With our back to school start date now only two weeks out, I'm being reminded of the many ways our culture pushes against me as a mom. If I am not prepared in my own mind and heart to face the current that is flowing against the ways in which I'm trying to raise my kids, I'm realizing I'll be floating along like a boat without a paddle. If you're not paddling upstream, you're moving right along with it.
Case in point. I went to a consignment store the other day with a heap of my kids' old clothes. When the lady handed back to me a pile of rejects, I asked why the cute denim skirt on top wasn't acceptable. I was surprised, thinking it was one of the better items, and wondered if they found a stain or damage that I had overlooked. Our brief conversation went like this:
lady: "Well...skirts that length just don't sell...."
me: "You mean the modest ones?"
This is not an ugly, floor length denim skirt from prairie-land we're talking about. It is a just-above-the-knee modern jean skirt. Cute. Classic. And unsellable in a children's store for being too modest. We are not talking about skirts for women. We are talking about skirts for children.
I hate being surprised by the nonsense out there, but a friend did shock me lately when she described what she saw when dropping her freshman daughter off at our local high school. She said that several teen girls are wearing what would usually be considered lingerie as outerwear, including visible garters holding up knee highs. To school.
Another friend told me that her church's junior high youth group is crowded with girls who can neither drive nor hold a job (which means mom or dad is facilitating), and yet are attending church events in booty shorts and bare stomachs.
My daughter happens to be super tall for her age at the moment, which means finding modest skirts and long-enough dresses is near impossible. If they are at least close to knee-length, she adds leggings and all is well in the world. But we already had a conversation in the ever-popular store, the Gap, where she moaned, "Moooom, there's nothing else!"
My gentle, but unapologetic reply was, "Well, honey, if we can't find a store that has appropriate things for you, you may be wearing a lot of pants this winter." And that is certainly not the worst thing in the world! Back to School fashion is a big deal for girls, but I'm paddling upstream by taking extra time to source cute and modest clothing for my girl. It's not easy, but I will face with courage and conviction the conversations with her about where her worth lies, and the various reasons some girls choose to dress immodestly.
My daughter is going into fifth grade now, and so it's time for me to go deeper with teaching her why modesty is important. But these conversations started in a very simple way when she was a preschooler. I'd encourage you, if you have a little girl, to open up the conversation on appropriate clothing choices early. And if you have a little boy, I'd encourage you to start the dialogue on how it's his job to defend and protect a girl's modesty. These basic concepts will lay a foundation in their hearts for the much bigger issues surrounding God's plans for their sexuality that you'll face as they grow.
My Back to School Tool #3 is a metaphorical paddle, meaning the resolve to go against the flow of our culture and choose to teach (and model) modesty.
Speaking of parental modeling and modesty, I sat by a 17 year old girl on a plane last week. She was smack dab in the middle of Fifty Shades of Grey (in case you are new, I wrote about my thoughts on this popular fiction series here). Of course, you know, I could not pass up an opportunity to chat with this girl about the book. As soon as I brought it up, she gushed over how great the book was. I probed as to why she happened to pick it up in the first place, sort of my own little market research. I thought maybe it was on account of her boyfriend, her peer group, a radio DJ's suggestion...anything but what she actually said: "Well, my mom's reading it. She doesn't like that I am reading it, but I figure if she is...." My stomach turned over and I stopped asking questions.
Paddling, to me, means trying my best to model modesty. In my dress, in my speech, and in what I allow myself to read and watch.
Paddling, to me, means accepting my body and biting my tongue from criticizing my looks and my AGE around my daughter.
Paddling, to me, means making sure my commentary (even praise) about my daughter's insides far outweigh my commentary about her outsides.
Paddling, to me, means praying for wisdom on how to parent my kids in these areas with such a strong cultural current going the other direction, and grace because I'm not perfect in a single one of these efforts.
I hope you're with me. I still believe some mom would have bought the skirt I tried to consign for her own girl.
She'd be the one holding the paddle.