Time and again have I heard parents openly express their fears when it comes to raising girls. Fathers half-jokingly declare that the day their daughter brings a boy to the house, they will either be cleaning a shotgun…inviting 20 of their closest friends over for a panel interview…or digging a hole 6 feet deep in the corner of the backyard.
It is inherent in the heart of a daddy to want to protect his little girl. Thoughts projected into the future spark anxiety about the loss of her purity and the possibility of teenage pregnancy. On our visit to the Aquarium of the Pacific last summer, Gary and I complimented a man boldly wearing a shirt that read “D.A.D.D.” (Dads Against Daughters Dating). Yeah, we thought it was pretty cool, too.
Something happened the other day, however, that woke me up to the harsh reality of society’s double standard when it comes to boys. I always knew that many parents did not exercise the same vigilance with their sons. Boys seemed to have more freedom. Certain behaviors were more acceptable among males than females. I’d worked in co-ed schools for most of my teaching career and witnessed these differences first-hand. But never had it struck the depths of my soul until my own child was affected.
A few days ago, I took our four little ones to the playground where some middle school kids happened to be hanging out. My two-year-old son Kali couldn’t keep up with the girls so he circled the play structure, making his way up a side ladder. A young boy of about 12 coached him up and cheered him on as he reached the top. I thanked the boy for his encouragement and watchful eye.
Ten minutes later, this same boy says to Kali, “Hey, tell your mom you learned a new word. #%@!”
Oh no, he didn’t. But, yes, folks…he did. And the junior high teacher in me let him have it. “EXCUSE ME! We do NOT say that word in our house, and YOU shouldn’t either!”
Thank God that Kali was totally oblivious to anything that boy said to him. I was unquestionably angry for a good while, but then I started feeling sorry for him. Who knows what kind of background this kid had with the barrage of negative influences leading him to think that trying to taint the innocence of a toddler would be funny.
All of a sudden, the whole incident became my day’s meditation. Sure, our girls need to be guarded…but so do our little boys. They are introduced to impurity at a much younger age and at a much more aggressive intensity than the girls are. “Locker room humor”, pornography, relationship conquests – all seen as normal in the lives of our men – find their roots in the culture they grew up in as children.
It makes my insides churn.
I always intended to raise all my kids with the same morals, rules, and expectations regardless of their gender. They are taught to love God and to see everything He made as good and beautiful, including their bodies. Other people are to be respected and treated with the dignity they were created with. And anyone who has ever heard Gary and I speak about courtship knows that we will do our very best to help them understand the nature of sacrificial love and all that a lifestyle of chastity entails.
It is our God-given duty to shield them from harm, both physical AND spiritual. To protect the body and neglect the soul would only lead them down a tragic road laden with unnecessary heartache and suffering. But our family will not be enclosed in a “box” completely separated from reality. That’s not the life God calls us to live. Gary and I will decide together how to educate them about the world…about the way that it is and the way God intended it to be.
We want them to be salt and light. We want them to reach out to those in need. We want them to know that they have a great mission only they can fulfill. Their foundation will be the life and example of Jesus Christ…the One who was sent to love those who did not know love…to convict those whose hearts were hungry for the truth…and to forgive those who did not know what they were doing.
So when our children do encounter sin in its different forms, we pray that they will face it the same way Jesus did: with a pure heart formed in the Word of God and fully enlightened by the Holy Spirit. Will they fall? Probably. But hopefully with the faith we are passing on to them, they won’t fall as hard. If they should ever stray, at least they will know that Mother Church will always be here to embrace them with open arms.
‘Tis quite a scary time to take on the challenges of parenting, but if we do our job right, maybe our children will be numbered among the faithful whose courageous witness proclaims to the world that God’s love surpasses any fleeting pleasure…wipes away the shame of sin…and fills us with the hope of eternal life.
May this generation rise up and become the saints they were made to be. And may all my fellow parents embrace the huge responsibility in being models of virtue for their families. AMEN!