A full whistle.
Greetings from sunny Vermont. This afternoon my younger daughter and I were walking to the library to return books (the library is in the middle of our small village) and a red pick up truck slowed down and the driver gave my daughter a full whistle. She was mortified and perplexed. I was dumbfounded. On the way back, we talked about it. She asked if she was dressed appropriately. I answered yes. She asked if she had done something wrong. I answered no. She asked if he was whistling at me. I said no. And so I gave her “the talk,” and it went something like this:
“Honey–you’re growing into a beautiful young woman. And we have no control of how people, male or female, are going to behave around us. Many boys and men have been raised to respect women. Some have been raised that way but their hormones hijack them from about age 15 to 21, and they behave in ways that they won’t behave later. And fewer still have not been shown at all what respect looks like. This is what you can do: First, above all else, keep yourself safe. Second, do not engage. Third, remind yourself that it is their behavior that is lacking, not yours, or how you look or are dressed. You will be noticed in this world. In many instances, this will be a positive thing. But sometimes being noticed carries a burden. This was one of those times.”
It seems like yesterday that I was having the same talk with my older daughter. I’m not sure at all if I got the words right then, or am getting them right now. All I want is for my daughters to feel good inside their bodies, and safe with what’s going on outside of them. In just a few years my younger daughter will be on her own and making her own decisions about where she goes and what she wears and what she does.
If I think about it too much, it drives me crazy with worry. So instead, I trust that what we’ve taught them serves them well. And of course, they both know we are just a phone call away, no questions asked. I’m baffled how my baby got to be old enough to get whistled at. And If I could have communicated with that driver, I would have said, “SHE’S JUST A BABY!” Though she’s still my youngest, still my baby, she’s clearly not to others.
I don’t mind letting go. I know that this is the way it is supposed to be, her growing away from me, becoming her own independent strong self. But does this growth process have to include whistling? Can’t there be a stretch of adolescence where you are growing into womanhood without being pestered? Maybe with a sack over her head. Maybe in total isolation. But not here in our little village. Not in this day and age. Tough stuff.
What do you all think? Anybody go through this as a parent of a daughter or as a young woman? Check back next week for another segment of finding home.