It all began spontaneously last week while slicing a 15-pound watermelon. I wasn’t prepared for “the talk,” but the date was fast approaching that the school would be administering the county-sponsored ‘Aids and Human Sexuality’ program. So it was fortuitous when my ten-year-old daughter gave me the opening and almost on cue, I went for it. And miraculously, ad lib, the words came down from the heavens and flowed through me effortlessly.
Focused on not slicing my fingers off was a blessing in disguise as I was obliged to keep eye contact to a minimum. My tone was mostly nonchalant punctuated by an occasional joke — to keep things light — lest she feel uncomfortable.
I urged her not to tell her friends all we had discussed.
“Everyone’s parents have the right to teach their own children about these things the way they want.”
“Not because it’s a secret,” I clarified, “although good and bad secrets do exist.”
And this further served as a natural segue way into the topic of inappropriate touch and talk.
I have to face facts: our innocent princesses are transforming into little women before our eyes at lightening speed. As parents, we must stay abreast of the information coming at us and at them from all directions: school, the media, peers, medical personnel, friends and family members.
We need to synthesize all data and develop an ideology and teaching method consistent with our family values, religion, morals and worldview. I believe teaching our children about puberty, sexuality and appropriate behavior is strictly a family affair, and should not be left to the discretion of the school, church, temple or the neighbor’s kid.
It is one responsibility we must act upon preemptively.
Because if not, in the blink of an eye, our kids will learn the “ways of the world” from other sources. And out of ignorance, embarrassment or discomfort, our children will silently adhere to oftentimes erroneous beliefs conveyed by peers, older kids or popular sitcoms.
But one thing is certain: In dress, choice of language, treatment of our own bodies and treatment of others, sooner or later, our little girls will mimic our own actions and behavior.
Be it consciously or subconsciously, they study us. We are forever under the microscope.
Perhaps they’ll rebel and at times embody the polar opposite of what we stand for. But make no mistake about it: Eventually they’ll come around and resort back to the familiar ways ingrained in childhood.
How many times have you found yourself saying this?
“I sound just like my mother! I can’t believe how much I _____ (fill in the blank) just like my mother!”
If we like to show off our showgirl legs with teeny mini-skirts, we have no right to reprimand our girls for doing the same. If we cuss like sailors, we cannot of good conscience scold them for doing the same.
Bottom line: Before we can teach anything, we must check ourselves and “be” however we expect our girls to act.
And, if we treat ourselves with reverence and respect, our girls will likely do the same.
We are their role models.
And this parenting gig forces us to examine ourselves from all angles, continuously.
And ideally evolve into better people and become a beacon of light for our children.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to the Miami Herald