BY MICHELLE AUSTIN
My son Jason* is a nudist. He has been for a very long time. Jason just prefers to be naked. He is almost always in a state of partial or complete undress at home. He has slept naked since he was about 4 years old. Occasionally his predilection for nudity has caused some challenges.
It’s hard to explain why he can’t be naked at friend’s houses (although the cousin’s or grandparent’s places are fair game). He had a major tantrum last summer because he wanted to be naked at our local outdoor pool. Luckily our discussion about not getting a sunburnt bottom hit the mark. I found this tantrum particularly perplexing because for someone who loves to take his clothes off, Jason is oddly attracted to his swimmers. So getting him into them is never usually a challenge. He frequently asks to wear them just to play in.
Jason has never shown or discussed his body in a negative way. After dinner he will often stand up and pat his tummy, exclaiming happily over its full-of-food roundness. He cheerfully shows me his stiffy, or how clean his bottom is, or the booger he’s dug out of his nose. Boys are so charming sometimes, aren’t they?! There’s often discussion about how strong his muscles are or how bendy his little brother is. There have been a few discussions about gender differences over the years, but not many. There’s never been a discussion about skin colour or hair style or weight. He knows all sorts of people who are very different in appearance but he doesn’t seem to notice, or care.
My beautiful, accepting, gentle son has always been completely unselfconscious about his body and being naked. As he should – he’s 5 years old.
But then last week we went to his swimming lesson and something changed. It’s a bit of a rush to get to swimming after preschool. We often run in together and quickly throw his swimmers on just in time for his lesson. It’s all a bit of fun as we race each other up the path and see how fast he can get his clothes off. He has lessons at a local hydrotherapy pool.
There are only 3 lessons going on – mostly babies. There just isn’t room in the small pool for many people. So last week, as we’ve done so many times in the past, I started to pull his clothes off on the pool deck. But unlike any other time, he stopped me. He told me he didn’t want to take his clothes off there. When I asked him why not he stated, “Because people might laugh at me. They might see my doodle.” (As an aside, he does know that it’s actually called a penis. And that his nuts are called tentacles. Ok, we’re still working on that one…)
I was flummoxed. He had never expressed any kind of awareness of his nakedness in relation to other people before, let alone concern. I told him no-one was looking, that no-one minded, and if he wanted to he could turn around so they could only see his bottom.