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Orange & Bergamot is Here For You

culture and society, parenting

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.

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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.

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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

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23 Comments

  • Reply Cassandra August 17, 2015 at 3:07 pm

    I LOVE that you posted again. I miss hearing from you! And I love this idea. I have a daughter who is 18 months and I just want to protect her from everything. but I love the idea of empowering her with confidence even better. :) And I love lotion, so it is a win win :D

    • Reply Roo August 17, 2015 at 10:05 pm

      Let me know if you like it, Cassandra! :D

  • Reply lisa @StudioJewel August 17, 2015 at 3:44 pm

    as a mama of three teenage girls…i’m here to raise my hand and say…yup. everything you said above. true. and while i am not the best role model…i’m the one they have in their face. every.day. so i best better teach an appreciation for the battle scars of life that i wear, sometimes with pride…sometimes not. i am not perfect. in fact most days i suck. but i try to instill a bit of stillness and love of myself and the occasional…ok more than occasional…selfie. which says i’m ok with my wrinkles and lines and not so perfect body. it IS possible to raise strong confident girls. :)

    • Reply Roo August 17, 2015 at 10:06 pm

      Love that you weighed in, Lisa! Let me know if you write a manual. ;)

  • Reply Meghan August 17, 2015 at 3:48 pm

    I also miss hearing from you! Only blog and blogger I care about.

    • Reply Roo August 17, 2015 at 10:06 pm

      Aww, thanks, Meghan! Hope to be writing more. Summer gets kind of bananas. ♥

  • Reply MissCaron August 17, 2015 at 4:51 pm

    Excellent! Great ideas. Love yourself. “You are fearfully and wonderfully made” and your daughters should see that reflected off you and onto them.

    • Reply Roo August 19, 2015 at 4:55 pm

      Thanks, Caron!

  • Reply Jen August 17, 2015 at 5:34 pm

    While camping near a local lake with friends this weekend, we went to spend the day at the beach with our families. After having four kids, I’m definitely not my most comfortable in a swimsuit which does not hide what I feel are a multitude of flaws (cellulite, varicose veins, generally chubbiness, flat chest). I tried not to feel super self conscious and still have fun. But then my sweet 12 year old told me how glad she was that I was willing to try out paddle boards with her (sooo much fun, by the way) and didn’t just sit on the sidelines. In our family, when we start being down on ourselves in any way, the rest of us start quoting Cool Runnings which always makes us laugh and feel better. “I see pride! I see power! I see a bad ** mother who don’t take no crap from nobody!”. Amazing what a little encouragement can do to help you feel more positive :)

  • Reply Liz August 18, 2015 at 9:15 am

    I really liked this post. Of course raising 3 girls makes this a much more pressing discussion. But, I am pregnant with a boy and trying to think of ways that I too can lead by example to teach him to have great respect for women – peers or not. Maybe having him see me have love and respect for my own body will teach him to have respect for other bodies? Maybe teaching him to do yoga with me and help him find his own inner spirituality will give him confidence to stand up for what’s right, even when he gets to that tough middle school age where hormones and emotions are running high. One can hope!

    • Reply Cassandra August 19, 2015 at 2:24 pm

      Liz,
      I love the idea of loving ourselves and doing yoga to help be self aware. :) one thing we’ve done with our son since he was really little is, “my body my choice “. So if he doesn’t want a hug or kiss, he says, no thanks, my body my choice. And now with his little sister, if he tries to move her and she doesn’t want to, we say, her body, her choice. I think it teaches respect for others, but also ownership of self. That he has the right to say what happens to his body. And everyone else has that same right for their body.

      • Reply Roo August 23, 2015 at 4:56 pm

        I’m so guilty of this … not with other people (“If you don’t want to hug him, honey, just say ‘not today'”), but with me. Like “Come onnnnn give Mommy a smooch.” Something I need to rethink. :) Thanks for sharing, Cassandra!

  • Reply Megan August 18, 2015 at 3:58 pm

    “it puts the lotion in the basket or else it gets the hose again.”
    Haha! That’s all I could think when I read the last paragraph.
    I have a little man I’m trying to raise. I think about doing right by him everyday. I hope he is kind, empathetic, thoughtful and the kind of boy and man who speaks up for others. I’m glad you wrote this about girls, but I think it applies to everyone. Sometimes I wonder if we are wringing our hands needlessly–like old people shouting “get off my lawn, you damn kids” when really every generation thinks the next is sliding into a moral vortex. Or is it really bad? I don’t know. I have none of the answers.

  • Reply KNatGU August 18, 2015 at 4:12 pm

    2 thoughts.

    As a mother of 3 yr old daughter man do little girls taken in everything there Mama’s says. Already we talk about body in the most positive light possible. I’m guilty of maybe the other thing, like saying to a Mom friends ahh man my daughter’s legs go on forever / tush is so tone, hopefully, she always is like that.

    I went to an all-girls high school and as an ambassador later on I learn some of the pros of a single-gender learning environment. There is a lot of things they list. I always wonder if that high school experience really did shape a large part of future. I’m the only female and director in a group of male engineerings and gender rarely affects my work.

  • Reply Leigh Ann August 19, 2015 at 9:00 am

    I really appreciate this. I am so careful not to make negative comments about my body in front of my 3 girls, but I don’t think as much about actively showing my love for my body in front of them. When I trained for and ran a half marathon a couple of years ago, they would ask “Why are you running?” and I would explain that I wanted to exercise and take care of my body. But since injury, there has been much less of that. This was a great reminder. Now as I have been changing my eating habits, they ask things like why my dinner differs slightly from theirs (no taco shells = sad, but still good). Trying to explain that one is hard without having the weight conversation.

  • Reply Haley @ Carrots for Michaelmas August 19, 2015 at 2:01 pm

    Thanks so much for the link love, Roo!

    • Reply Roo August 19, 2015 at 4:55 pm

      You’re welcome, Haley! Thanks for the food for thought!

  • Reply Delia August 19, 2015 at 4:54 pm

    Great post! I agree with confidence being a protective factor. I think my parents instilled a confidence and self-worth in me – that I knew if someone wasn’t treating me right or if they were pressuring me, they weren’t worth keeping around. I had the confidence to expect respect :) I work with a lot of troubled middle school girls and I try to impart that wisdom to them as well.

    • Reply Roo August 23, 2015 at 4:55 pm

      Love it, Delia. Tell your parents I want to take a how-to workshop with them. :)

  • Reply Catherine August 21, 2015 at 8:41 pm

    I have a teenage daughter and think on these things all the time. One thing I noticed was that I was very, very careful to never be outwardly derogatory about myself thinking that would be enough if I ‘faked’ it. Turns out, not so much. Even though I talked positive and didn’t criticise outwardly, my daughter still picked up on my general unhappiness with myself. Now I am working on actually liking/loving myself inwardly and she is responding to that too.

    • Reply Roo August 23, 2015 at 4:55 pm

      Wow, Catherine. This is really great to know. Thanks for sharing. ♥

  • Reply tara e September 15, 2015 at 1:32 pm

    Great post Roo. I’m late to the game because I see all these comments are about a month old ha :) But I have a 2.5 year old daughter and the world scares the crap out of me. I think this is great advice and is something I hope I can do for myself so I CAN raise a confident daughter.
    Also – I miss you! I’m sure your girls keep you crazy busy and being in the moment with your family is way more important than posting for strangers so keep doing you :) Hope all is well!!

  • Reply Bob February 14, 2016 at 11:37 pm

    My preview box is on its way. I can’t wait to get it. Then I will have to dcidee to keep this one of kiwi crate. Not sure I need two different craft boxes.

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