Every child-rearing book will tell you that children reach a point in their babyhood when being naked is preferred to wearing clothing. Child psychologists concur that this is a normal, healthy phase of development as children start exploring their birthday suits.

What these books and experts fail to mention is exactly when this phenomenon actually stops and either the kid gets dressed or the mother enrolls in an underwater basket-weaving center for the parentally insane. Thank God most people find baby bottoms the sweetest things since Adam remarked to Eve, “Look at Abel’s bum, Hon! Isn’t it cute?!”

My resident miniature Lady Godiva, whom we call “The Toddler,” saves her best streaking entertainment for public places such as Wal-Mart. I don’t have a clue what goes on in her little mind on days like these. Maybe it’s the wide-open space or the bright, hot lights that turn her into Gypsy Rose Lee. But as soon as the doors part and we enter, the child starts to strip and commences her cat-and-mouse game of “Run, run, as fast as you can! You can’t catch me! I’m the Gingerbread Man!”

Much to the astonished amusement of clerks and shoppers alike, I chase after the naked wonder at speeds of up to 10 mph, hurdling the articles of clothing she has gleefully tossed over her shoulder as I exasperatedly cajole, “If you come here and get dressed, Mommy will buy you a Barbie!” (To which she responds “WHEEEEE!” and piddles a puddle on the floor to trip me.)

Not even the sandbox will deter her from her “buff and lovin’ it” routine. You’d think all that grit between her cheeks would force her into some common sense or some “big girl underwear.” Alas, she’s as happy as a pig in mud just to squat in her beach-like harem of Braless Barbies and Kiltless Kens.

I get an uneasy feeling that the thrill of running around sans attire is genetic. My husband, “Hubs,” has been known to streak wildly through the house after a shower in search of his bathrobe (which the kids have used as a tent across two dining room chairs), a mere washcloth covering his “manhood.” The man has no shame. I have often stubbed my toes while sprinting to close the bedroom window shade so Hubs’ religion won’t be revealed to the neighborhood.

Camping with Hubs is also lesson in anatomy for all the other guests of Algonquin Park’s Moon Lake RV Campground, earning him the nickname “Bear” (or perhaps, “Bare”) by the shocked and giggle-prone vacationers. The first time he dragged me kicking and screaming away from my warm showers and soft, comfy bed to traipse through the wilderness with him, I wondered why I even bothered to pack any clothes for him at all.

You’d have thought we were visiting a nudist colony. Hubs is of the belief that when a man is in the presence of nature at its most raw and pristine, he should do as the animals do. His motto then becomes “When in Rome…,” and creatures certainly don’t bother donning T-shirts and denim cut-offs, much less BVDs, in the great outdoors.

The worst part of being married to Mr. Nude Nature is when he starts singing “Booooorn Freeeee” at the top of his lungs while standing in the buff at the edge of the lakeshore at sunrise. I have witnessed park rangers nearly fall out of their towers from laughing hysterically as they viewed this wilderness oddity through binoculars.

But during one unusually rainy camping jaunt, nature finally got even with Hubs. The mosquitoes decided to cure him of his indecent exposure habit, forcing him to dab calamine lotion on embarrassing places. For the remainder of our trip, it was impossible for him to sit without breaking out in a cold sweat. Entomologists say that only the female of the mosquito species bites because she is nourishing her pregnant body on the blood of her victims. It’s nice to know that even in the bug world, there is sisterhood.

There’s also a small quantity of sisterhood in my own home. I am happy to report at least my teenaged daughter, “Teen Girl,” remains somewhat attired in our home most of the time, if you don’t count her midriff-baring tank tops and navel-flashing jeans. In fact, since her last diaper change, I haven’t viewed Teen Girl’s naked body once. The girl freaks out if I merely jiggle the bathroom doorknob, yelling for her to please end her twice-daily, 45-minute showers so Hubs won’t have to mortgage the house to pay the water bill.

So far, we’ve not had a problem with my son, “Pigpen.” He’s almost never naked, unless you consider the fact that the boy sometimes goes without socks and underwear in mid-winter, or the shirtless occasions when he’s collecting his belly button cache for some weird science experiment. He’s a male, so I’m sure he’ll grow up to be just as uninhibited as Hubs, especially after the duo goes camping together.

Julie Donner Andersen, 53, is the author of two books, her most current one being “Parentally Insane: Insights From The Edge of Midlife!” Her blog is based on her book http://www.ParentallyInsane.blogspot.com.  Her website can be found at http://www.juliedonnerandersen.com.  Julie is a happily married but tired midlife mom of  three, ranging from 12 to 22, and resides in Ontario, Canada.