I love everything about the weather warming up. There is only one little thing about the summer that I’m dreading. It’s the bathing suit questions again.
Now that our daughters actually have preferences and style they would prefer to select their own clothing. First of all, why did this have to happen? My happy place is the infant/toddler section of Target. That was where I had hoped to stay, like say, for life. I was just figuring out the 4-6x section, when one daughter shot up to 5’10.
Suffice it to say, she’s no longer a 3T.
And, she is also sick and tired of my lack luster ability to articulate my thoughts on this whole modesty thing. Last summer I just put my foot down (after taking it out of my mouth) and said, “No bikini. I don’t know why. I just can’t right now. I’ll figure it out by next summer.”
And to be honest, I said no because I was completely wrapped up in what a “bikini” means in my Midwestern Conservative context. Which is a good thing to consider, but whatever “that” is is not the definition or dictator of modesty. “That” has nothing to do with the heart or the Word.
I’ve made some headway this year. Still no hard and fast rules, but definitely some ways of expressing the heart of the matter.
The body is a wonderful “tent” that houses a complex system, including our physical systems, but also our sexuality, our talents, our personality, our capacity and need for community, and our soul or spirituality. I understand them as all created by God in whose image I am made. I understand them all to work in relationship to one another and to be informed by one another.
For example, my soul gives guidance and regulation to all my other systems. The health of my physical systems are intimately tied to the health of my sexuality and soul. My talents are given expression through my physical systems and encouraged and fueled often by my spiritual experiences.
As I explain this idea to my girls, I give them a metaphor – a little pack of seedlings is an easy although not perfect one. All their little systems are beginning to blossom. Some of these sprouts are easy to talk about and nurture…
Oh look, a little growth in that talent! Let’s really maximize that little soccer talent and sign up for a travel team!!!
Oh no, a little weed over there in personality. Time for a family chore chart!!
But what about that sexuality seedling? There it is, growing up right alongside their understanding of Jesus and their physical bodies. How do we nurture and protect it so that it can mature and be a full participant in the beautiful creation system that is them?
I see often see two extremes in teen culture. They are either vastly over-watering that little seedling via a fire hose of unhelpful content, or vastly under-nourishing it because it is so difficult to expose openly, even to the most loving of moms and dads.
Simply put, they are often navigating an enormous array of sexually explicit crap all by themselves. Or they are so terrified of encountering any crap, they are hiding and stuffing whatever curiosity or questions they have.
I know I often wish my own kids could somehow just emerge from adolescence with a perfect understanding of their gender, their sexuality, and with all related issues like modesty, femininity, masculinity, and intimacy wrapped up in a neat little bow delivered by someone other than me.
We are wrestling with it, just as you are. It’s HARD. It’s AWKWARD.
And sometimes, I just do not know. Like last summer with the bikini thing. And sometimes we get just a bit of clarity and we pass it on. Never mind that it’s maybe a touch too late.
And so my girls will get this word this summer regarding modesty.
Your clothing is meant to house, just as your body does, all that you are. It gives voice to your body, your personality, your sexuality, and your soul. If your clothing only gives voice to your sexuality, it doesn’t serve you. If it over expresses your sexuality, it doesn’t serve you. Similarly, if it under-expresses your personality or sexuality, it doesn’t serve you.
(This is where I show them the picture of me wearing my baggie flannel shirt and men’s shorts – my basic outfit for all of my 20’s. Talk about TOTALLY under-expressing basically everything…)
And so we will scoot off to the bathing suit section and I will be the mom saying, “Honey. I love the color of that. Does it say, I am a 14 year old girl who is lovely, charming, smart, strong, developing a relationship with the God of the universe as best I can, and years away from expressing my sexuality via intimacy?”
Cue the rolling of the eyes…