I often think there is a lot to learn from our kiddos. They approach the world with innocence and awe, and are often uncomplicated by “adult ideas”. Ants are fascinating instead of pests. Slugs are cool. Grass still tickles your feet in a new way. Berries on a blueberry bush are fascinating to the point of dancing. Animals, like chickens, are fun to chase with no known consequences And, similarly, being naked is nice. Rather, being naked just is.
Levi doesn’t care if he has clothes on or not, really. He is comfortable with his image. I want to instill a level of modesty, but I’m not sure how to go about doing this. My husband and I had similar benefits of a fairly religious background that enforced strict modesty. Although my husband and I identify with Christian beliefs and are regular “church goers”, we are not raising Levi in the same vein as our parents. We think critically about our upbringing and are trying to make conscience choices about how that really affected us and what the desired outcome is for Levi.
We struggle with this when it comes to things like picking up toys. We want to instill in him a desire, habit, or need to keep his place in this world tidy. However, his parental example is less than perfect. Our house is cluttered and we don’t have a place for everything. Ironically, compare that to our respective work places where our spaces are neat as a pin. So, is it fair to expect Levi to keep his space neat as a pin when his parents fail to do so, daily?
Similarly, I want Levi to have a decent image of the human body, form, and respect it in all its varied sizes and shapes. Like many women, I grew up with a very poor self image that inhibits me to this day. I understand that men go through life with a very different self image, and are often perplexed that woman can be so wrapped up in image. Regardless, it’s refreshing to see him just be … naked. He isn’t encumbered by the politics, the religion, the advertising, the pandering. He just is.
“Levi, go get dressed,” I commanded. I handed him his clothes, and he disappeared into his room. I sat reading, “How to Start Your Oregon Non-profit” while he giggled and fumbled or danced in his room. I resisted the urge to tell him to get dressed, and continued to read and drink my coffee.
A few minutes later, Levi emerged from his room with his hand-me-down training pants. Yes, that’s all he had.
Levi came out, skipping, and naked. He was unconcerned with his unclothed body. It just was. His penis was as much his arm as anything, just another part of his body that sometimes itches but mostly just hangs about. He doesn’t focus on one thing or another, and doesn’t mind getting dressed with me or his father. We are more or less all the same in his eyes. He recognizes differences in our body types, much like I have long hair and his father has a long beard.
It just is.
I think about this in relation to the biblical Adam & Eve. We read and retell this story, but let’s think about what this must have been like. Not being aware you are naked. Because, really, that’s what Levi is — he’s unaware of the difference between being naked and being clothed, either position is fine and one over the other makes no difference unless maybe he’s cold.
Adam and Eve lived their lives fairly blissfully, peacefully, and unaware. Then, that fateful day, the fruit (poetically dubbed as an apple though how do we really know what it looks like?) was eaten and suddenly Adam and Eve became wise to their existence and with that wisdom shame.
That’s what Levi doesn’t have right now, the shame of his body. He doesn’t have the desire to cover himself up. He just doesn’t care, and not in apathetic sense. He doesn’t know he should care.
I think that’s great. We worry about our self image so much we put ourselves in this hard place between being told to treat our bodies as temples and respect them but hide them from shame too. In their perfect innocence, we should learn from our children who don’t know that odd dichotomy submerged inside these adult ideas. We could, maybe, learn to just be and in the process be less ashamed and more appreciative of what is in all their glorious shapes and sizes.