During Sunday dinner at our house, Maisy pulled aside my friend Marie and said she needed to tell her something.
“There’s a boy in my class who looks under my dress whenever I wear a dress to school. He doesn’t bother me when I wear shorts.”
Marie’s reaction was understandably upset, “Maisy!” She shouted, “That’s not okay!” Maisy burst into tears.
It was then, in the middle of my kitchen floor, I had to have a conversation with my daughter I was hoping I would never have to have.
“Your body is yours,” I told her. “You decide what to do with it.”
My daughter is four years old.
This morning, my husband approached Maisy’s teachers and let them know what we had learned. Apparently, this was something they were aware of. They told us it was only one time.
When my husband let them know Maisy said it had happened several times, Maisy’s teachers said that Maisy is so shy at school she wouldn’t likely tell them if there was an issue.
Her teachers chalked the boy’s behavior up to “curiosity”. They assured us they spoke with the boy, but also made a comment that some parents brush the comments like this off.
They then rounded out this conversation by letting my husband know they spoke to both the boys and the girls about it, and they encouraged MJ and all the girls to wear shorts to school under their dresses.
It was then that I lost my ever loving mind.
Let’s unpack this:
“It was just curiosity”
I understand that at this age, children are curious. However, it is the duty of us as parents and of our children’s teachers to help navigate what is appropriate and what is not appropriate when exploring that curiosity.
Looking under girls’ skirts, is never, nor will it ever be, appropriate. I expect that my child is going to a school that expresses the inappropriateness of this with any responsible or impacted child and their parents.
“…Spoke with the boys and girls about it”
I have no idea what was said to my child and her classmates after this incident occurred.
Did the boys hear that they should respect girls and their bodies as they would expect their own bodies to be respected? Did the girls hear that their bodies are their own and that their teachers are there to respect and protect them? Did they both hear a rendition of “Boys will be Boys” and carry on as if this is something that should be expected?
And aside from this – my family was never told that this was something that happened. Teachers spoke to our daughter and her classmates about it, but no one bothered to pull me or my husband aside to tell us it happened.
We learned about this incident from Maisy who told Marie because she was afraid to tell us. She thought she would get in trouble; she thought she did something wrong.
Let me make it incredibly clear that she did absolutely nothing wrong. We love our daughter without bounds and actively raise her to be an independent, strong girl. Seeing my daughter afraid to tell me something shattered my heart. And when we were able to have a discussion about it, it took several minutes to assure her she could tell me anything without fear.
If Maisy hadn’t told us, would we have ever known about it?
This was the final blow for me. Tell my four year old to wear shorts to school so this boy won’t bother her. Again, she is four freaking years old. Is there something wrong with the knee-length dresses my daughter wears to school? Are dresses so tempting to this young boy’s curiosity that in wearing them, MJ is asking for him to look under her skirt?
Maisy did not ask for this. Maisy did not do anything to deserve this. I will NOT make my daughter wear something she doesn’t want to because a boy can’t keep his hands to himself.
Maisy doesn’t dress inappropriately to go to school. The problem is not my daughter wearing a dress. The problem is a child who can’t keep his f-ing hands to himself.
As frustrated as I am, my frustration is not with this little boy. He is young and deserves guidance to turn this behavior around. My concern is with this school and the teachers that I have trusted to care for my daughter.
Maisy deserves to go to a school where her teachers guide her to respect her body, value her privacy and boundaries and stand up for her. When I sat in Maisy’s VPK orientation, I heard from leaders at the school – including her teachers – that the curriculum includes teaching our children values to lead them through life. Values like integrity, trust and respect.
Respect, trust and integrity are not taught by telling four year old girls to change what they wear.
Children learn through example. If they are shown respect, they will give respect. Boys and girls need to be taught that they should not touch someone without their consent and that no one can touch them without giving their consent too.
Looking back on that conversation on the kitchen floor, the conversation where I told Maisy’s bright, four-year old freckled face that she didn’t do anything wrong, that her body is hers and she decides what to do with it, I reflected on the number of girls and women who are disrespected every single day. Maisy is just an example of how it all begins in a seemingly “innocent” or “harmless” way.
I will never stop fighting for my girl’s to know their worth and their value. They deserve so much love and respect and I hope they live their lives demanding it. My Maisy is growing into that strong, sassy, brilliant little girl we always knew she was, and I know she will defend herself.
Which is why I held her in my arms and I told her that if this boy does this again to say LOUD and STRONG “STOP!” and that if he still doesn’t stop, to punch him square in the nose.
“You will never, ever get in trouble for defending yourself,” I said.
She smiled back at me. “Loud and STRONG.”