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Modest Mama

4 Comments 16 March 2010


Textile modesty is not an unveiled topic for American families.  Even before I was a mother, I was wary of celebrity ‘fashion‘ and its effect on the general populace, especially children.  I think most parents would agree to the distasteful way some eight-year old girls wear ‘hottie’ across their bottoms or that ten-year-old boys have been seen wearing shirts with the ‘Playboy’ logo, but there seems to be distinct divide among parents on the topic of sensuality and the human body.

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I was not raised with physical modesty, though I practice it carefully as an adult.  My parents had nudist friends and my siblings and I were raised to feel unabashed about our bodies and those of others.

When I brought my one month old baby boy to meet my extended family, they were shocked and unamused when I insisted that I nurse my baby behind a locked door, inviting only other women to be witness to this intimate moment with my baby.  When dealing with new parent dilemmas, I have often turned to my internet support groups, but in this case I seemed to be alone!  While there is a lot of support for nursing mothers, there is very little support for mothers who prefer to nurse discreetly.

While I view the covering of the female form to be liberating for women, other view it as an obstruction to feminist ideals.  As a teacher and a mother, I feel it is my responsibility to display the beauty of my students’ minds, as adorable as they may appear, but on the other hand I certainly want to instill a feeling of comfort within their own bodies.

We all know our children want to be just like us - in every way.  They want to wear what we wear, watch what we watch, kiss who we kiss, hug who we hug. Being affectionate to your children is more than acceptable, its required, but being affectionate to others in front of your children is inappropriate unless you are sure they won’t confuse the kind of affection you show them with the affection you show others.

Likewise, I wouldn’t wear anything in front of my three-year old class that I wouldn’t fully endorse them to wear - weather its a specific logo, style or color. Modesty is a lifestyle, its about showing our children that whats important is on the inside, but that our insides come with an appropriate protective shell - our clothes and our actions.

Visiting the ‘children’s section’ of a department store recently reminded me of this change. The only difference between clothing for children versus adults seemed to be sizing. Not only is it confusing for the child to wear adult clothing, but it can be downright dangerous, as studies show that children who wear provocative clothing may be more likely to be sexually abused.

Says James Garbarino,Director of the Family Life Development Center at Cornell University, “Children were certainly subjected to sexual abuse before the change in clothing took place…Dressing children like adults sends a message,” from his book Raising Children in a Socially Toxic Environment.

A little online research provided a variety of feelings about modesty from different cultures and outlooks, especially in regard to children. Apparently I’m not the only one who is concerned about modesty though, since a thorough poll of  adolescent boys showed that most boys and men aged 12 to 28 did not want to see girls their age flaunting themselves, showing that teen-aged girls are needlessly wearing immodest clothing!

I may be one of few who feel this way, but I think the secret to raising our children to be modest, yet self-confident is not to simply dress them in modest clothing or even to censor what your kids watch, although I wholeheartedly support both tactics as supplements, but to lead by example.

Visiting the ‘children’s section’ of a department store recently reminded me of this change. The only difference between clothing for children versus adults seemed to be sizing.
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- who has written 23 posts on Social Media Mom.

Morah means 'teacher' and that's what I am! I'm a teacher and also the Mommy of a little boy. I'm married to my high school sweetheart, who is an Actuary, and I just moved to Maryland. I have always enjoyed writing and I hope you enjoy my posts!

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4 Comments so far

  1. shaina says:

    I am raising 5 beautiful girls and totally agree with you. Standing up for immodesty is helping to preserve our children’s innocence and childhood. Our children should not have to see such disgusting things that degrades the human body and the sanctity of sex….thanks for your post…

  2. morahmommy says:

    Thanks for your comment Shaina. Its nice to know I’m not alone. Its outrageous that people connect modesty with oppression, rather than self-respect!

  3. sabrina watson says:

    I am the mother of a 5yr old daughter and 2yr old twins. I have seen a change in my 5yr old since starting school and being social I was wondering if u had any advice to help her maintain her modesty even tho her friends around her are different.

  4. morahmommy says:

    Sabrina,
    Five-year-olds love to express themselves in dramatic ways - princesses and fairies, for example, are big deals at this age, but any dramatic play helps children to make sense of their world and how they fit into it. Allow her to get into character by buying her dress-up clothes that you know she’ll like (though I don’t know your daughter, usually pink or purple and sparkly works well), but that also provide the coverage you require. Although peers are important, she’s looking to you to show her the way. Prove to her that its okay to be modest by dressing up with her. Whatever you do, don’t make an example of her friends. Children are extremely absorbant and also very senstivie, so just by modeling modest clothing and behavior, she’ll be well on her way to adopting these mannerisms herself. Best of luck!


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