--2 Mother Tongue: Princess Hot Sauce, Lightly Dressed
Sept. 22, 2017
inside kids playing snowballs_siberiantimes
In Siberia, this is normal.
Courtesy of Siberian Times

Mother Tongue: Princess Hot Sauce, Lightly Dressed

December 13, 2013, 2:40 pm
By Lauren Whitehurst

A mountain of coziness rises from our threshold. The location is critical: It’s where three-year-old Sylvia strips down immediately upon entrance.

In May* / I truly think it best / to be a robin / lightly dressed

- Maurice Sendak, Chicken Soup With Rice

* note to Sylvia: Not December.

We are the grateful hand-me-down recipients of sweaters, coats, tights, leggings, hats and gloves, but you wouldn’t know it from their discard rate. I find size T3 panties all over the place.

Sylvia prefers to go “booty,” as in “nudie booty,” with an astounding disregard for seasons and their ambient temperatures. Our recent days have averaged about 30 degrees F, with lows approaching single digits. Something’s wrong with the gas stove, which heats some of our house—specifically, the playroom, where Sylvia spends significant time in various stages of undress.

When she puts something on at all, she test-drives a complete rotation of swimsuits and leotards, with the occasional bloomer thrown in, in about 40 minutes. She is aware that she has other clothes: I know this because she unpacks her dresser drawers daily, and the kids’ bedroom floor looks like the changing room of an understaffed Gap. 

Her nudist tendencies are developmentally on track. She is flexing her growing dexterity and self-(un)dressing skills. It feels terrific to be naked. She is literally running or jumping all the time, so her furnace burns high. Her pre-sleep wigglefest would constitute a full workout for me, so I kind of get why she kicks away the down comforter. I’m freezing, though, so I keep her from kicking the comforter off me.

“Aren’t you chilly?” I ask. “Are you sure?”

It is difficult to keep from projecting my internal temperature on my daughter. I certainly trust her to know her own comfort; Sylvia is unequivocal about what she wants and how she feels. Her high-frequency wardrobe changes are less a function of indecision than flash-rate conviction shifts—all of which lead to nakedness, even if they pass a couple pants-less princess roles en route.

It just seems so cold! I clasp my bloodless fingers around a reheated cup of tea and shiver in my wool shirt, sweater, corduroys, socks and slippers. I linger over the heating vents to watch Sylvia streak back and forth.

Here she comes, dashing by in a tutu’ed swimsuit. There she goes, in My Little Pony Rainbow Dash undies. And, there go the undies. Soon, a percussive-pneumatic racket announces Sylvia bouncing by buck-naked, except for her tap shoes, on Rody, the inflatable rubber donkey. Then, she whizzes the other direction riding the ladybug wheelie toy, still in tap shoes, only.

“Why is she so annoying?” sighs a weary Theo, six.

I’m not terribly worried about propriety. It was a little awkward last summer when Sylvia not only went au natural during a visit from relatives less enthusiastic about feral child-raising than I am, but also peed in the yard not far from where visited over iced tea. Friends and neighbors give sort-of-indulgent half-smiles when I answer the door on a snowy day with a naked preschooler behind me.

I’m all for children running bare. It makes sense from their perspective, and I love little kids’ unabashed satisfaction with their bodies. I want Sylvia to celebrate all that her body can do and feel comfortable in her own skin (which she clearly does). I’m in no hurry to impose modesty on my 3 year old, but her having an older brother and attending preschool recommends guidelines.

One of Sylvia’s teachers diplomatically conceded this week that, yes, Sylvia did seem to want to remove her clothes quite often. Somehow, her teachers are able to stop her at her socks. I don’t know how they do this. My compromise is commonly, “Sylvia, you need to wear undies, at least your undies. You need to keep your undies on when: we have company over, Theo has a play date at our house, we sit down for dinner or your bottom is irritated from not wearing undies.”

It can be difficult to get out of the house with a child who refuses clothing, or who burrows through her entire wardrobe before ultimately deciding to refuse clothing, or who you know will start disrobing in the grocery cart.

The American Academy of Pediatrics advises:

-     Keep in mind that regulating body temperature is more difficult in younger children, so hypothermia can occur more easily.

-     Parents have to be really proactive and responsible about dressing children appropriately in layers, covering their heads and necks.

-     The rule of thumb for older babies and young children is to dress them in one more layer of clothing than an adult would wear in the same conditions.

I’m neglectful. Granted, these are suggestions for outdoor winter play, but Sylvia hardly considers this a separate category. Considerable diplomatic skills are involved in negotiating her into a snowsuit, with nothing on underneath. I’m grateful when she finally comes inside to trade sparkly Hello Kitty slippers for boots (no socks). I never say, “I told you so.”

With warm clothing, playing outside in winter is fantastic. I’m disconcerted when teachers don’t take kids outside on a cold or snowy day. I don’t remember ever staying inside for recess; we scuffed our snowsuits on mountains of plowed snow in the playground. Swedish daycares put babies outside for naps in mid-winter (rest assured, they cover the prams with blankets at 5 degrees F). Someone in Wyoming advised a friend to “weather her children.”

These activities depend on adequate outerwear. Warm clothing is called for inside in winter, too—and tulle alone, even in layers, is poor insulation. Unless, I guess, like Sylvia, you run hot.

(Note, the photograph above is from the Siberian Times. In Siberia, this is common.)


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