The other weekend my daughter, who is 8, had a play-date with her best friend. It was an absolutely beautiful day out and Girl Scouts of Connecticut was encouraging kids to visit a state park to receive a special badge. So after picking up her bestie, I took them to a local state park that I love to visit.
My daughter can be a little timid about trying new things and being adventurous, but her bestie is the complete opposite. We walked down to where the trail meets the river and the girls decided they wanted to walk on the rocks and see if they could cross it (don’t worry, the water wasn’t deep).
It was so fun watching them just have this special childhood adventure together, holding hands and helping each other cross the rocks. My kid, however, is not as graceful as her best friend and fell into the water several times, getting her clothing pretty wet (they didn’t have bathing suits on).
After they were done and we were going to head back to the car, my daughter asked me if she could take her shirt off because it was soaked and uncomfortable. I told her of course she can and off it came. In that moment I could tell she was wondering if this was appropriate or not, and her bestie seemed to think it was a little odd too.
I responded by telling her that she’s still a kid and her body looks just like any other gender’s body so there’s nothing to feel shameful or embarrassed about. It’s just her body! So she then proudly walked back to the car and kept talking about how much she liked not having her shirt on.
Even though I was 100% fine with it, I realized as we were walking back and encountered other people, that a little part of me was wondering what they were thinking. Were they judging me for letting my daughter walk around with more of her body showing than usual?
And then I realized how ridiculous it is that one would even think twice about a *child* not having their shirt on. It’s us who are sexualizing them! Even though I’m a feminist I still grew up in a society that sexualizes girls and I, from time-to-time, have to check my own internalized messages. There is nothing sexual about an 8-year-old girl taking her shirt off and playing outside. Nothing.
If I had told her she couldn’t take her shirt off because other people might see her body, what kind of message would I have been sending to her? That others have a say over what she can and can’t do with her body? Hell to the no.
Sometimes as parents we need to reflect on our own internalized misogyny and simply remember to let kids be kids.