January 13, 2012, 4:45 pm

    Kudos to your husband and you for standing up for your daughter! When I was in middle school, we had a similar dress out policy for PE. Being shy and uncomfortable with the policy, I would wait for a dressing stall or bathroom to come open so I could change into PE clothes in private. MY PE coach refused to recognize my dress out clothes (I changed into a more modest outfit than the recommended tank top and jersey shorts) and marked me absent every day for being 5 minutes late. A quarter of the way into the semester, the coach showed us our grades, and I was failing! He had many times not let me participate for not being dressed out, but I had no idea he was giving me zeroes every day for participation and attendance. My dad was at the school the next day, and the principal was appalled at the coach’s decision! Needless to say, I didn’t have a problem with that class anymore, nor did I have that coach for the rest of my years at the school.

    Reply
  5. Abs January 13, 2012, 4:46 pm

    I never understood why if showering is required that they made them so public (obviously for cost reasons).  When my mom was in high school she had to shower but by the time I got there they phased out the rule.  Our showers literally look like a horse ring.  there were 8 wedge showers in a circle (like a pizza) and a curtain outside of them.  
    I don’t understand why they didn’t make 8 shower stalls with a private changing area in front with a door that locks (like in a pool area).  
    I understand the smell issue, I really, especially when kids are hitting puberty or it’s really hot out.  But they need to make the shower situation less unnerving and more private to be able to enforce the rule.  I agree that our bodies are private and we shouldn’t be FORCED to be humiliated over them.
    I also worried that Bee would be even more subject to teasing because she’s a whole year younger than the other girls.  
    I’m glad you and your husband decided to put your foot down and refuse to allow this to continue.
    Our bodies are nothing to be shameful about when we respect them and treat them properly. But that doesn’t give anyone the right to force us to parade them and subject ourselves to humiliation over it.

    Reply
  6. Allison Kneib January 13, 2012, 4:54 pm

    Woo hoo! What a great father.  As one of three daughters, my dad has that “fierce protector” attitude as well.  What a great thing to teach your children.  Made me proud that you’re a “friend” even if all you know of me is that I read your blog. :-)

    Reply
  7. Kat83_01 January 13, 2012, 5:04 pm

    I think you gave words to a lot of young girls and parents who may have been afraid to speak their mind. We are so often taught to not question rules and authority and in this class it was needed. There is enough pressure on young children these days and this was such an unneeded stress. Kudos to you and your husband for standing up for your baby girl. I hope to be the same kind of parent.

    Reply
  8. Leslie January 13, 2012, 5:23 pm

    I think that is awesome that your husband stood up for his daughter’s privacy, and it will probably elevate you both to saint status in Bee’s eyes.  I would have died of embarassment had I been forced to shower in the open during school.  I was already picked on for developing early, and I would have rather taken an F for the class than take a public shower.

    And I agree with the other poster – why can schools not make their showers to resemble those at community pools and gyms?  Surely it would not be too expensive to install some stall or cinder block walls and a curtain?

    Reply
  9. Amy January 13, 2012, 5:37 pm

    I agree.  Your hubby ROCKS!  I never even thought about school showers until this post but I do recall my P.E. experiences about it.  Actually it was very fair.  I went to a private elementary and high school.  We were not required to shower at either place.  Actually I don’t think the elementary school even had showers available for us :).  Now in high school there were showers (the locker room look almost identical to the one in the movie Carrie so no way in heck was I stepping one foot in that shower area) but thankfully showering was always an option never a requirement.  I know my husband (he went to public school) was required to shower and he hated it.  I think he just wet his hair under the drinking fountain because the coach would check everyone’s hair to make sure they showered.  LOL!  Anyway, good to know and I plan to be kickin’ a little bootie for my kids once this issue comes around for them :).  
    I have to tell you that last night I had a dream about you!  We were driving around in a very tiny red MGB that you had rented.  You were driving me around and I was telling you all the organizational stuff I learned from you.  LOL! Too funny!  

    Reply
    1. Anonymous January 13, 2012, 9:56 pm

      Other readers have told me that I turned up in their dreams, too! Funny!

      Reply
  10. MK Jorgenson January 13, 2012, 6:25 pm

    Good for you guys!  After I commented yesterday that nobody in my school followed the never-enforced shower rule, I remembered that one set of locker rooms in our school had individual stalls…maybe that’s something for the school to consider if they’re going to continue this policy?  Anyway, congrats on standing on your principles; I’m sure a lot of other parents (and kids!) will be relieved that somebody raised the issue.

    Reply
  11. Connie Butner January 13, 2012, 6:29 pm

    Good for you guys!!  I totally agree with you.  None of my kids shower at school and the older ones are in 11th grade, 8th grade and 6th grade.  They are just not comfortable doing so and they shouldn’t have to.  If they were adults, they would not be required to take a shower so why are the rules different for kids?

    I am so glad to hear of other parents who advocate for their kids!

    Reply
  12. Roxiedm January 13, 2012, 8:15 pm

    I am so glad that your husband and you stood up for your daughter. Oh how I wish more parents would.
    Your principal sounds like a reasonable person.  If after reading all the alligations of what was happening at Pen State for years is not enough of an eye opener I do not know what is….Our children are precious and they depend on us to take care of them and to protect them….Your husband ROCKS…

    Reply
  13. Anonymous January 13, 2012, 8:45 pm

    Bravo, Heather.  Your logical and reasonable arguments might empower some other parent to take the same stand.  At what other public place are 5th graders forced to be naked together?  I can’t image it at the doctor’s office, or swimming lessons (unless they choose to change in front of others), or dance class. If grooming is a concern, why can’t the kids freshen up with disposable moist towelette in the privacy of a bathroom stall?  Perhaps years ago when schools were small and the kids had tighter bonds, many of them being related as families were not as scattered, community showers made sense.  But it’s a different world with some unsavory influences affecting our kids at earlier and earlier ages.  I applaud your sense of reason and courage.

    Reply
    1. Anonymous January 13, 2012, 9:59 pm

      Thank you, Shelly. And several people have mentioned the cleansing wipes idea. I think I’ll bring that up when the superintendant calls.

      Reply
  14. Solange January 13, 2012, 9:20 pm

    Yay!!!! That is wonderful! What a fantastic husband you have :)

    Reply
  15. Bethany January 13, 2012, 9:31 pm

    Wow, your husband is awesome!  If her not showering in front of everyone is due to religious reasons, than I believe that they HAVE to honor your request.  Good for him for being diplomatic, but becoming forceful when it was necessary.  I hope that this situation is resolved easily for Bee.  Poor kid.  

    Reply
  16. A. Rose January 13, 2012, 9:47 pm

    first things first: you’re husband rocks at life. lol.  And I TOTALLY AGREE with you.  I am a little confused though.  When I was growing up the showers were separate, curtained, stalls.  We never “got naked” in front of anyone anymore than changing from regular clothes to gym clothes.  Which in seventh grade was emotionally trying for all.  But naked?  Never; I doubt the school is requiring that.  I think the superintendent is right to get some detail about what exactly is going on in the locker rooms.  Also – I read someone said the boys were the stinky ones; that’s true; but some girls have the WORST B.O. and showering after PE doesn’t cut it (I have a particular girl in mind that rode my bus…yak). 

    On the other hand – there are only a few days out of the year where middle school, or even high school P.E., for that matter, will cause you to break a sweat. LoL.  Today’s “PE” is a joke.  Now if they’re really worried about sweaty-stinkers they should be handing out baths after recess!  ha-ha!

    Well – best wishes to you.  I definitely don’t think anyone should be forced into showering at school if they don’t want to but I like that they have the option.  They should really be enforcing deodorant usage!  I never did it, not even in High School – I left practice and went home to shower.

    Reply
    1. Anonymous January 13, 2012, 9:54 pm

      When I was in school, there was a shower “room” with a bunch of shower heads mounted to the walls, and no curtains or dividers whatsoever. And you were required to get completely naked, and walk through the locker room with everybody gawking at you. My husband said this is how it was at his school too, so this is what we envisioned for Bee. We don’t know for sure though, because we haven’t actually been in the girls’ locker room at Bee’s school.

      Reply
      1. A. Rose January 15, 2012, 10:44 pm

        wow.  yeah.  that would be horrible. : /

        Reply
  17. Amber Spurlock January 13, 2012, 10:56 pm

    I think you both did a great thing by talking to a leader at the school. I went to a parochial school growing up and was never forced to shower after PE or even basketball games. To tell you the truth, I probably wouldn’t have if we were made to. One solution I can give for the sweat is maybe send some wipes with her. Playtext makes these great body wipes that smell great for those who workout and don’t have time to shower. Obviously have her wash her face first, arms, legs and other parts there after. =o)  I carry them with me when my 7 year old daughter is playing soccer and wipe her off. Great for dirt too!

    Reply
  18. Lissa Kristine Jorgensen January 13, 2012, 11:03 pm

    I’ve never needed to take showers at school (I’m 20)… and you better believe it wouldn’t have happened. It’s bad enough not being allowed to change in the bathroom stalls. It’s terrible. 

    Personally, I would give your daughter a new zippered pouch for gym class. Fill it with some roll-on or stick deodorant, a small pack of disposable wipes [for her body], some lotion, and some body spray (of course, she should be able to pick out the fragrances). That way, she’ll be able to freshen up without stripping naked in front of her peers. (You can even include baby powder if greasy hair is a problem after gym class and/or wipes specifically for her face). 
    I should also mention that I am absolutely mortified by the idea of showering in public… which is a problem since I know that I really do need to take advantage of shower at the gym on occasion. I do everything in my power to stay covered up (I’ll change in a bathroom stall if I have to).

    Reply
  19. Gina L January 14, 2012, 12:02 am

    I remember being mortified at that age too. The first elementary school I went to had no doors on the stalls so I refused to use the bathroom at school too. By the time I was in middle school I had had three back surgeries so I had scars that I was ashamed of and didn’t want any one to see or to ask questions about. I also had to wear a back brace so getting back into that contraption in front of an audience was another issue. I so wish that my parents would have gone to bat for me on this issue. Good for you!

    Reply
  20. Amynj January 14, 2012, 12:08 am

    Heather I am so relieved that this is what you decided to do. Although my children are very young, my husband and I discussed this issue.  It didn’t seem right to subject girls on the verge of puberty to a possibly humiliating experience.  Self esteem can be so fragile.  We need to foster our children’s self esteem while helping them become confident and self reliant. (with their clothes on!)

    Reply
  21. Braundk January 14, 2012, 12:15 am

    Kids are lucky if they get 10 minutes of actual exercise in a 45 minute PE class, do 10 year old really need a shower after that? I would NEVER allow this to be forced on my daughter at any age!

    Reply
  22. Gina January 14, 2012, 1:49 pm

    We never had to shower after gym in my town…not even in high school. Honestly, I don’t remember ever doing anything THAT strenuous that we would have been soaked in sweat afterwards!

    On the off chance that the School calls and says that Bee will be required to shower and they aren’t changing their policy (I think they ultimately will), I think a bathing suit and flip flops is the best idea.

    I’m going to play Devil’s Advocate a little bit here, because noone else has mentioned it. But perhaps this is one of the areas where skipping a grade is coming into play? I have to wonder if Bee was a year older when approaching this particular challenge, would she be so upset by it? Has she mentioned how the other girls in her class feel? That being said I agree that the policy should be changed…I just think that it’s important to remain aware that while Bee is mature, there are going to be times where it’s clear that she is not exactly the same age group as the other girls in her class…

    Reply
    1. Anonymous January 15, 2012, 1:11 am

      I don’t think so, Gina. I, and every other girl I knew, felt exactly the same about showering, even in high school. We all hated it, and dreaded it, and did absolutely anything to get out of it.

      Reply
  23. Meghan January 14, 2012, 4:04 pm

    I feel for your daughter because being a girl is so hard.  I worried about everything in school, making myself physically ill.  I’m so glad that your husband is strong and sets a wonderful example for your children! 

    I never thought about the cell phone thing.  That’s downright scary!

    Reply
  24. Toryisatalker January 14, 2012, 7:24 pm

    It is all women.  It wouldn’t harm her modesty at all.  You are teaching her to have bad hygiene and to be ashamed of herself.  I am Christian too and no man but my husband has seen me naked. But even my (christian) college had open showers in the dorms.

    Reply
    1. Anonymous January 15, 2012, 1:10 am

      I think you’re missing the point…this issue isn’t about hygiene. It’s about her right to keep her body private. She’s taught good hygiene habits at home, and being forced to shower in front of 10 other girls isn’t going to teach her anything. She’ll be so nervous and embarrassed that she’ll do just as I and all the other girls did in this situation – rush in, get a teensy bit wet so the teacher would THINK we showered, and run right back out.

      Furthermore, teaching her that her body is sacred and private is teaching her to VALUE herself highly – not to be ashamed of herself.

      Reply
      1. Bethelannyoder January 17, 2012, 4:29 pm

        I am also a Christian woman and I disagree completely with Toryisatalker. Making a young girl shower in front of 30 other girls is supposed to help her modesty? Isn’t ‘being modest’ being dressed?

        I also went to a christian college and would have never showered in front of anyone else. It didn’t teach me to be ashamed of my body, at all. It allowed me to preserve my body, my rights, and Biblical obligation to keep dressed. 

        Reply
  25. Pamela Seay @ Chaos Cottage January 14, 2012, 9:31 pm

    You guys are awesome parents!

    Reply
  26. Carrie in KS January 14, 2012, 10:25 pm

    Kudos to you & your husband for taking a stand on this issue of Bee’s privacy.  I would just add that in August before school begins, you send an email to the school Principal & PE teacher & remind him/her that your husband had a meeting with the Superintendent of Schools & note the date & time.  Reiterate that you support Bee’s right to privacy, that she does not have to shower after PE class & that you expect she will still get a passing grade in this class.

    This is January & unless there is a district wide change in the “shower policy” yet this school year, your husbands visit to the Superintendent might be forgotten/ignored in August.  A gentle reminder at the beginning of the 2012 – 13 school year of your support for Bee & no PE showers might be necessary.

    Kudos again on doing what is best for your daughter and possibly other young children in your area. 

    Reply
  27. JADP January 14, 2012, 11:29 pm

    BRAVO to you and your (AWESOME) husband for standing up for your child’s rights, listening to her feelings, and taking the time to deal with the issue!  BRAVO!!  Ps…  I started reading your blog a few months ago and LOVE it!  I’ve been slowly, but SURELY putting together my/our HMG!!  (Showering was never a requirement at my high school, but if it had been that would have felt very uncomfortable – no thank you!)  GO YOU GUYS!!!!!  I can feel Bee’s relief from here!!!

    Reply
  28. Kim Condra January 16, 2012, 2:57 am

    Awesome! 

    Reply
  29. Maggie January 16, 2012, 5:58 am

    I think that you and your husband gave your daughter two extremely important gifts: first, you showed her that you will come to her defense when something is very distressing and she can’t manage it on her own.  I think that teaching kids responsibility is important but there are situations that they, as children, are not emotionally capable of handling without the intervention of their parents.  Second, you minimized anguish she’s might feel about physical fitness.  Bad gym experiences can stick with someone well into adulthood and rob them of enjoyment they might feel in sports and exercise.  Yippee for putting your foot down!  I hope they re-examine their policy; I’m certain that many parents (whether they share your beliefs or not) don’t want their daughters to have to take communal showers and will be relieved be a policy change.

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  30. Wendy January 16, 2012, 2:48 pm

    My 5th grader is not required to shower after PE.  He is a boy, but I know he would hate it.  His school is K-8 so this is probably the policy for the older grades too.  Whew.  I know I took PE all through Jr High and High School and we were never required to shower.  The funny thing is, I would have been mortified to have to shower at school, however, I was also on the swim team, and all the girls showered and changed after every practice (6x / week) and we never thought anything of it!

    Reply
  31. Renata January 17, 2012, 7:28 am

    Hi Heather
    You are absolutely correct & good on you for taking it to the superintendant.  I hope they change that policy ~ how awful.  I know Ellie is already very careful about closing the door when she’s getting dressed ~ I can’t imagine how she would cope in Bee’s situation.
    Hope you are keeping well ~ been thinking of you.  Sorry I didn’t send a Christmas card this year ~ we had received some terrible news in early Dec & so I wasn’t up to Christmas cards this past Christmas.
    Have a wonderful week
    Blessings
    Renata:)

    Reply
  32. Nikki H. January 17, 2012, 6:26 pm

    Way to go for standing up for your daughter! At our school we had seperate stalls with curtains and I don’t think we even used those until high school.

    Reply
  33. salena January 19, 2012, 4:28 pm

    I believe most schools have individual curtained showers.  My school did.  Everyone that I knew in school that played after school sports used the locker room showers.  I understand how sensitive the issue can be.  When I joined the military it was the first time I had ever HAD to shower with 60 other women.  We just sucked it up and got in, did our business, and got out as quick as possible. 

    Reply
  34. Mary January 26, 2012, 5:49 am

    My guess is that the showers at your daughter’s school are probably in stalls. First of all, I think that most of the schools that still require students to shower have been updated to have stalls. Also, when I was in grade-school we didn’t even have a locker room, much less showers. I had never even heard of fifth graders having to shower in gym class. We didn’t have to start showering in gym class until the seventh grade. I think some schools didn’t require it until the ninth grade?
    My junior high and high schools were like you described, one big room with the showers 100% out in the open,  stalls or curtains or dividers of any kind.
    I guess it’s fortunate for me that I never never felt any embarrassment over school showers.
    To be honest, I don’t really see a connection between Christian values and locker room modesty. A perfect example is the fact that on more than one occasion I have seen our church pastor’s wife showering in the nude in the open showers in the ladies locker room at the local Y in my town. My mother is one of the most devout Christians I’ve ever known, and I remember that when I was a child she did not have any embarrassment with taking nude showers in the group showers when she would take my sister and I swimming at the Y.

    I hope things workout for your daughter!

    Reply
  35. Anonymous February 2, 2012, 7:07 pm

    This argument makes absolutely no sense. How is helping my daughter preserve her modesty “forcing” our religion on other people? Modesty is an admirable quality, and to be frank, I think that more girls should be taught to be modest, especially in a country where shows glorifying teen pregnancy are viewed as entertainment. And by the way – when you preface a statement with “don’t mean to be rude,” it means that you ARE being rude, and you know it.

    Reply

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