It was a Saturday afternoon and we were cleaning out the house. Not cleaning up…we do that three times a day. Cleaning out… clearing out clutter, going through closets, and rifling through junk that needed to be donated or tossed.
One of my boys came to me. He had that worried look on his face and something in his hands hidden behind his back. He asked if he could speak privately to me in my bedroom and we went in and closed the door. We sat down on the carpet and he said he had something to show me.
From behind his back he handed me a picture of a pretty girl in a t-shirt. It had been a tag from a new shirt haphazardly tossed into my trashcan and when earlier that day I asked him to empty my trash– he found it and kept it.
He explained that he liked her picture and he thought she was pretty. But he felt guilty. He couldn’t understand his attraction to the photo and for a little eight-year-old kid I was pretty impressed that although he wasn’t really able to explain all the rush of emotions he had going on, he knew where to go to get some answers on what to do.
I felt honored. And we had a long chat about how, yes, she was pretty. And what did he think was so lovely about her? And what truly makes a girl pretty on the inside? And how do we know what to look for in a girl and how do we know how to treat a girl and all kinds of things like that.
Then I took all my boys aside and had a long chat. I told them about this one kid in high school that I still remembered. This kid first got my attention because he was good looking. But as I came to know him what made me truly adore him was how he treated everyone– especially women.
He was the kind of guy who treated every girl, every single one of them, as if they were a princess. He opened doors, spoke respectfully, wouldn’t let other guys cuss in front of us, and if some girl treated herself cheaply, he would always remind them they were worth more…deserved better.
He was open about the fact that he was saving himself for marriage. He refused to even say “I love you” to a girl because he truly wanted to save that phrase for his wife. He valued women, all women, with respect and honor, even if they didn’t value themselves. Because of how this young man treated the women in his life, he made all of us realize we were precious. I began to look at myself differently because of how this one young man treated every girl he knew. I told my boys that’s the kind of men I am raising. I made it clear that they can and should always come to mom or dad when they find themselves uncomfortable, not understanding what to do with emotions or feelings, and that we understand it can be a real struggle to reign in all the emotions and curiosity.
I explained to them that I can’t and I won’t go around hiding every pretty picture of a girl or ask them to block their eyes from a billboard that has a bikini. Those women who may be objectifying themselves are NOT objects and must be thought of as someone’s younger sister, someone’s daughter, and by extension, a human being deserving of respect and love, even if they don’t respect themselves.
It was the first such talk I’ve had with them but there have been dozens since. With ten sisters, it’s not likely my boys have any chance of growing up without knowing how to love, honor, cherish and respect women. But the importance of teaching them as they grow up that everyone is someone’s daughter– that no matter the woman’s dress, occupation, speech, or any capability or level of education.
Yesterday’s post on dress codes had plenty of comments. But in the midst of all the debate about what is and isn’t appropriate, let me tell you that the OTHER side to dress codes and what is always necessary is to be teaching and training our young boys how to look at women, regardless of how women may see themselves. I believe we can raise the kind of men like my friend from high school who made every young girl he came into contact with raise their self-respect and self-worth.