It’s a Beach Party! Or at least that was the theme-of-the-day recently at our daughter’s preschool. The three and four-year-olds were encouraged to wear swimsuits to school as part of the festivities. In the communications between home and school, there was also a “don’t forget the cover-up” plea from the teacher.
Upon arriving to preschool to drop off our daughter, I noticed a couple of girls were dressed in barely-there bikinis, no cover-up included. Little girls in bikinis — cute and innocent, right? And then I heard a mom say, “I brought her cover-up. But why cover-up?” which then precipitated a few chuckles from the gallery of moms and dads waiting to drop-off their children.
The remark “Why cover up” struck a chord and made me uneasy. Why cover up? Just how much of your daughter’s skin does the world really need to see?
“But it’s innocent. She’s just a kid.”
“Stop being such a prude!”
“Awww, it’s so cute at this age.”
“Relax, there’s time for that later.”
Frankly, I don’t agree, and I think that attitude is a gateway toward parent-child conflict just a few years down the road. If you let your little girls parade around in itsy bitsy polka-dotted bikinis from the earliest of age, when do you begin to instill a sense of modesty with them? And then how do you do that once you’ve normalized immodest wear? Shouldn’t we at least try to instill some sense of modesty, say, before puberty?
By the time girls turn seven (maybe even before), their clothing options turn from cute and frilly to somewhat more sleek and racy. How do you help your child make good clothing choices at that stage amid dwindling modest options when you’ve effectively taught her that modesty doesn’t matter? Because of cultural norms and clothing choices, you are going to have to fight this battle anyway. Do you want to fight it against your child or with her by your side?
Popular Catholic singer-songwriter Jackie Francois weighed in on this topic over at LifeTeen.com. Jackie advocates that women should ditch the bikinis in favor of a more modest choice in swimwear. In defense of her position, she pulled out that good ol’ Catechism. Here’s the part that really caught my attention (emphasis mine):
… Modesty protects the intimate center of the person. It means refusing to unveil what should remain hidden. It is ordered to chastity to whose sensitivity it bears witness. It guides how one looks at others and behaves toward them in conformity with the dignity of persons and their solidarity … (CCC 2521-2523)
So if modesty centers on refusing to unveil what should remain hidden, why is it ever okay not to “cover up,” even at the earliest of ages? Chastity is a delicate flower that needs to be protected. Modesty is not only the hedge around chastity, it is also the water, fertilizer, and sunshine that helps chastity grow. If you never understand modesty, you will never have proper respect for your body.
As with everything, doing flows from being. My husband and I would rather not preach about modesty; we want it to become the unspoken norm in our family. If that’s simply who we are, that sets up the opportunity for our children to live chastely later on.
It has been said that the best time to plant a tree is twenty-five years ago. The next best time is today. It is best if you’ve already planted the modesty seed with your children and are nurturing it along. If you haven’t, the next best time is today.
Thoughts? Am I overreacting? Let me hear about it.
How can we plant the seeds of modesty in our children?