JP takes swimming lessons once a week at a pool in our neighborhood. This is New York, so, of course, space is limited, the pool is something of a disgrace, and the locker rooms are worse. But we come so that he won’t drown, and to kill time on the weekend, and we crowd in with close to 100 other parents and their children, a sea of parental anxiety, childlike delight (and fear), and floaties.
At the end of class this weekend I made the strategic decision not to take JP back to the locker room to help him change his clothes, instead having him strip down poolside. Was this appropriate? Is he, at 5 years old, too old? When is too old for kids to go naked in public?
I don’t really know, but I know this: JP has yet to come to any awareness of the concept of nudity. He is at times clothed and other times unclothed. These states of dress mean something to him in a physical sense: warm, cold, whatever. But they do not yet have any social, sexual, or moral connotation. He remains, in this regard, a boy in the state of nature, which is a kind of nice place for him to be, I think.
Eventually, though, he does need to come to an understanding about how society views dressing. I would let it happen of its own accord, but I am not the only parent in the equation, and I don’t really know what his mother thinks (I’m guessing she’s on the side of modesty).
In the Book of Genesis, it is written that Adam and Eve are naked and that they “felt no shame.” This is, of course, before they eat the apple from the Tree of Knowledge, at which point “the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.”
The awareness of nudity is the awareness of shame, and lust, and embarrassment, and adulthood, and our bodies, and many other things. JP will come to these in time. We all do. I am in no hurry to educate him in these subjects, either, although I will soon enough, I suppose, and in so doing, educate myself.