How naked is *too* naked? My toddler won't keep his clothes on.
I grew up in south Wales, where it’s not really practical to be naked. It’s damp, cold and windy. The beaches are beautiful, but stony over sandy, and much better with wellies and a cagoule than a simple birthday suit. And when we went on holiday to France and my parents took us on to a nudie beach, I kept on my one piece, an uptight little 8-year-old who found the whole thing quite embarrassing. Very British of me. Now I care much less. Having birthed two children, a large percentage of the East London NHS has seen various bits of me. At one point students were ushered in. I couldn’t have given less of a damn, the more help I could get with safely carrying and delivering the precious cargo, the better.
And as a result, ours is a naked house. Not the adults – ugh, no, nobody needs to see that outside of the bedroom. And even there we have a dimmer switch. But the kids are at their happiest with their clothes off, little willies flapping, chunky bums and thighs toddling around the living room. And we are fine with that, and so we thought that it was only polite to instigate a “no bare bums on the sofa” rule, and figured that if they got cold they’d layer up.
(As an aside, when searching for an image for this piece I put “naked toddlers” into Google. I didn’t even think about what I was doing. What a wally. So, to the child protection agencies now monitoring my internet usage, I’m sorry, and I won’t do it again. Also, do you have an image I could use?!)
But how naked is too naked? Most of the photos of the kids at home show squidgy baby flesh and not much in the way of Gap Kids merchandise. When people ask to see a picture of the boys, I have to scroll through a ream of bum shots to get to one of them in the park with a jumper on. The boys are going to kill me for this peach-coloured slide show when they are older.
I adore their body confidence. No sucking in of tummies. Crouching down, bum in the air, to examine a raisin on the floor (don’t eat it. It might be from the pre-Trump era. I must hoover more). Flexing little fat fingers and wiggling to music. We could learn so much from two-year olds. Wobbly naked bits, fat and gorgeous. Why are my wobbly naked bits not so delightful?! An enthusiastic tug on the todger, with an enthusiasm that makes my husband wince. Careful of that pal, you’ll need it when you are older. This body knowledge leads to embarrassing moments. A highlight was on the no 8 bus, when the eldest started identifying men and women. And then saying “She doesn’t have a willy mummy. But he does. And he does.” And pointing. And asking me to confirm that he was right. Awkward.
But at some point decorum hits, and they start shutting the bathroom door. They start demanding a favourite t-shirt. I’m hopeful that the willy/poo/fart obsession will stop at some point too, but no signs of that yet. And what will remain of this toddler body confidence, the comfort they have within their bodies, and the don’t-give-a-monkeys attitude towards letting it all hang out?
The focus on women’s bodies by the press, from Hollywood, and from advertising is immense and has been talked about in detail. But it’s spread to boys as well. One skinny kid at my university used to wear tracksuit bottoms under his jeans to give himself the bulk that hours at the gym couldn’t add. He must have been hot, uncomfortable, and quietly desperate to change his body. I have two sons, and genetically it is very unlikely that they will be skinny. Sorry kids. But I hope the focus is not on what they look like, but what they achieve. How kind they are. Do they put the rubbish out and recycle their plastics?! And I really hope that growing up in a naked house means that they are comfortable in their bodies, but also that they are aware of them. That we can teach them that you need both crisps and kale in your diet. That if you exercise your body rewards you with less creaks and aches (I’m at the age where I can’t get up off the sofa without a noise, a kind of whooshing exhalation. FFS, I’m in my 30s! It’s downhill from here on in.) That being able to touch your toes, perform a downward dog, catch a ball and throw it back, leg it for the bus, dance til dawn… these are all things that make life better. (I am trying to keep this clean, because my mum reads it, but let’s not forget that being fit and healthy makes what you do in the bedroom better as well.)
So we will continue to keep the heating on, because they refuse to wear a stitch. And we will praise their physical achievements, applaud the eating of veg, and ever-so-gently humiliate them with a gallery of photos when they misbehave as teens. Should keep them out of the booze cupboard at the least.