I came home last night to a raucous house of 100 percent premium grade boy, which meant they were chasing, gleefully carousing with laughter, and upon my arrival giving great big boy hugs. As I held my two-year-old and took in his mischievous grin, I asked, “Martyn, where are your pants?”
And in his boyish broken English he replied, sheepishly, “In da wiving woom. I’m nakey daddy.” Ah, yes, you are nakey dear son. Run along, now. Get some pants on, thank you. That’s something as a parent you never quite get over, and you meet that joyful barebottomedness with a combination of smirking delight and eye rolling disbelief.
We are all aware of that famous nightmare, of waking up in a public place without any clothes on and the great trauma of that scene. I am almost certain that, at this stage in their lives, my children know none of it.
For there you are in a parking lot, in your back yard, or at a local play area, and a fellow parent or passerby so kindly points out to you that your son is relieving himself against a car, tree, or swing set. Pants at ankles, full stream ahead, no restraint.
Half of you is proud (if you’re a father); the other half is thoroughly embarrassed. The dad in you feels some strong sense of machismo that your son, like a wild beast, is marking his territory unashamedly. Then, in the sudden awareness that he is a human and you’re surrounded by soccer moms and Toyota Siennas and wet wipes and all other things domesticated, you shrink back in socialized shame.
In any case, as adults we have to share some amazement over this child-like attribute, namely, their lacking any sense of being exposed before others that many times consumes us and constrains us to a fearful existence of inaction or uncertainty. They are unafraid, brave little wild men that in some ways we wish we could be (emphasis on some. If you get ticketed for peeing in a public place, don’t blame me).
The only exception to this rule that I’ve seen is pre-race at the mini-marathon. Runners somehow shed their inhibition for publicly indecent exposure and clamber behind any bush they can find to relieve themselves. Sometimes there aren’t any bushes involved. Any somehow nobody seems to have a problem with it.
At Benjamin’s birthday party, he received a mock football uniform. So what does he do, right there in the middle of a room full of people whose eyes are all on him? He strips, dangit, to try it on. Whoa there, Tiger, let’s pull those pants back up.
We actually have to teach them to cover themselves, and as they grow older it will become more natural to do so. But it’s as if, for a brief time, they have this Edenic, shameless exuberance in their nakedness. They really are unclothed and unashamed.
Their great joy in our home is, after exiting the bathtub, to run around the house shouting with glad songs of mirth, “Naked baby alert! Naked baby alert!” It’s tradition, just like overeating at Thanksgiving and Broncos football in the fall.
Maybe, post-glorification, we’ll abound in our sinless perfection again like that. Maybe we’ll dance like David before the King, like children unashamed before their Father. I can tell you now, if this is a glimpse of that day, a father takes great delight in the innocent jubilance of his children.
So it is from three feet that they do not fear their nakedness.