count me in with the prudes

Did you see the article in the New York Times last week asking when and whether nude children are appropriate, and when and where? There are, obviously, many variables that factor in to this question: how old is the kid, is she in public or at home, and are other people around. To me, it’s OK for your kid to be naked if your family is home, without guests (cousins don’t count), and said child is… young. (I was going to say 3 and under, though if I examine my conscience, I have let Fergus run in the backyard this summer as God made him, and he will be 5 this week.) If you’re at a public park, if you are hosting a birthday party, or if your kid can read and write, then I would say no, it is not appropriate.

But this article, and the people interviewed for it, take a more permissive stance, shall we say. Rachel Dominguez, of Burlingame, CA, was shocked when she picked up her six-year-old son, Hayden, from a playdate. During his time at this friend’s house, he had stripped naked and urinated in the yard. His playdate, the host, was a little girl. Ms. Dominguez was “shocked” not that her son had taken leave of his wits and whizzed at a stranger’s house, but that the little girl’s mother said, um, Hayden is not welcome here anymore.

The article recounts several such anecdotes, including another little boy stripper who coaxed two female playmates to cover his butt with their pink nail polish, to the little girls’ mother’s dismay. But the author’s finger is pointed not at the kooky parents who have not taught their kids proper boundaries, but at the disapproving reactions of the parents who have.

Consider this quote from Dr. Lawrence Balter, the editor of “Parenthood in America”:

“If someone has what appears to be an overly strong reaction to seeing young children running around naked, it tells us about their own hang-ups, their own inner conflicts,” Dr. Balter said.

In other words, if you have a problem with it, you’re the one with the problem.

Such journalism is the reason comments sections were invented. I eagerly clicked to the comments page (now closed, after the first 539) to read the outraged reactions. Instead, I found that about 75% of those who bothered to post a comment were writing in to agree that America has really ridiculous hangups about nudity, and what is the big deal.

I am not used to being on the conservative side of any issue. My God, I live on the Upper West Side. But I have to say, I side with the prudes on this one. Don’t get me wrong: my boys have whizzed in our bushes many a time. But they are OUR bushes. And we weren’t hosting a neighborhood barbecue at the time.

So I am curious: where do you fall on this? Do you let your kids run around naked at the park? At home? Does it matter if you have guests? Does it matter if it’s a boy or a girl? And do you see an upper limit to its acceptability?