The ladies who write at Visionary Womanhood have decided to answer readers’ questions as a group, each lady writing an article on her own blog for a single topic. I have inexplicably been included in this amazing group, even though I have a) never yet written a post there, though I hope to soon, and b) don’t know beans about anything but…well, beans. I’ve been holed up in my
ivory tower rusty old double-wide for so long that I have NO idea how the real world works. Or so some trolls have told me.
Sounds like fun, telling people what I think, doesn’t it? Never tried that before.
You’ll find links to more posts by people (affectionately dubbed “Wemmicks“) who actually know what they’re talking about at the end of this post.
On to the question:
“My question is regarding protecting our children from seeing too much skin in the summer months. A few years ago, my husband and I realized that we cannot go to public beaches and waterslide anymore because of the amount of skin exposure. We want to protect our boys’ minds. It has been TOUGH. We do not have free access to any pools, and we have to get out to the lake early enough to find a private spot. It is not always a good spot for teaching our youngest children to swim. Recently, we have been going to a semi-private spot near a major beach. It is turning out to not be *private enough*, since we are still exposed to some inappropriate swimwear. Today we dropped a few of our older sons off with extended family for a boating trip. There was a bikini involved, which was something we had not anticipated. My husband had an uncomfortable conversation, she got dressed, but I am unsure of what happened after we left. I am starting to feel like such a compromiser!
Most of our conservative friends do not bother themselves much with this issue, and still go to public beaches…I was hoping that someone at Visionary Womanhood might have some insights on all of this. I would love to hear from an older teen boy/young adult who was raised by parents who guarded his eyes. Do all of you avoid all boating trips and boat docks in addition to the public beaches? How do you deal with extended family who are showing too much skin?”
For the sake of full disclosure, I should admit that I hate swimming, so my kids don’t actually get the chance very often anyway. As my kids get older, I’m sure I’ll have to deal with this question on more than a theoretical level, though, and this how I think about this issue right now.
First of all, I don’t believe that you, dear Mom, are compromising by letting your boys go boating with your extended family. There was just an unforeseen difference of opinion between you and your relatives regarding standards of modesty. You were taken aback by the situation, and I daresay the girl who was thusly dressed was equally blind-sided. I do hope that your husband gently helped her see her choice of (un)covering in a new light. If not, then, I’d advise against further boating trips.
Secondly, I don’t believe that public bathing is necessary to well-rounded living, so if you were to say “That’s it. No more water parks, beaches, or pools, ever again!” I won’t be one of the people saying you’re throwing the baby out with the nasty, peed-in bath water. Especially for teen boys, there are just going to be times when other kinds of fun should be sought out for the sake of their raging hormones. If swimming is a favorite pastime, it makes sense to try to find more private areas, or limit swimming to situations where you control the guest-list.
Don’t sweat the incidental stuff. If you’ve found a semi-private swimming spot, but every now and then someone will wander into view whom you’d rather not see, redirect your kids’ eyes. Use the moment to teach them that temptation often comes around without invitation, and how to handle it. This is how we do our trips past the magazine racks and drives through our college town (put on some clothes, girls!), too. If you have to leave early and spoil all the fun, so be it. If you can just look somewhere else until the person has passed, then teach your kids to do the same. Perhaps your obvious ( but quiet!) embarrassment will serve as a polite rebuke. Doubtful, I suppose, but it could happen.
Give some grace. I do believe we should jealously guard our sons’ eyes for them while they learn self-control. With girls who are in your circle of family or friends, that might mean you have to say something, since you can’t boot the dear girl out of your life entirely. Any time we speak to someone about immodest apparel, we’re opening ourselves up to accusations of being judgmental, so I hope your husband chose his words carefully. There is a way of making someone feel ashamed that is wrong and self-seeking, but opening a person’s eyes to real shame that is self-inflicted is a loving act, however poorly received it might be.
I wonder if she really knew what she looked like. I have myself had to rethink what constitutes a modest bathing suit since viewing a video of myself in a pool a few years ago. I thought I had been wearing a modest suit, and I was horribly embarrassed to find out otherwise. Yikes! I’ve been a lot more careful when trying on bathing suits since then, believe me.
Like me, she may have just needed someone to guide her to a full-length mirror for a clue. Even if she is one of those girls who knows good and well what she looks like, I’d say your husband was right to say something under these circumstances. But your standards are your standards, not the wider culture’s, so don’t expect any real change right away. If things haven’t improved with your gentle input, you’re better off avoiding the situation entirely.
The Lord loves a fuddy-duddy. We do need to flee temptation, however uncool and over-sensitive our family and neighbors (and even fellow Christians) may think us. They may be less sensitive to nakedness, but that doesn’t mean you have to sear your conscience to make them feel good about it. In our hyper-sexualized culture, we are the weird ones for even bringing up the idea of modesty. We are probably going to be left out of these kinds of entertainments more often than not, even when other Christians don’t see the harm.
It’s OK to be left out of unwise doings. That might be a really hard lesson for a child or teenager to learn, but it’s an important one. There are, even within “Christian” circles, those who delight in dampening the morals of those around them.
Do not enter the path of the wicked, and do not walk in the way of the evil. Avoid it; do not go on it; turn away from it and pass on. For they cannot sleep unless they have done wrong; they are robbed of sleep unless they have made someone stumble.
Be sure to read what the rest of the Wemmicks think, too!
The Homebody Wemmick
The Visionary Wemmick
The Generation Cedar Wemmick
The Counter Cultural Wemmick
The Lamp on a Stand Wemmick
The Wemmick at Mom’s Many Lessons
The Wemmick In the Nursery of the Nation
The Thankful Homemaker Wemmick
If you’re interested in learning more about modesty–the heart kind, not the hemline kind–I highly recommend Bambi Moore’s More Than Rules: Exploring the Heart of Beauty and Modesty.
(There’s an affiliate link in this post. Just so ya know.)