My post yesterday about my daughter's schoolmate got a lot of response. One of the most poignant and simply put responses I received was this:
"It's a well-written post that I simply wish didn't exist." (And thank you, Jenna. I wish it didn't, either). Even more, I wish there weren't people who commented that had the same type of story to share, a story about someone's daughter, some kid's sister, some girl who still had all her life in front of her who lost a childhood along the way. It's heartbreaking. More than that, it's an abomination.
And after reading my blog post, a good friend thought I might be interested in reading this article, about the marketing geniuses at Victoria's Secret, who think it's a good idea to make a line of pre-teen underwear with playful, sexy sayings on them.
The new line is called "Bright Young Things," and features lacy black 'cheeksters' with great words like "Wild" on them, lace-trimmed thongs with the words "Call Me" on the front, or cutesy, polka-dot hipsters printed with "Feeling Lucky?"
No, Victoria's Secret, I'm not feeling lucky. I'm feeling rather sick to my stomach, if you must know. And on top of that, I'm feeling mad. Really, really mad.
My daughter deserves a childhood devoid of worries about things. Things like "Am I pretty enough," or "Am I good enough" or "Will everyone like me?" It's my job as Mom to try to corral those poisonous thoughts, to keep their stink at bay so that she's not choking on those fumes. Her later teen years and adult life will find her coughing out clouds of them, and sinking gratefully into the fresh, clean air of friends and (please, God) boyfriends who don't spew that kind of junk and just like her for who she is and the way she lets them be who they are when they're with her.
She's got enough to think about without adding the serpentine slitherings of "Am I sexy enough? and "Will everyone think I'm sexy?" to slide into her brainspace, spewing it's venom into her bloodstream until it spreads in horrible, unflattering ways that leave her hurtling headlong in a panic away from words like "Too Ugly," "Too Fat", or heaven help her, "Slut." Eventually, she may find herself cowering behind a wall of self-loathing, waiting for someone to ooze between its cracks and tell her that she only has to crawl down to where they are, and they'll help her get out. She may find out too late that it doesn't work that way.
My daughter is worth more. I don't know you, Mr. (or Ms.) marketing executive, but your daughter is worth more, too. They have their whole lives to live, a whole adulthood ahead of them to be sexy and flirty and anything else their adult self wants to be.
Childhood is such a short, fleeting thing. Who looks back and doesn't wish for just one more Saturday afternoon at the pool? One more bike ride down that steep, scary hill? One more lazy afternoon with a friend and a big box of Legos? One more family movie night with that huge bowl of popcorn and the laughter of your siblings as the dog tips the whole thing over? One more improvised dance routine, one more cartwheel in the backyard, one more game of Mario Kart with your Dad that leaves you screeching until you're breathless?
I've never heard of anyone wishing they could go back and wear their childhood underwear again. Why? Because it's unimportant, in the scheme of things. Unmemorable. And it should remain that way.
The friend who sent me that article wrote to me: "Words do not belong on children's underwear." And in the interest of full disclosure, I have to tell you that I had words on my underwear as a child. The days of the week. Plain white underwear, with each day and a small flower embroidered on the front. My Mom bought it for me, of course. I don't think I ever paid attention much to wearing the proper pair on the proper day. I didn't give a flip about my underwear. I was too busy being a kid.
My daughter is a pre-teen. I am aware, every single day, that time is marching forward and she's closer to woman than child now. I give her more freedoms. I give her more choices. I give her more responsibilities.
I don't take from her anything that shouldn't be taken yet.
And that includes what's left of her childhood.