My 3-year-old was naked in the backyard. She didn’t go out there that way, naturally. My wife sent her out in a Peppa Pig swimming suit and a Disney Princesses life vest. She didn’t need the vest. She was only playing in the sprinkler, but she insisted on wearing it. Ten minutes after sending her out with her two older siblings, my son came into the kitchen to announce, “Aspen is naked again.”
He giggled while Mel and I rolled our eyes. We have a fenced-in backyard, so being naked in the backyard really isn’t all that much different from her being naked in the house. And I will admit that there was a time when we used to run outside and wrangle her back into clothing only for her to strip down again moments later.
But ultimately, life with a nudist child means getting your child dressed 15 or 20 times a day, only to find her naked, once again, your lower back and arms exhausted from fighting the squirmy child back into pants. It looks like creative solutions such as putting a 3-year-old into a onesie each morning so you have something to pin her clothing to. It looks like finding underwear in the backyard, the front yard, the living room, and really anywhere you never expected to find underwear.
When your child is a nudist, you stop expecting decency. You forgo all expectations of seeing your child’s little bum covered in a cute pair of pants and stop batting an eye when you see her full moon run down a church hallway. Nudity becomes your default, your regular, your usual. It becomes so ubiquitous that until someone draws attention to the nudity, you don’t notice it.
This isn’t to say that all three of my children have been nudists. The older two, they would often run out of the bathtub like naked slippery seals and dance a little jig in the living room. But once told to put on clothing, they didn’t put up too much of a fight. But with our youngest, shame is obviously something we are going to have to nurture to a certain degree because nature didn’t grant her any at all.
She has stripped down at the park, in the van, at Target, at grandma’s, at McDonald’s, and a million other places. I have sat at the edge of my bed at night with lower-back pain brought on by hunching down several times that day to fight her back into clothing.
I’m 90% sure she will eventually figure it out and develop a need to wear clothing. But in the meantime, it feels like I get the opportunity to feel shame for both of us. When Aspen gets naked, I’m the one with the red face, and she’s the one laughing.
Luckily, she has a cute little bum and a plump, adorable toddler stomach. There’s something really charming about seeing her streak across our living room, laughing, her little legs moving a mile a minute. And I will admit, as embarrassing as it can be to stop shopping and fight your child back into clothing, you can’t help but think back on that moment when she broke from her jeans and T-shirt, and into her natural state, and smile. Across her face was nothing but joy. She was natural and content, and nothing, and I mean nothing, was going to bring her down except one of her parents putting her back into clothing.
There are moments when we just stop fighting and let her get in the buff at home, or in the yard, when it’s not a big deal. But grocery stores, Target, and other public locations require clothing, regardless of her need for full-blown nudity at all times.
I have to assume that anyone with a child nudist can relate to all of this. It’s the simple reality of trying to teach your children when it’s appropriate, and not appropriate, to strip down to the buff.
And as crazy as it all sounds, I know that I will look back on this time in my parenting life with fondness, because as much as my face turns red each time Aspen strips down in public, I cannot help but laugh once it’s all over. Even now, as I’m writing, I’m smiling at the thought of that wild little pigtailed nudist fighting with every ounce of her strength to get naked.