Originally Posted by AverysMomma
I am genuinely asking the questions I pose, I really wonder about how I'm going to feel as DD gets older. I don't want her to be seen as rude. I don't want to have children who are regarded as heathens. But I also don't want to burden my babies with the enormous load of caring what other people think, how society is judging them, from too early an age.
Caring what other people think is not all bad. It's one of those two sided coins. I'm guessing that almost all of us here on MDC hope for our children to be thoughtful and considerate of other people. Of course, we don't want them to be wrapped up in a keeping up with the Joneses mentality either. People can go too far both ways — becoming a doormat and letting individuals, society, and corporations tell them what to think/do/buy/wear and being sucked into the borg so to speak, but people can also be too self-absorbed and not care what anyone else thinks and couch that all in terms of being true to themselves and following their bliss, who-gives-a-crap-about-other-people. So while we don't want to go down the road of caring so much about what other people think that we don't let our kids be themselves, we also do want to help our kids learn where they fit in the world and part of that is things like saying "please" and "thank you" and, after a some indeterminate age, not showing your underwear to the world.
I doubt if any of us grown moms would run around in our skivvies, but nobody thinks twice about a toddler playing in nothing but a diaper in the hot summer. Sometime along the way we decide not to show our undies to everyone. It's different for everyone and every family, but I doubt you're going to find many 8 yr old girls who want other people to see their undies. I know my 10 yr old and almost 8 yr old would be mortified.
As far as caring what other people think and feeling like society is judging them, if your child is little (3?) I doubt that many people would really care. I certainly wouldn't, but in your town/area of the country YMMV. At some point, though, you may want to protect your child from embarrassment by encouraging a little more discretion, either by some bike shorts under her dress, or by reminding her to not show her undies, keep her legs closed, "be ladylike" (not my choice of words), etc. I think the bike shorts are easier! It's pretty easy to imagine a scenario where a girl (or boy) is playing on a playground and other kids might make fun of her (or him) if they can see her underwear. Now, I gotta tell you many kids go through a phase where they want to show their underwear or butt and think it's absolutely hilarious. (And really a little kid butt is pretty darn cute and funny, too.) When my dd2 was in K, there was a big thing about underwear! But at some point most kids (and adults) would be really embarrassed by other people seeing their unders. My dd2 is in second grade now, and would absolutely die of embarrassment if someone saw her underwear. She locks her door for privacy when she gets dressed at home! (Big sister, on the other hand, still leaves the bathroom door wide open when she's on the toilet).
Anyway, I'm rambling, but I think the larger issue here is helping kids be themselves while still getting along in society. I have always encouraged my kids to let their opinions and feelings be known, but I do often ask them to rephrase. Instead of "No, broccoli is gross! I hate that!" rephrase as "No thanks. I don't really like broccoli." I don't want to send them the message that they need to suck it up and do it anyway even if they don't like it (although occasionally they do need to hear that, too), but the main idea I try to impart is for them to get their message across in a way that does take other people's feelings into consideration, but doesn't squelch their own feelings. IMO, shorts under a dress are an easy way to do that, but at 3 I probably wouldn't worry about it too much. If other people are going to be offended by seeing a child's underwear or if the child is going to be embarrassed and made fun of, then I think shorts are a lot easier compromise and allow her to still get her feelings (of playful freedom) across (turning somersaults, playing on the jungle gym, etc) but in a way that takes others into consideration (so they're less likely to make fun of her, or it's less likely they might be embarrassed). I agree that I don't think wearing shorts under a dress is necessary at all, but because I want to save my girls a tricky situation later on I do sometimes suggest it, although at their current ages they usually think of it themselves or ask me if I think they need to wear shorts. In turn I ask them to think about what they'll be doing and if they think they will want them. Sometimes the answer is "no" (we're going out to eat and they're not likely to be upside down) and sometimes the answer is yes (they're going the playground or dance class and will be doing all sorts of things). This kind of situation comes up over and over and over again in parenting and in our lives as grown ups. We do need to think about others and be considerate of the way others feel, but not at the expense of our own feelings and being true to ourselves.