You know those nightmares we all have about showing up to work in our pajamas, or being on stage in our underwear, or – God forbid! – forgetting to get dressed before going out in public? Do you recall the acute feelings of horror and embarrassment, of mortification?
Yes? Well, my son will never have those nightmares.
How do I know? Because he is completely unaware that other people have any interest in what he does.
“He’s naked again!” is an exclamation heard often in our house. Usually it’s yelled by one of my older sons while I’m in the kitchen making dinner or whatever. I used to race up the stairs to find Peter happily playing with his iPad or jumping on his bed in his birthday suit. Completely oblivious. Completely content. Completely comfortable.
Now, I’m more apt to respond, “Okay! Dinner will be ready in ten minutes!”
We are used to this situation in our house. Though my older boys still cringe in dismay and run to hide, I try not to make a big deal about it. Naturally, I do try to explain to Peter, while re-dressing him, that this is not appropriate behavior and that he needs to keep his clothes on. But in truth, he just doesn’t get it. He does not think that removing one’s clothes is strange. If he is hot, he takes them off. What’s strange about that? It makes a crazy kind of sense if you really think about it. Why wear clothes if they are not comfortable?
I know that the real issue here is that Peter, at age 8, still has limited awareness of other people and very little empathy. He cannot “put himself in another person’s shoes” to understand them. He doesn’t even know that he should. This lack of social awareness makes him seem “clueless” and oblivious. It’s the reason he does things that embarrass his brothers. He just doesn’t know that he should care.
To me, this is complete freedom. Freedom from that nightmare feeling of being judged, being watched, being laughed at. Freedom from acute self-awareness and the stress of “fitting in” or being accepted. Freedom from society’s watchful eye.
Peter, my happy little guy jumping on his trampoline buck-naked, is completely free. He is unaffected by society’s judgement. He is just himself.
He was hot. He took his clothes off. End of story.