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Monday, Nov 12 2012 11:00 PM

THOMAS CLOBES: 2 girls, 2 lessons: Self-respect and how to dress like a hooker

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    Thomas Clobes

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My hope as a parent is to teach my three children to grow into self-respecting, independent, productive members of society. My wife and I try to use the many opportunities life presents to help our children achieve this goal. We allow them to make choices on their own, face the consequences (good and bad) of those choices, and discuss the end results with them. However, we also guide them away from obviously bad choices and talk with them about why those are bad choices.

Unfortunately, there are also many challenges to reaching this goal for our three children. I wasn't expecting one of these challenges to present itself as an outfit another little girl was wearing at the local park. But, alas, it was.

Enjoying our amazing fall weather, I was watching the trio play at the park. That is when a 7-year-old girl came running by, wearing spiked, high-heeled boots, bootie shorts, and a skimpy tank top with "Spoiled Rotten" emblazoned across the chest.

Where do I begin? My first reaction was actual shock, utter speechlessness. Then I started wondering who would allow this little girl to dress in such a way. It dawned on me that someone must find it appropriate for a child to dress like a hooker, that they must actually think it is cute.

It isn't cute. In fact, it's alarming. This little girl is exactly that: little and a girl. This is the only time in her life where she can be nothing but a little girl, with endless opportunities to explore the world and grow into that self-respecting, independent, productive woman.

But she's already being taught to sexualize herself, despite the fact that she is so much more than that. I can think of many potential drawbacks to allowing my daughter to dress like this: reinforcing the concept of getting attention for her body alone, teaching materialism, encouraging a rebellious attitude (and, no, not the good type of rebellion). I am at a loss, though, for thinking of any upsides.

Dressing like this is one of those choices I would have guided my daughter away from. Our discussion on why this was a bad choice would have included modesty, self-respect and how we want to present ourselves to others. I don't even want to imagine the types of conversations this girl has with her parents. Do they second-guess their daughter's outfits? Are they proud of them?

I know I'm not supposed to judge the book by its cover. And, I guess, technically, I'm not -- I'm judging the book's mom and dad. You can be mad at me for making judgments about this girl's parents, but they are the ones inviting the judgment.

I wish my mind didn't race to these judgments. And, frankly, I'm only sharing the tip of the iceberg with you in terms of what I thought. I wasn't the only one who was judging either. Many other parents in the park had looks of shock, horror and disgust as this girl walked by. I never did spot the parents. Who knows what the mother was wearing?

For now, my daughter hasn't asked to dress like a hooker. In fact, for now, she happily complies with my requests for modesty. There's a part of me that wants to control what she is wearing (and her other choices, for that matter) for the rest of her life, but that wouldn't be helping her grow into the woman she is to become either. I'm content with keeping her in her one-piece bathing suits, shirts that cover her belly, and shorts of a modest length while she's still a little girl. Someday, her preferences will outweigh my edicts, but hopefully the self-respect she's been taught until that point will guide her independence.

Thomas A. Clobes of Bakersfield, a husband and father of three children, is a medical device salesman with a Ph.D. in health sciences. Community Voices is an expanded commentary of 650 to 700 words. The Californian reserves the right to edit all submissions for length and clarity.

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