The words have been hard to sort out in my mind for this one. I think it’s because I’m a momma. I look at my daughter and see a sweetness in her that shines. I think about the kind of woman I hope she will be. I look at my boys and know the importance of the role I have in the kind of men they become. Both of these things will be affected by what we teach them about so many different things and what we make sure the world doesn’t teach them first. As of this last weekend, I know one of those things is lingerie.
I was shopping at Victoria’s Secret. This is normal for a thirty year old, married mom. No one blinked an eye when I walked in to the semi-annual sale. As I was looking around I noticed these two young girls. They were probably somewhere between 8-10, and they were getting plenty of side eye. I could not really tell if they were alone or not. That was part of the problem. They were kind of in the eye line of two older women who could have been their moms. They were talking and visiting and the girls were across from them…looking at lingerie. They were across from where I was, but I could still hear them.
They were holding stuff up and saying things like “how cute” and “that’s pretty.” They giggled and they looked through the racks and moved on to the PINK section where I was, where one explained to the other what a crop top was. I just kind of stood watching. Thinking. Realizing.
First I was watching to see if they were in fact alone. I just wanted to be sure they were safe. As I asked an employee a question they moved on and I didn’t see them again. I didn’t see those women who they seemed like they could be with. That made me hope they saw these young girls looking at the stuff the way they were and thought better of having them in the store. I really, REALLY hoped that.
I can’t make someone raise their child a certain way, but if we wonder collectively as a society why our children are becoming so desensitized to sex and graphic things, I think we have to consider what we expose them to.
During my time volunteering in ministry it was completely common for a girl to tell me that boys regularly asked them to send them naked pictures. I remember thinking, “Are you serious?” The anonymity of being behind a screen made these kids feel like that was okay to do.
It’s not okay for a teenage boy or girl to ask a girl or boy for pictures of her breasts or his genitals or any other body part. It’s not okay for a girl or boy to think he or she has to send them to be accepted.
Technology has changed the landscape of what kids get exposed to. There was never a time in the lives of people my age that someone COULD ask them for naked pictures in a text in middle school. Your parents didn’t have to say no to this. Your parents grew up in the days of homes having one rotary phone that was kept in a space where every conversation could be heard. If someone wanted to ask someone else to go on a date, they had to walk up to them or call their house. They had to muster the courage to risk rejection. They couldn’t just hide behind a device.
In this detached reality, there’s often no consideration for the person on the other side of an anonymous conversation. We are becoming less concerned about the inherent dignity and worth of other people.
These two girls were probably doing what many others their age do. In my mind I would like to think that they were with their moms having a girls day at the mall, all as friends. That’s a great thing. I can’t wait to have those kind of days with Lauren.What’s not great is that they were either with these two women and they took them into a store that deals in very personal items. Adult items. If they were alone, they thought it was cool to go look at lingerie and talk about how “cute” it was.
Before I walked in the store, I was with my family. My husband took our kids to the Disney store and I went in alone. This was a conscious choice. I don’t want my five year old having images of women in bras and panties burned into her mind as either expectation of what she has to look like or that it’s normal for women to have their pictures taken that way. I don’t want my sons to see these women, who decorate the walls, as just objects there to fill the space with flat tummies and large breasts.
The world is going to teach my kids about these kinds of things if I don’t. At 5, almost 3, and just a few months old, I can shield them from it at the Disney store, but I know this conversation will have to happen not long from now. I wish it was going to wait, but I know that as long as other little girls browse at Victoria’s Secret, Lauren is going to hear things that I would rather her know our perspective on before she gets someone else’s.
I hope the global community of parents will become more aware of what we expose our children to, and I hope we also take the initiative to talk to them about what these things mean so that doors aren’t opened for them to be shaped by pressures and influences that will lead them to wanting to be sexy at 8 and 10 or down darker trails to pornography.
It all matters. It all matters for their hearts and souls. That is what we do day in and day out- shepard hearts and teach souls that will exist for eternity.
It also matters in regards to what kind of wife and the kinds of husbands they will become. I have to think about other parents because they are raising people who will one day become the spouses of my children if they get married. I don’t want my daughter having to measure up to porn that her husband may have been exposed to. I don’t want my sons to see their brides as anything other than the women created in equal dignity, value, and worth that they are meant to display the way Christ loves the church with- not bodies to be used for pleasure.
It all really matters today and for eternity. Please consider these things. Change starts in our homes. Change starts in our hearts being committed to parenting in the hard places, and remembering that the world will show up, but it won’t beat our influence if we don’t let it.