This weekend, a shopping trip with my 13 year old daughter caused me to doubt my parenting, my salvation and my very humanity. And I WISH I were exaggerating. We started out looking for an Easter dress and ended up in the swim suit section – which is dangerous territory. We have a “no bikini” rule in our house, which she was completely on board with until all of her friends started wearing them. So it’s about fitting in. And I get it. During the paleozoic era, I wanted desperately to fit in. In some circles now, I still long for that. But during my formative years, my parents made some decisions that left me on the outside looking in. They were seen as overly strict and hyper religious by my friends and their families. And at times I really wished they would lighten up. But oh, how I understand and appreciate now the thoughtfulness of their rules. Safety. Protection for body, mind and soul. BIG PICTURE.
And yet, I didn’t feel justified Saturday after hours of arguing and making my point. I felt broken. I cried over dinner. Yes, about a bathing suit for my 13 year old. Because, for me, it’s so much bigger than that. It’s about examining how I want to raise her. And looking at my heart motives. It reminds me of the old joke about the wife who always cut the ends off of her ham before baking it in the oven. One day her husband asked her why she did that, and she responded that she really didn’t know. Her mom always made it that way. So she called her mom to ask the “why”, and her mom answered that she didn’t have a pan big enough for the ham to fit in. Even though my mom is one of the godliest women I know, I don’t want to follow her example (even though 9 times out of 10 it may be right). I want to follow Jesus.
My “bikini belief”, if you will, is that showing that much skin in our over sexualized society is not appropriate. I understand from reading scientific and social experiments how a man’s (or boy’s) brain works. And seeing certain glimpses of skin on a girl cause lustful thoughts and feelings. Please don’t misunderstand me here. Men are responsible for controlling their own thoughts and actions. They must be taught to avert their eyes from things that cause impure thoughts. But adolescence is such a confusing time, why should any of us unnecessarily add fuel to the fire. Now, at 13, my daughter has no curves. She is a walking stick and there is nothing “sexy” about her in a bikini. But those curves are coming – maybe before the summer is over. So currently, the battle is about setting a precedent for what is allowed in the future.
Which leads me to my next jumble of thoughts and emotions. Am I making so much of this that it will become a legalistic rule that she will rebel against? I consulted my Facebook friends for opinions on this and heard some wise points of view. Some told stories of leaving the house dressed “appropriately” for their parents and then changing or modifying what they had on once they got away. One friend questioned whether or not Allie and I understood each other’s “reasons” in this argument. I completely understand her wanting to fit in, but we know from John 15:19 that God called us to be different – as hard as that might be. I have explained my position, but she doesn’t get it. In her adolescence, she struggles to see past the here and now. One wise friend suggested that I choose my battles. I have to remember that the end goal for Allie is that she choose modesty for herself, not that I force it upon her. So does she need a little length in the leash here?
If that wasn’t enough to make my head hurt, there’s one more confusing piece to this puzzle. I wish it didn’t fit in this scenario, but it does. As much as Allie cares about what her friends think of her, I care too. Too much. I would not be completely forthcoming if I didn’t tell you that a fear of being judged lingers in my mind. In the end, we compromised on a suit that I still don’t really like. It’s not a bikini, but it is a two-piece. As I looked at her in it, I wondered what my Christian mom friends would think of me allowing it. That is an ugly truth, but a truth none the less. I’m praying about this and working on it with God (and through this therapeutic word vomit). The truth is, it is a heart issue between my daughter, our Creator, and me. If I tell her she should be strong enough to stand up against the crowd, then I certainly should be. What other people think should not be factored into the equation. (Really? Math analogies? I hate math.)
Oh, what a tangled web we weave… Following Jesus is not always black and white. There is no scripture verse on swim suits. (If I have missed one, someone please illuminate me.) I don’t want to settle for religion and rules and regulations. Those things don’t bring life. Following Jesus is a living, breathing relationship full of moment by moment lessons and decisions. And oh, I need prayers for the journey. Not just about bikinis, but the many parenting mountains that are to come. Will you pray for me? I would love to pray for you. Comment below on your mountain so we can lift each other up.