A Garden, Locked

July 20, 2009

Emilia, as I’ve noted here before, is a nudist. She is an enthusiastic and committed nudist, the sort of nudist who exhorts others to join her in her worship of nature. Don’t you like taking your clothes off? she’ll ask as she discards her underpants. Don’t you like being naked?

mud trollop

Being naked is very nice, I always say. But so is being clothed. I don’t add that the further one’s boobs sag in the absence of a bra, the more appealing is the state of clothedness. She has plenty of time to learn that for herself.

I like naked better, she invariably replies. I like being naked LOTS better.

I like that Emilia likes being naked. Her comfort in her own skin – and the joy that she experiences when she feels the play of wind or grass or sunlight or dirt upon that skin – is a reminder that our bodies are miracles of both function and form and that their function and form are sometimes best appreciated in their natural state. This is something that I have trouble remembering in my relationship with my own body, as I bind it and cover it and fret over it. I watch Emilia, sometimes, as she frolics, naked, with utter abandon, and envy her obliviousness to the cultural baggage that grown-ups – most grown-ups – grown-ups like me – attach to bodies. (Thank you, New York Times, for – ahem – laying bare this baggage as it pertains to children. Good to know that such venerable purveyors of news as yourselves are worried about the dangers that attend to bare preschooler skin.)

It’s this obliviousness, this innocence, that cements my resolve to do as little as possible to discourage her love of her own private state of nature. She’s my perfect little noble savage, a creature unencumbered by (better, perhaps, to say, a creature who does not feel, does not notice the encumbrance of) the chains of social propriety, the chains that will, inevitably (that do, now), bind her to a social world in which the rules dictate that one must always keeps one’s bottom covered. Her joy in her experience of freedom is a joy to me, and because it is a freedom that is in so many respects so short-lived, I want her to enjoy it while she can. There is time enough for her feel the constraints of modesty and shame; this is her time for knowing the joys of shamelessness.

mud trollop IIThis is not to say, of course, that I encourage or even allow such abandon outside of her own private state of nature: this state of nature is, for her, just that – private. She knows that she must wear clothes to preschool and to the supermarket and in the front yard; she knows, already, that social life is clothed life, that the kinds of freedoms that we enjoy in private do not always extend to the public, that the rules are different, are more restrictive, out there. She knows already that there’s no such thing as absolute freedom, that freedom inside and freedom outside are two very different things, and that just because one wants to be free, to act freely, in every sphere, does not mean that one is free. She understands that although her natural condition is freedom, she is still restricted by chains, whether those be the chains imposed by Mommy and Daddy, or the chains imposed by the world outside. She understands (mostly) that those chains are necessary, even good.

But she does not understand, yet, that the weight of those chains can, and probably will, restrict her joy in such things as the kiss of sun on bare skin and the gentle lash of wind on one’s bottom and the tickle of dirt in one’s navel. She does not – yet? – know that her body, the body that is the vehicle of such unfettered pleasure, may – will? – become something strange and embarrassing and shameful. She has not yet learned that clothing is, for adults, something more than just a uniform to be worn in daily social life,  more than just decoration applied to the purpose of parading about the public sphere – that it is also (mostly?) a protective barrier that shields us from our own and others’ anxieties about our natural state. She has not yet learned that we grown-ups hide our bodies because there is so much about our bodies that cause us fear. She has not yet learned to be be afraid or ashamed or anxious about her body. And I would love to forestall this lesson for her, would love to find some way to guarantee that she never learn it, but I doubt that I can, and so I simply try to delay it as long as possible.

And I do this by whispering, whenever she asks, whenever I can: yes, yes, my love, naked is wonderful, your body is wonderful, you are wonderful.


mud trollop on the run

Do your children run free in their state of nature? Or do they – or you – prefer their bottoms covered? I wouldn’t condemn anyone who prefers to not let their children run naked. My husband is not as comfortable as I with the persistent nudity, nor are some other well-loved adults in Emilia’s life. So although I would bristle at anyone who chastised Emilia – or me – for her love of her natural state, I wouldn’t begrudge anyone to feel or act differently with their own children.

That said, naked is better. Emilia says so.

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    consuelo bernardi July 20, 2009 at 1:31 pm

    Beautifully written.
    To be that age again. No inhibitions. Completely free.

    Zaren July 20, 2009 at 1:36 pm

    And she does seem to enjoy a natural sunscreen as well :) Wonderful writing, as always.

    nic @mybottlesup July 20, 2009 at 1:36 pm

    so jealous… and so loving the uplifting tone of this post.

    Weston-super-Mum July 20, 2009 at 1:41 pm

    Beautiful – both your writing and Emilia delight in her own body. Thank you
    .-= Weston-super-Mum´s last blog ..Part-ay! =-.

    Katherine July 20, 2009 at 1:48 pm

    Wonderfully worded! Such a little imp! She has a beautiful smile and such a joy for life.

    Della July 20, 2009 at 2:01 pm

    A nymph!
    .-= Della´s last blog ..Hangover Monday =-.

    Ginger July 20, 2009 at 2:12 pm

    Just last night, in the presence of quite a few friends I got a laugh when I told my three year old “Whenever we are not at home we have to keep our bummies covered.” And I felt a pang for her not getting to be herself at that very moment. However, I am certain there are not enough SPFs in any sunscreen to protect her lily white bum.

    Beautiful post, as always!
    .-= Ginger´s last blog ..Haiku Friday – my summer look =-.

    Her Bad Mother July 20, 2009 at 4:01 pm

    Yes, lily-white bummies DO need sun protection. If they’re not coated in mud ;)

    Melissa Wardy July 20, 2009 at 2:30 pm

    Great piece. My own 3yr old Amelia is the very same way. We jumped a MAJOR hurdle today -she kept her clothes on at summer camp.
    That last picture of Emilia shows her so full of life and joy — how precious in a world were our girls have that natural love of their bodies mentally beaten out of them.
    Too bad you guys are so far north…our little “Nakey’s” could have a playdate!

    C @ Kid Things July 20, 2009 at 2:56 pm

    I used to run around my neighborhood as a young child without a shirt on, like a boy. That just seems bizarre to me now.
    .-= C @ Kid Things´s last blog ..The Life of a Train Conductor =-.

    Angel Smith July 20, 2009 at 3:48 pm

    My youngest is a nudie. She is running around the house in just her undies right now. It doesn’t bother me much, but she does have older brothers so we insist she wear panties, at least.
    .-= Angel Smith´s last blog ..Twenty Things…part one =-.

    Andrea July 20, 2009 at 4:15 pm

    Post-potty training he can revel in his naked beauty. Until then, inside is diaper time. Heart-warming post. Thank you.

    Mandi Bone July 20, 2009 at 4:19 pm

    My girls are nudists.Amelia sleeps naked because she says”her butt can not breathe in underpants at night”

    Her Bad Mother July 21, 2009 at 8:55 pm

    My Emilia claims that her ‘pachina’ can’t breathe.

    Which, fair enough.

    norm July 20, 2009 at 4:24 pm

    Hee! Yeah, my kids were complete nudists. At some point they started getting hinky about bugs, so then they started to wear underpants. Then they started going to school, and everything went to heck. Incidentally they’ve worn clothes ever since.

    singlemomsong July 20, 2009 at 5:46 pm

    My daughter loves to be naked too! When friends come over to play at her house, she usually takes off her clothes and will encourage them to do so also.It is precious. I, like you, prefer that she enjoy this time for what it is, because it will be over all too soon. Incidently, I hate the fact that predators in the world have created a sense of fear around this, for all of us! I’m even afraid to post pictures of her on the web…

    Sheila July 20, 2009 at 6:00 pm

    Beautifully written, aIs usual. I LOVE to be naked. If I am home alone, I am usually nude.

    Mac and Cheese July 20, 2009 at 6:16 pm

    We back onto a public area, where we can be seen, so no, no nudies here. I’m actually teaching modesty now, as I don’t like her changing into her bathing suit in front of people I don’t know.
    .-= Mac and Cheese´s last blog ..I Give Up =-.

    hayley July 20, 2009 at 6:19 pm

    First time I’m posting here, and I’m cracking up, because I have a similar blog post. Nothing better than a nude child in the grass.
    .-= hayley ´s last blog ..An Open Letter To My Core (AKA, My Mummy Tummy) =-.

    Lynn @ Walking With Scissors July 20, 2009 at 6:30 pm

    My kiddos love running around the house in their underwear. My oldest (just turned 7) still cavorts in his Spidey undies at home. During the school year, he comes in the house, takes off his coat and shoes and then proceeds to take off his pants and shirt (sometimes socks). My main concern is getting him to take the clothes to the laundry basket and not leave them at the door…
    .-= Lynn @ Walking With Scissors´s last blog ..Hard Time & Nursery Rhymes (A Review) =-.

    sarah July 20, 2009 at 7:10 pm

    What a great post. My 3 year old adores being “nakey nudie”.

    baltimoregal July 20, 2009 at 7:16 pm

    AGREED. Apparently I was quite the nudist as a child and I am very modest now- have been for as long as I can remember. It’ll probably wear off!

    MommaSunshine July 20, 2009 at 7:16 pm

    Beautiful post.

    Both of my girls (they are now 4 and 6) went through “nudist phases”. My (now ex) husband and I completely encouraged this – we wanted them to enjoy that freedom while it lasted. It’s actually a little sad for me at this point that they’re no longer as persistent and free with their bodies – it would seem that this stage of their lives, like so many others, was all too fleeting.
    .-= MommaSunshine´s last blog ..We Have a Winner….. =-.

    Glamour Girl July 20, 2009 at 7:22 pm

    I honestly cannot tell you how much I enjoyed this post. I’m having an emotional day. And you reset my center. This is, afterall….what life is truly about. Thank you.
    .-= Glamour Girl´s last blog ..Funny Moment =-.

    the5thEl3m3nt July 20, 2009 at 7:23 pm

    wow. just wow.

    Jen Ambrose July 20, 2009 at 7:23 pm

    Both my kids just love to be naked. We’ve had to frequently explain the boundaries of what is appropriate for outside, inside, with certain members of family, with immediate family, or by your lonesome in your room.
    .-= Jen Ambrose´s last blog ..This Just In: Moving Still Not Fun =-.

    MrsDesperate July 20, 2009 at 7:25 pm

    My kids are nudists too, and come from a family with a long line of nudists. I think it’s all part of the joy and innocence of childhood. They’re also so uninhibited when it comes to putting on their swimmers – no covering up with towels like the grown-ups. I love their pride and confidence in their strong little bodies, and I encourage it too, because sadly, it won’t last forever.
    .-= MrsDesperate´s last blog ..Sightseeing and shopping in the Near-Nicky-Nude =-.

    Rashel July 20, 2009 at 8:02 pm

    This is exactly why I let and even encourage my children to be naked. Not necessarily in public but not always privately, either. Naked is beautiful. And I do believe she will keep this love of her body with her. She does not have the “chains” of always being told to cover up, to hide herself away. You are giving her freedom – what more could a child need?

    Shannon July 20, 2009 at 9:12 pm

    I make sure to warn people regularly that ‘our house is a clothing optional campus’ at least for kids… we live on a ‘private road’ that we share with neighbors who have been very gracious in shielding their eyes as they drive through our front yard with naked children frolicking… bike riding… swimming… I am so grateful to have a safe cocoon for my children to be comfortable in their nudity, but also to learn that not everyone is as comfortable with it as they are… they have no shame (yet) thankfully and they are some of the oldest nudists I know…(8 & 6) at least here in our area… these days are fleeting, and all too soon there will be no bare booty shaking on my deck, but until then we will all revel in the joy of ‘Nakey-Time!’

    Maria July 20, 2009 at 9:30 pm

    As always, I admire your balls, lady. I wish we didn’t live in a world where it takes balls to write a post like this though.
    .-= Maria´s last blog ..drinking the kool-aid =-.

    April July 20, 2009 at 9:50 pm

    my boys LOVE to be nekkid! and i absolutely allow it whenever it’s appropriate (i.e. somewhere i won’t get arrested for allowing a couple little nekkid boys loose. haha!). neither of them is potty trained, so it’s not always the neatest thing, but generally they like to be bare on the back patio, so it can all be rinsed later :-) my husband is totally fine with their love of nudity, but i have a habit of forgetting not everyone is ok with it… my brother-in-law gets very upset when they strip down in front of him. ah well… he’ll get over it. he’s about to be a dad, so he’ll be seeing a lot of bare baby bottoms.
    .-= April´s last blog ..Sunday Citar… on Monday. =-.

    Shannon, too July 20, 2009 at 10:00 pm

    It’s funny, Maryn came out of the womb modest. As soon as she could speak, she asked to sleep with a shirt on. Conner, on the other hand, came out swinging on a vine. The child only puts clothes on for company (mostly) or to go somewhere – or possibly if she’s got a new dress you might see her clothed for a day or so. They’ve got the same parents, for heaven’s sake. Go figure…. I agree with Emilia, naked is better (though of course I prefer no one see me that way at this point….).

    Amanda July 20, 2009 at 10:24 pm

    I kind of wish my son did like being naked – though at least this way we never had any horrific diaperless crib accidents. He hates having his clothes off, even socks. He hates the change from long sleeves/pants to short sleeves/pants – and also the change the other way in the fall.

    I think I understand where he’s coming from. Once I get my clothes on for the day, I don’t want to change them at all; trying things on feels indescribably yucky. He just takes it a step farther; he doesn’t want to change his clothing style, once he has it on for the season.

    Amo July 20, 2009 at 11:04 pm

    We took our sons (5 and 3) to visit their grandmother in her ‘clothing-optional community’ in FL. My oldest was a bit uncomfortable at first seeing the older (retirees) nude, but got to where he was okay with it. He never wanted to go swimming though, knowing he had to be naked. This saddened me. I was a bit surprised that at such a young age, he would realize that he needed to wear clothing.

    The three year old, was quite comfortable with the entire experience and even made some comments that will never be forgotten, “Momma, where do the police men carry their guns?”

    Her Bad Mother July 21, 2009 at 8:56 pm

    Laughing. OUT LOUD.

    Stone Fox July 20, 2009 at 11:58 pm

    two of my little ones (20 months and 4 years) love to be little nakey-bums. i have been careful to teach them the proper names for all their parts, and to use those proper names no matter what company we are in. i have encouraged my son to take pride in his body, naked or clothed.

    i was not taught “modesty” by my mother; i was taught shame – or at very least, embarassment – and i don’t think she did it purposely. i believe that is how she was raised. in my experience, that is how most women were raised. i will not pass that burden of shame onto my kids.
    .-= Stone Fox´s last blog ..Not *My* Child! Monday =-.

    Stone Fox July 20, 2009 at 11:59 pm

    wonderful post, by the way. i love the last picture the most; she looks so beautiful.
    .-= Stone Fox´s last blog ..Not *My* Child! Monday =-.

    Alana July 21, 2009 at 12:29 am

    I love that your daughter runs around in her birthday suit! I’ve seen pictures and heard stories of my own nudist tendencies. Until I had a daughter of my own, I probably wouldn’t have given it another thought.

    I went to a beach recently (in San Francisco) and saw a group of children playing in the sand. They had hats and shirts on but no bottoms! I’m sure because all the bottoms do is collect sand. I didn’t mind, but I’m still unsure how I’ll behave when my own daughter is old enough to run around naked.

    All this to say, I love that you are expressing this as something to think about. We do worry too much and should encourage the innocence and joy for as long as possible.

    Helen July 21, 2009 at 9:04 am

    Your pictures are fantastic in catching her unbridled joy!
    .-= Helen´s last blog ..Introducing Me! =-.

    Some1s_sista July 21, 2009 at 9:06 am

    I call my 2yo Nudie McNaked. She loves being au naturale. Usually i find her in her crib completely nude. Her favorite blanket is silk on one side and she likes feel of it on her skin. Her Nana, not so comfortable with the nudiness bought her silk jammies, and she does keep those on. But I don’t mind letting her run around naked, like you say, we can only do it for so long before other expectations make it unacceptable.

    ali July 21, 2009 at 9:08 am

    will loves to be naked, and he went through a phase were he was naked more than dressed, and i was cool with that, my husband and his family were not, and we have settled into a happy medium of put some underpants on. but when it is just us at home, and he is naked, I let him run around that way. Ben also loves to be naked, but, then he pees on the floor!

    Susan July 21, 2009 at 9:11 am

    My son, 4, loves to be naked. We have child safety covers over the doorknobs now because he would get up and just go outside in the mornings!

    He especially loves answering the door naked. Both the UPS man and the Fedex man have seen his naked bum.
    .-= Susan´s last blog ..I’ve been wronged! =-.

    Her Bad Mother July 21, 2009 at 8:58 pm

    We have the Nude Escapee problem here, too – we try to be very strict about the no-exiting-front-door-without-pants rule, but it doesn’t always stick.

    Earth_Mommy July 21, 2009 at 9:13 am

    There are stories in my family of me running around nakkid outside all the time lol After my first daughter, I still would sleep nakkid. After the next two girls….nope, gotta cover the flab all up lol

    Our 2yo runs around outside nakkid all the time – we live in the country, with few neighbors, in a big lot where there is privacy for her to do so. She will stip down faster than you can blink lol Seems to be rubbing off on the 1yo, as she has learned how to ditch her nappy. Once she learned how to stip herself, we’ll have two nakkid babies :)
    .-= Earth_Mommy´s last blog ..Weekly Winners =-.

    Cat July 21, 2009 at 9:20 am

    Lovely post. The pics make me want to go make a mud puddle in the backyard and play with my son.
    .-= Cat´s last blog ..Baby Cheeks =-.

    RuthWells July 21, 2009 at 9:33 am

    Good for you, and good for Emilia. You are giving her a great gift — one I wish my mother had given me.
    .-= RuthWells´s last blog ..He Does Have His Good Points =-.

    jessicabhowell July 21, 2009 at 9:41 am

    As usual, a FANTASTIC post. Go Mom and go Emilia!
    .-= jessicabhowell´s last blog ..And I Wonder Where My Time Goes =-.

    Jo July 21, 2009 at 9:48 am

    During the years we’ve had to schedule “nakey time” in order to convince the little loves that they had to wear clothes in public. “Honey, you need to put your shirt on now because we are going to the store. You can have nakey time as soon as we get home.”

    .-= Jo´s last blog ..MckBrunch! =-.

    Erin July 21, 2009 at 12:22 pm

    It’s sad and disturbing to me that having one’s children naked is such an issue, that we fear public censure, or even a call to the police, for allowing our kids to run naked around their house (even if the house is on a non-private street). Who is offended by the sight of a naked child? I understand the importance of teaching them that clothes must be worn Outside in public places, if only as part of a general understanding of public comportment versus private. But really the extent to which we (as a culture) fear, dislike, and sexualize our bodies makes me sad. (thinking about this makes me think of an earlier post here at HBM about people being offended at the sight of a little girl pretending to breast feed her doll.)

    Her Bad Mother July 21, 2009 at 8:59 pm

    I know – I read somewhere else, on another blog, about a mom fearing the ‘naked police’: people who would call her out on allowing nudity, saying it’s morally and socially problematic. It’s that attitude that is so disturbing – because through it children get sexualized far too early.

    Scott July 21, 2009 at 3:22 pm

    So far, Roslyn hasn’t exhibited any exhibitionist tendencies. Then again, at 2 she seems to be pretty comfortable with still allowing us to dress and undress her, committing only to pulling off her shirt (after we’ve fed her arms through the holes) or putting on her jacket (which she accomplishes by laying it on the floor, putting her arms in the holes, and whisking the whole thing over her head in one smooth motion).

    If she gets to the point where she wants to run around naked, I’ll let her…while trying to explain WHY we “can’t” do it all the time.

    Great post. :-)
    .-= Scott´s last blog ..My Support Can Be Bought =-.

    Her Bad Mother July 21, 2009 at 10:44 pm

    Emilia does that same move with her shirts, sweaters, and jackets. Too funny!

    Beth July 21, 2009 at 8:49 pm

    My son loves to be naked, I try to give him naked time every day. However Grandma thinks it’s odd, and I can tell it makes her uncomfortable.

    Mrs. Wilson July 21, 2009 at 9:17 pm

    Very well written. I agree, wholeheartedly.
    .-= Mrs. Wilson´s last blog ..Menu Plan Monday ~ July 20 =-.

    anonlurkermom July 21, 2009 at 9:19 pm

    My son, now 17, used to say “I want to feel the breeze” I wrote it in his baby book and his three sibs an I tease him about it from time to time! aren’t kids great?

    Mom101 July 21, 2009 at 10:01 pm

    Thalia has two kinds of nudity: The delighted, free, liberated nudity that E seems to have.

    And then the I’M MAD SO I’M TAKING OFF ALL MY CLOTHES nudity which I have yet to understand, and tries my patience just a wee bit more than the first.

    Gorgeous post Miss C. As ever.

    Her Bad Mother July 21, 2009 at 10:43 pm

    Ah, that’s so funny, because when E gets mad, she puts ON clothes. Like, layers and layers and layers of crazy shit that makes no sartorial sense – bathing suit over leggings under sweater under dress topped with scarf – other than as a form of hobo protest.

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