I tend to think that parenting boys is just as serious business as parenting girls. Raising strong empathic men who treat women as whole beings and not as sexual objects and lesser humans is not a task to be taken lightly.
But it's hard not to become extra troubled when our girls are continually bombarded with images that test their innocence. I'm talking about the Hanna Montanas, the High School Musicals, and the Jamie Lynn Spears.
It's no wonder we've all those fleeting thoughts about tucking them away in their rooms for a few years and then unleash them directly into a convent.
My issue with the damn Disney princesses (love them as my daughter does), is that they only show our daughters one ending. THE ending.
Aside from it being totally unrealistic, it just doesn't reflect any type of ideal I hope my daughter to aspire to. In my book, the marriage, the kids, the happy ending will be her choice and not a social norm.
And yes, I realize that they are fairy tales, and in that there is a component of fantasy. But with no discourse, no discussion, and no critical analysis, it tends to soak right in.
I spoke at length about this topic with mom Kerry Cohen and author of Loose Girl on my podcast this past Wednesday. It lent itself to the discussion that's been circling around Bristol Palin and her mother's support of abstinence-only education, as well as the gaggles of us mothers with daughters who don't necessarily blame Sarah Palin for her daughter's decisions, would probably still feel somewhat responsible.
When it comes to any "all or nothing" sex education, at least in my experience in an extremely religious family, there were no options. You just didn't have sex. And you most certainly didn't talk about it. And the mystery became the intrigue. And the intrigue became exciting.
And if you put that excitement in the hands of 17-year-olds who aren't educated, then you sometimes get a baby.
Thankfully, I was a bit too scared by the wrath of God that would come upon me had I engaged in intercourse that I waited a really long time.
I don't know whether Sarah Palin had ongoing discussions about love, sex, and relationships with her daughter. But I know I never had them with either of my parents.
And so I formed my own opinions, based on what I saw, and heard. For me it was seeking love and acceptance from an alcoholic father through attention from guys.
Had someone told me that just because a guy looks at you doesn't mean you have to fall in love with them and that marriage and kids are all fantastic parts of life, but that they may or may not be what's right for you, at 23, or 30, or ever, maybe my life experiences would have been different.
I can only make a concerted effort to start and continue an open and critical dialogue about all these issues with my own daughter (and my son). That doesn't necessarily mean that I rid my house of Ariel costumes and turn off the television. At some level, our kids are going to be exposed to the world.
And it doesn't mean my kids won't end up needing years of therapy (which really isn't necessarily a bad thing).
Our nights will still be sleepless, but perhaps for different reasons. And in the end, we can only take these issues and images that are placed in front of us as startling reminders that our job as parents is always evolving.
And cross our fingers really hard.