Pre-people have no shame. A birthday suit is as good as any other set of clothes for young boys and emperors alike. Jack, still potty training, has found nudity to be a viable strategy for getting what’s in him out of him while sitting on his seat of ease.
Anecdotally, nudity among little boys is quite common. I had every intention of looking up scholarly articles or even other blog posts on the subject, but I refrained out of fear that searching for “nude young boys” would likely fetch the wrong sorts of websites and probably the eyes of law enforcement officials. You’ll have to do that on your own. I’ll just add that I’ve heard from quite a few other parents of boys that this is quite typical.
To begin with, the skin suit is what you begin with. Out of the womb you come, draped in nature’s fabric. It’s soft, disgustingly moist, and initially covered with fine hair, just to remind you that we are, in fact, mammals. Though that hair (called “lanugo” because babies get their own words for everything) eventually gives way to normal skin and hair, it’s still a clue from our DNA that clothing remains optional, decency notwithstanding. Harper cares not a single bit whether she’s bedecked in ribbons and lace or in nothing but her pale flesh and ninny bumps.* Jack, four years her senior, wears clothing mostly because we insist upon it, rather than because he needs to or wants to. Joshua, the closest thing I’ve ever seen in real life to a Never Nude, is only naked for as long as it takes to get a bath and into pajamas. I can (and will) write about his many neuroses and anxieties another time, but I will point out here that he has always been this way — he not once chose to be without clothes for any stretch of time.
Jack only recently discovered that nudity is an option. As he’s been (finally) learning to use the bathroom, he’s grown frustrated with constantly pulling up and pulling down** his breeches. His natural solution is a most natural solution indeed. He casts aside his trousers and training pants and sits. We have no problem with this (for now). If that gets his tiny heiny across the finish line, we’re all for it. When he finishes his business, he comes to find us, still au natural, and frequently missing additional clothing like his shirt or socks.
What has truly amazed us is the facility with which he can strip to his bare nothings. Just this afternoon, he zipped back to the bathroom and reappeared fifteen seconds later wearing only a shirt. Though I’ve been working with him for literally years on dressing and undressing himself, this sudden amplification in his competence and confidence has been quite a surprise.
Motivating kids to do things is about 90% of whatever battle you’re trying to win. For Joshua, motivation to use the bathroom instead of his undies took the form of educational workbooks. Jack, being as dissimilar to his brother as he could be unless he were of a different species, cared not for workbooks. We tried stickers and candy, but none of these held his interest for long. We tried trips to the local bounce house but this was a bit too indefinite and delayed to have the necessary impact. We praised him extensively, but this, too, did little. In fact, he disliked it after a point, going so far as to whine loudly as soon as we started clapping and cheering. Our last desperation shot was the one most anathematic to our sensibilities.
Jack’s one great love in this world is Curious George. I think Jack recognizes a kindred soul in that monkey, bent toward hijinks and chaos despite a good heart. Jack will watch the animated Curious George TV show for as long as he draws breath. The world spins around him, but the whole of his being stops for however long he is permitted to watch. We are too sheltering, perhaps, but we firmly hold to a somewhat arbitrary limit of ten minutes of screen time per year of age for our kids. So for Jack, we’re content to let him watch 40 minutes of George, in this case, but no more. At least, until we got real tired of poop.
So we bent. We offered him a deal. If he sat on the potty for just five minutes, he could watch one George story (each episode contains two stories at about 12 minutes a piece). If he successfully peed or pooped, he could watch an entire episode. This was unlimited, so he could watch as much as he was willing to poop or pee. This worked well for a few days, but then he got tired of the song and dance and refused to sit any more, content to keep right on soiling himself.
So we broke. We offered him unlimited George while sitting on the potty. And though we felt truly ashamed and defeated in this near perfect surrender, he sat. He will sit almost indefinitely, so long as he can watch George. And here we are, a week or two into this new regime, and this boy has peed and pooped in that vile bucket more than he had in all the sticker regimes and candy juntas before it. He’s sitting there even as I type, still watching George.
Both of them totally naked.
*The term “ninny bumps” seems to be used by only a small handful of people on Jen’s side of the family. Referring to a young girl’s as-yet-undeveloped breasts, it’s a colorful bit of nonsense that somehow manages to perfectly capture the general contour of the land, as it were.
**Another not especially interesting quirk of English is that the act of pulling on one’s pants is the physical opposite of pulling off one’s pants, and yet the same verb “pull” is used for both, despite the latter being more of a push and in the opposite direction.