06/20/2013 05:50 pm ET Updated Aug 20, 2013

Birds, Bees, and Miniskirts

As my kids get older, talks about sex, hormones, wisdom, maturity, morals, and just good ol' fashion common sense have become more frequent. As a former children's pastor and youth leader, I am totally comfortable with such talks. What I'm not comfortable with is when the lectures turn back on me.


My daughter overheard a conversation at school that lead to questions. Luckily I had already established the line of open communication. We talked about how boys are highly visual and that girls usually follow their heart more. Being the smart girl that she is, she started making the connection between visual appeal and the way girls dress. She asked why girls would wear certain clothes if it made boys feel certain ways. The very idea of sex completely grosses her out (thank God!) so she doesn't get it. That put me in a very awkward position.

Wanting "it" versus flaunting it

As a little girl I struggled greatly with why my dad and brother could take their shirts off to work in the garden but I couldn't. The older I got the more accepting I grew of the cultural stigma, but I still didn't like it. I was always a bit top-heavy and as an early developer, that certainly made my parents protective of me. That protectiveness quickly rubbed off and I hid behind a tomboy exterior throughout my preteens and teens.

It wasn't until I had a daughter and son of my own that I realized just how off-kilter my thought process was. I won't teach my daughter to cover herself because otherwise she's "asking for it." That puts the burden of decency only on girls. What I do teach her, however, is that she should cover herself out of respect for herself. She shouldn't have to have half her bottom hanging out of her pants or wear a shirt so low cut that you can see everything to have others like her. If that's what a boy wants, he's probably not a good choice.

On the flip side, I'll teach my boys to respect their female counterparts. The girl you're drooling over is someone's daughter, granddaughter, and sister. She is a person and she should be respected as one. Self control starts in the brain, not in the pants.

The tables turned

Several days after the conversation, I put on a skirt and headed to the coffee shop after dropping off my kids at day camp. That evening, I changed into shorts and teeshirt and my daughter said "you look so much better in that." I was stumped. That's when she told me that the shirt I wore earlier showed too much. Knowing that it was a just a three-button pullover, I wasn't concerned that it actually did, but the fact that she thought it did hit me like a ton of bricks.

As much as the protectiveness of my parents frustrated me, my daughter has now assumed that role. She sees everything. She hears everything. My daughter watches everything. As adults, we've already come to our own conclusions of personal tolerance, but our kids are still forming their own opinions based heavily on how we act, dress, and speak. I don't have to pretend to be something I'm not, but I also can't say one thing and do another. Few things will ruin a parent-child relationship like hypocrisy.

I am a modest woman, but as the daughter of a tween, I am also responsible for seeing my life through my daughter's eyes. That doesn't mean I have to be a nun, but I do have to be aware of how she sees me and my choices. I have to be willing to communicate and not take the communication as judgement but rather as a learning experience for both of us. Right now, I am her biggest example. I need to take advantage of that as long as possible.

What about you?

Have you ever been called out by your kid? How did you take it?