Dad Files: Why I Prefer to Let My Kids Run Around Naked
Thus far, my wife and I agree on most things baby—from sleep habits, to lullabies, and even whether or not to dress them in matching outfits (we don’t). But lately, I’ve begun to wonder: Why do we dress them at all?
Lisa rolls her eyes whenever I mention it, thinking I’m just lazy. But every morning, I am the one who receives the “cute little outfits” from my wife and deals with whatever has come my way: a dizzying array of snaps, or worse, buttons, in a never ending series of patterns. I am the one who must pin our sons to the floor and yank shirts and shorts over their tiny writhing frames.
Like the priest from The Exorcist—the one who throws himself out a window at the end—I try and pin a child down with elbow across the chest, while pleading with the Lord for strength. Only, my goal isn’t nearly so important as that priest’s. I’m there solely to fit the tiny sliver of a button through an even tinier buttonhole, all the while thinking: They may have time for this in Oshkosh, by gosh, but I don’t have time for it here. In fact, as Jack hollers and wails, I wonder if the people of Wisconsin are given to cruelty in all areas of life—or only toward babies.
“This,” I tell my wife, “is a form of torture.”
My wife. Again with the eye roll.
“Are you seeing this?” I ask and gesture toward Eli, who burbles with grief, as I wrestle—for God’s sake, bib overalls!—over his dear, sweet body. “But they look so cute once they’re dressed!” she says.
Sure, I think, they look cute. But imagine the grisly scars we’re etching into their impressionable brains: Mom and Dad love me so much they hold me down every morning while I cry.
“Am I missing something?” I ask. “Do these boys have some special appointments of which I’m unaware? Foreign dignitaries to greet? Is Nelson Mandela on his way over?”
I fear my wife and I are missing a great opportunity. Twins are hard work. Why make it harder by, you know, dressing them?
As a writer with many years experience, I have developed a keen sense of whether or not you, dear reader, are buying my argument. And I can sense, even as I type, a lingering skepticism. So try this on for size: All of us, every one, only have so many years in our lives when we get to look cute with our shirts off. Our boys are clearly in that stage. Why not let them enjoy it?
“You don’t want to dress them at all?” my wife asks.
“Only when we drop them off,” I say, “for their first job interviews.”
“So you want them to be naked,” she says.
“No,” I respond, “I want them to wear their diapers.”
“But they look so cute in their outfits!” my wife says.
Our conversation goes in one great big circle. And it always leaves us in the same place—or me, anyway. On the floor, with a little boy who tries to crawl toward his toys while I maneuver clothes over his reluctant body inch by terrible inch.
We are, of course, a horrifyingly consumerist culture. We spend good money on fancy clothes for babies when nothing could be more adorable than the skin they’re in. I have no doubt, in this sense, my wife is a victim. Raised on dolls with their own fashion lines—uh-huh, Barbie, I’m looking at you—she has been programmed, brain washed, even, to color coordinate and cover up.
Not dressing the boys, in this context, is an act of rebellion—a way of sticking it to the man, of tearing down the vast designer baby-wear oligarchy so we might all be free. And so I implore you: Do not dress your babies. Our baby boys need more time for their toys. Our baby girls do not need pearls. And we have nothing to lose—but their clothing.
(P.S. My wife insists that I note she does coordinate their outfits—same style, different colors, for example. And that’s why they look so cute. Clearly, for me, there is no escape.)
Steve Volk is Philadelphia magazine’s senior writer. A new dad to twin boys, he blogs about the ups and downs of modern-day fatherhood on Be Well Philly. Read the series from the beginning.