Girls. Those of us who are moms of girls have a tough job ahead of us, and here in the fish pond we are only at the beginning. Trout is turning 7 tomorrow, and I think now is a good time to ask about how other moms who have been here before me have handled some situations that have come up recently.
First, touching. Recently Trout has come home from school talking about how she and a boy from her class have been spanking each other. When I talked to her about how that isn't appropriate, and that it's okay to tell someone when they are doing something that makes you uncomfortable, she responded that she didn't mind, and when I suggested that the boy in question may have a problem with it, she responded "Actually, I think he quite likes it, Mommy." I was speechless for a bit (where the hell did she hear THAT phrase??), then I just told her it was inappropriate and I didn't want her to do it anymore.
We have another component to the touching issue that has recently surfaced, too. In the household that I grew up in, we were a very open-door, touchy feely kinda family, with everyone well aware of what everyone else looked like naked, the nature of bathroom habits, and little modesty, until I turned about 14, I think, and then I was the one who imposed limits - my parents NEVER had any (still don't - we have to remind my father when he visits us to shut the door when he goes to the bathroom). We also were a kiss on the lips, big squishy hug kinda family, even as adults (i.e., my grandmother kissed us adult kids on our lips, etc.). BigDaddyFish's family was NOT like this - still isn't really very huggy or kissy at all. I am not sure if this is because my family was primarily girls whereas BDF's family is more of an even mix, but it is what it is.
As I've become a parent, I have become more and more uncomfortable with certain kinds of my family touching and attitudes about our bodies. While I very much think it is important to be comfortable in my own skin and teach my children how to be comfortable in theirs, I have NO IDEA how to go about teaching that and at the same time instill both a healthy level of modesty and important values about touching and how to stay safe. We've been doing a hybrid open door policy in the bathroom; the kids have all been in the bathroom with BDF and I as we did our thing; I think that's an integral part of potty training. They've also showered/bathed with us. But we have hit a cut-off point for certain things; Trout can only shower with me, not her father, and Little Man can only shower with Daddy. Sunny can still pick, as she's too little yet for any of these issues to apply. We now have a closed-door bathroom policy, but doors are not locked (except for mom and dad) in case someone has a problem and we need to get in to help them.
My father used to sleep in the nude (still does, but since I don't live with him, I no longer care). Once I hit about 14 I became real uncomfortable with this, and I stopped inviting friends to spend the night at my house after one night when my father made a midnight run to the kitchen for a glass of milk in the middle of the night clad in only his not-well-tied bathrobe and a friend of mine who was spending the night saw him. He never once understood why that might be inappropriate or might make someone uncomfortable. He also was/is a kiss on the lips kinda guy, and while I have become adept at turning my head at the last second so that kisses land on cheeks and going for cheeks myself, I know this has made more than one cousin in the past uncomfortable, too.
So where the hell am I going with this? Well, I now have a 7 year old little girl. I want her to have healthy views about sexuality. I want her to be able to interact with my family and with others in life and be secure enough in herself to stand up for herself when something makes her uncomfortable. I want to try to make sure she is uncomfortable with things that SHOULD make her uncomfortable. I want to give her the tools she needs to protect herself from sexual predators, whether they come from outside or God forbid, within the family (and no, I'm not saying that I think my dad's a sexual predator, just a dirty old man who was never taught any better; but at the same time I am fully aware that most sexual abuse comes from someone known and trusted by the victim, rather than strangers).
I have no clue how to do that.
The time has come for discussion about some of these things. She's asked questions about where babies come from, or more particularly, how the baby got in me. I have a book for this. I don't have a book for how to teach kids to set reasonable limits about themselves and their bodies and to stand up for those limits. In this sexualized culture that we have, with Britney Spears tartwear the style of the day, even for 7 year olds, and Bratz dolls and Disney MyScene dolls and the like all promoting completely inappropriate ideals for what a little girl should be/aspire to, how the hell do I teach my daughters (and sons for that matter) what IS appropriate?
How do I give them the tools they need to protect themselves? How do I teach them to be able to identify things that are inappropriate when they don't make them uncomfortable, but should? How the hell do I explain to my 7 year old why the low-rise flare leg sweatpants with "Sweet" across the ass are inappropriate when all she sees is that they are pink and purple and those are her favorite colors and she is, in fact, a sweet kid, without just laying down the law and being the mean mommy and forbidding them? She needs to know why they are inappropriate for a 7 year old (or, frankly, anyone with any self respect) so she can make those judgments herself later. How do I teach them that self respect?
How? I just don't know.
You can go to an update with some great advice from Ree, here.