An article was being circulated recently about 12 year old girls having sex earlier and how there’s so much societal pressure to engage in sexual activity in middle school. My friends who, like me, have daughters and I collectively wrung our hands and asked each other how we’re supposed to navigate this.
I don’t have boys, and I know raising boys probably comes with its fair share of trials, but I fret a bit over what faces young girls. Getting enough likes on sexy selfies, the new pressure to send boys nude photos, eating disorders, the rampant the idea that oral sex is casual and not even sex and no big deal and cool girls do it.
Parenting expert Michael Grose says there is a casual attitude to oral sex. “I’ve heard stories from teachers of oral sex happening at school,” he says. “My generation went behind the shed and had a smoke. It’s been put to me that oral sex at school is like smoking. That’s extreme, but I think extremes explain the norm.”
I was talking to a woman about this who has lots of experience working with adolescent girls and young women. She said something that I’m currently writing down on a post-it note and sticking to my wall — that the best thing we can do is to raise confident girls with high self-esteem, so they’re not afraid to say “no” or “ick” or “I don’t want to do that” or “I don’t need to be a part of that.”
I remember nodding with a lot of resolve in my heart to be the kind of mom that raises those kinds of girls. But if most Dove commercials are to be believed, that also starts with me.
We could sit here for days discussing women and body image and self-esteem and leaning in and saying no or saying yes, but instead of unpacking all of it in its complicated entirety, ultimately many of us want to be good examples for our daughters.
I don’t struggle with body image, but I do speak carelessly. While I make sure not to say things like “These stretch marks look like a topographical map” when my kids are within earshot, it probably needs to be more than just lip service.
I read an article about a woman trying out a “lotion challenge.” She applied lotion to a body part she didn’t like for two minutes a day in an act of appreciation and in the spirit of positive body image.
So last night, after I was clearly that one person huffing and puffing and struggling the most in a 90 minute yoga class (lol sure, handstand time, that’s fine), I came home, showered, and grabbed the first one ounce bottle of lotion I could find in the bathroom drawer and followed suit, with modifications.
But while I also did it, I found a list of “positive affirmation” YouTube videos (this is something I clearly would have rolled my eyes at a couple years ago), and listened to one while I sat on the floor and massaged lotion into stretch marks and scars on the back of my leg that never faded. And instead of two minutes of focusing on one part, I spent about ten minutes using up the entirety of that one ounce bottle all over, while listening to and speaking positive words.
It did feel a little weird. I tried not to feel judgmental about it, but I knew that if there was a hidden camera filming me sitting on an area rug, rubbing lotion on my arms, and saying “I think positive thoughts” out loud, I would pay a lot of money for no eyes to ever see that.
And then I got over it and realized that the worst possible scenario is that I’d have really moisturized skin.
Truthfully, it was nice. And as a sidenote, for those of us who were raised in households that deemed things like yoga, therapy, meditation, positive affirmations to be unnecessary or weird or sacrilegious, I’m of the opinion that they can enrich a spiritual life. Your mileage may vary. :)
I mentioned this to a close friend of mine. She and her husband now pastor a church nearby.
“I think that is so, so good,” she said, when I mentioned all of the above. “It’s not talked about enough, especially in religious circles. And you’re left with girls who secretly cut, or starve themselves, or overwork their bodies to try and become something that society says they should be. Even personally I’ve struggled with this since having kids.” (Also often swept under the rug, eating disorders, depression, etc.)
And maybe a great way for girls to learn confidence and self-love is to see it exemplified in Good Old Mom.
Massaging moisturizer onto your skin while speaking positively or praying or breathing deeply or listening to music or whatever it is you like to do seems hokey on paper, I fully admit. And it’s not a cure-all or the key to raising girls. But I really liked it and I think you might like it (if you try it, LMK) and if all else fails you put that basket of hotel lotions in your linen closet to good use, God bless the Marriott.
other people’s perspectives
+ Goodnight Kisses and Consent: Early Lessons
+ How to Physically Love Your Body Even When You Mentally Can’t
+ Her Future Fat Thighs
+ 10 Ways to Nurture Positive Body Image For Your Daughter