(originally published September 10, 2008)
He was naked.
Naked as the day he was born.
I should know. I was there.
“Mommy! Look at me!” my three-year-old son yelled from somewhere outside the house.
I peered through the window and was startled by the unexpected sight: my husband leading our son across the street in front of our house. And he was naked. My son. Not my husband.
Naked. In broad daylight. For the entire neighborhood to see.
My own little Gypsy Rose Lee dancing across the street, seemingly unaware he was breaking about 10 laws in his current state of undress.
I bowed my head in despair, wondering if the money in his piggy bank was enough to cover bail for one count of public indecency in our small, Midwestern town.
Then I uttered a sentence one hears outside a strip club or a college fraternity party.
Or pretty much anywhere in France.
“Where are your clothes?!”
His only response was to stop in the middle of the street and yell back, “I’m NAKED!”
Thank you very much, Captain Obvious.
What the hell had happened?! He’d left the house fully clothed. T-shirt, shorts, socks and shoes. Everything a little guy needed for a play date involving any number of activities with his friends across the street.
He’d been gone 5 minutes. It took that one chippy longer to lose her clothes in “Debbie Does Dallas.”
Not that I’ve seen it. It’s just a rumor I heard.
My son just giggled, grabbed his dad’s hand and continued his way across the street. Just as he reached the curb, something fell unnoticed at his feet.
Oh, dear God.
Then I said something I didn’t think would come into play until he reached college and gone to the aforementioned fraternity party.
“Hey...,” I called out then took a deep breath before adding with shame, “...you dropped your underwear in the street.”
As his Batman undies sat crumpled in the gutter, a sad end to the Dark Knight and all his glory, I could only think there was no one to blame but myself.
His new-found love of nudity was the direct result of desperation felt by any mother who fears her son will never learn to use the big boy potty.
I was having serious nightmares about his first day of high school, heading to home room and showing all his friends his Spider-Man XVI pull-ups before the first bell rang.
Up to this point, no amount of bribery, begging, borrowing or stealing would get the little guy interested in whizzing to the toilet gods rather than letting go in his pants.
Our conversations went something like this:
“Did you go potty?”
“Are you sure?”
“Aha! Then you did go potty.”
Silence as he tries to decide if I’m pulling a fast one.
Then - catching on - he screams, “NO! I did NOT!”
“Then what is that smell?”
Quick like a cat he answers, “Daddy pooted!” and takes off running.
First denial. Then putting the blame on someone else. And capping it off with a quick escape.
He’s gonna make a great politician someday.
So I got to thinking. Maybe politicians - and adult film stars like that Debbie gal from Dallas - know a little something about getting down and dirty.
And that’s when I had my fabulous idea.
Let the kid run naked.
Gotta go potty? Then just run in there and do your business. With no clothes to slow you down there’s nothing to get in the way, right? Especially if there’s a prize afterward.
Problem was he liked being naked a little too much. Any excuse to get naked was fine by him. At his friend’s house. The grocery store. Just ‘cuz it’s a Tuesday.
This, when I think about it, is usually how those politicians and adult film stars usually get into trouble too.
But after three days we turned a corner. He was using the big potty. But we soon realized our son had also become an expert in the art of negotiation.
“Here’s the deal,” my husband said. “You go use the big potty, and I’ll get you some ice cream.”
Without missing a beat my son clapped his hands together and responded, “Here’s the deal, Dad. You get the ice cream...and I’ll eat it.”
Yep, that kid’s gonna be president some day.
You can e-mail Kelley Baldwin at firstname.lastname@example.org.