Monday, August 20, 2012

Back to School Tool #3: A Paddle (for rowing upstream)

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?"
lady: "Exactly."

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.



  1. I like that you are working with her (adding leggings, ect) its something I wish my parents would have done (I'm 29 now!) Know I know how easy it is to add an extra tanktop, layer, ect. Thanks for sharing your heart :)

  2. This is such a valuable post in a culture where "modest" has become an ugly word to so many people.

  3. A couple summer's ago, we were at a popular water park here in our area and I was shocked at some of the bathing suits young girls were wearing. I said out loud, "I'm so glad I have all boys and won't have to fight with a daughter over wearing something like that!" but as soon as I said it I realized I have all boys who will have to fight looking at and thinking about girls wearing something like that! That's just as frightening! So on behalf of my boys, thank you for teaching your daughter the importance of modesty from the beginning!

    P.S. Have you heard of an extender slip? I saw it on Pinterest awhile back and made one for a couple skirts I had that were a little too short and I love it! That might be a solution for your tall girl!

  4. Thank you for sharing...and challenging your readers! I'm 23 and don't have kids {yet}. My mom taught me the importance of modesty, and I'm so thankful she did. I look around at the girls and young women and see what they're wearing and am appalled at the fashions. I pray that my daughter {if I have one} will truly want to dress modestly. Thanks for teaching your daughter modesty...I'm glad to know that there are parents out there who still care.

  5. I appreciate that we are in an uphill battle for our children. it's incredible the things we're encountering and at the same time not at all. a couple places i've found more modest clothes are crew cuts and garnett hill. they are pricey, but if you buy on sale and just a couple staple pieces it might be worth it.

  6. Absolutely loved this post. This is one reason that I love having a boy to dress, so easy! But I may have a daughter someday and this is a battle that is so important to fight on behalf of our little girls! I distinctly remember being old enough to get dropped off at the mall to shop and buying a skirt I knew in my heart was not appropriate. When my mom saw it she drove me right back to the mall and made me take it back. Lesson learned, although at the time I was SO mad! Thanks for writing this.

  7. as a mother of three girls... i loved this post.

  8. I totally would have bought the skirt! I have a 6 year old girl and talk about modest dress is a regular occurrence around here. She is very interested in clothes already and asks me why some girls wear certain things and why she can't. I just pray the lessons stick and she one day appreciates it.

  9. this is excellent.
    i am with you 110%!
    we have been digging in deeper about biblical modesty and purity around here.
    we have a 13 year old down to a 6 year old, and it's never to early to start.
    i'm thanking the Lord for the maxi skirt trend, because we are wearing a LOT of them these days.
    xoxo great post.

  10. Hi! I am your newest follower. :)

    Can not agree with you more. I have a 14 month old little girl and I worry about our "culture" getting to her as she gets older. But this Momma will do all (and then some) to protect her heart!!!

    OH and as for the 17 year old reading 50 Shades of Grey it honestly makes me a little nauseous. I have wanted nothing to do with that book ever since I heard it referred to as "Mommy P---", definitely not what a 17 year old should be filling her mind with; or anyone for that matter.

    Thanks for sharing!

  11. I woulda bought that skirt ;) being a mama too and desiring to be modest and to teach my daughter the same things as she gets older it is so disheartening to see the decline of morals and principles.I want to raise my kids the learn that modesty starts in the heart, the desire to live a modest life for the Lord,and from that the choices they make whether it is clothing , music..ect.. comes from a heart choosing to be modest for HIM. Also raising a little guy, who is just 6, to respect women whether they are modest or not and to learn to be careful with his eyes and to guard his heart! As I always say..maybe the Lord will come back before they get to "that age" ;). Thank you for your always it was so encourging!

  12. don't get me started on the clothes!! it's relentless. RELENTLESS!!!
    good thoughts too on what I am i am setting an example.
    being a mom is so hard.
    it's great but dang it's hard!!

  13. i've got my paddle ready :) my mom was always ready with her paddle too. and you know my issues with modesty. so much that it's hard for me to wear shorts, or skirts above me knee. i'm getting better about all that, but still within modest limits. i hope my mom is "to blame" for that, meaning it'll work with my own girls :) i just want to be sure that i don't create extremes on either side, you know? and i think you nailed it- making sure that i gush more about their insides than their outsides. i think that's the key! along with modeling it myself. cringing over that girl who's reading the book because her mom is. it's totally justified and so sad and definitely makes me think about my example.

    well, this was a very scatterbrained comment. thanks for baring with me!

  14. *bearing* with me... in case you thought there was pun intended there. there isn't.

  15. Great post, we all need to pray for a spiritual and moral revival in this country. God bless you.