“Ever had a job where you had no experience, no training, you weren’t allowed to quit, and people’s lives were at stake? That’s parenting.” I read this quote while browsing through Pinterest and it has stuck with me.
It describes my life as a parent completely. I think back to the arrogance of my youth. I’ve learned we are always the perfect parents until we have children.
I’ve learned a lot over the years. Many of my values stayed the same, yet how I am fulfilling and living them out has changed.
Maybe it is something that comes with being older now. Maybe it has to do with having a tribe made up of people of various religions and backgrounds and experiences. Maybe it has to do with my own therapy and personal growth and learning to have some grace, mercy, and love for myself. It’s likely a mixture of all of the above.
I have held fast to the notion that it is my job to protect and preserve the innocence of childhood – for my own biological children, and those around me in the classroom, my foster children, etc. The only change is how I am choosing to fulfill this. Lives are at stake, after all. An example of this is how I deal with sexualization and my girls (and girls in general) – in our world, church, and Christian culture.
I’ll share an example of swimsuits. Previously, I had said my children will NEVER wear a two-piece swimsuit. Then I had a child with a bottom half a different size than the top half and another with a torso that was either too short or too long for a properly fitting one piece.
Ok…. I can agree on a tankini where the top will touch the briefs. I felt I had won with this compromise.
Then I began working more on my recovery from sexual abuse.
That meant dealing with the shame that had grown and consumed me. I realized how unfair it was for me to transfer my own issues (often encouraged and perpetuated by the Church) onto my children whose innocence I have vowed to protect and preserve.
Why am I transferring the shame that I have felt onto them?
They have bodies God created and they aren’t shameful. This summer, my girls picked out two pieces that aren’t tankinis. They wanted to be as free as possible to snorkel in the Florida Keys. I can’t argue with that logic.
I took a step in my recovery too and picked up a high-waisted bikini. Maybe I haven’t worn it anywhere but a private pool with my cousins, but I wasn’t hiding under layers of clothes for concern (maybe fear) of being looked at.
I was in the pool, enjoying being with loved ones rather than sitting away from everyone so I could feel safe. The people I was with made me feel safe. Not my swimsuit.
Lives are at stake…in every moment, and with every choice a parent makes. Physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually, our children’s lives are at stake.
While I always thought I was protecting and preserving their physical lives, I acknowledge now there may have been some harm done to the girls’ mental, emotional, and spiritual lives by some of the ways I chose to do so.
When we teach girls and women that the reason we dress and behave modestly (including not breastfeeding our children in public or mixed company) is to eliminate or reduce the temptation for boys and men, we are creating a paradigm where girls and women are no longer human.
We are dehumanizing them.
We are sexualizing them.
We are turning them into an object, rather than a person.
This very thought process is exactly how we are dehumanizing boys and men, too. Teaching that girls/women need to fully cover their bodies as a simple sight of a shoulder or ankle may cause the male species to lust due to being creatures who have no self-control.
We have dehumanized boys/men by super sexualizing their minds…the same way we do with the female body.
We place a lot of responsibility on females to put up super strong guards so as not to be a temptation to the male population, as though they are not capable of controlling their minds and actions.
What if we created an entire paradigm shift where we are breathing life into our children and teaching boys and girls (men and women) that their bodies are made in the image of God and they are not shameful?
What if we teach young men that they are capable of doing big, hard things like being responsible for their actions and thoughts? What if we teach young ladies that modesty is a lifestyle, not a clothing choice, and that their bodies are strong and capable, that there’s a difference between flattering and flaunting.
What if we create a world where we partner together to build each other up, support, encourage, and grow together rather than judge and condemn when life isn’t done the way we think it should be done.
Parenting is the hardest job I’ve ever had.
Surely I’m not the only parent who feels this way. I’ll never be the perfect parent. I will never claim to have all the answers. But, I’ll always be honest and vulnerable in my journey and all that goes with that.
Let’s create a new way of seeing one another. God’s way.
AND as always – If you have questions about any of the things I covered here, be sure to check out Office Hours and submit your question so we can answer it in an upcoming session.