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You Can’t Wear That

You Can’t Wear That

She stood hands on hips, toe to toe, my childhood mirror image. Golden white hair draped down one side of a plaid baggy shirt. The shirt covered a hole where pocket lining poked through cut-off shorts. It looked, in my evaluation like pajamas, as if she wore nothing under her shirt tails.

“No way, young lady.”

I’d been warned about terrible twos, but no one had hinted about the defiant twelves. Or was it just my child? And did it mean I was a terrible mother?

“You cannot go out like that.”

I looked her up and down.

“Think of what people will say,” I admonished.

“You always tell me not to think about what people will say,” she returned, with a little bit of gotcha, and a pinch of confusion shaken together with a cocktail of hormonal rebellion.

A sudden wave of missing her, washed over me, as if she had already grown and left home. Woman and baby interposed, like layered translucent pictures. I wished for babe in arms anxiety rather than the ever widening separation of daughter from mother, the umbilical cord that stretched more each day.

Planted, arms crossed, we measured one another. Did she feel the tipping of the scales, the teeter-totter of control? Did she covet power or fear it?

I remembered a night twenty years earlier. My parents had left for the evening. My older brother drove me to a school party in his beat up old Chevy. Windows down, my sun bleached hair flew like a kite around my face. My shorts were short, the shirt molded to a skinny body.

“You shouldn’t wear that,” he said suddenly.

“Huh?” Bewildered I turned to him.

“Those shorts are too short.”

“Oh come on. Everybody will be dressed like this,” I scoffed.

“Well, I don’t like it, and I don’t want boys looking at you. I should take you home,” he threatened.

“Don’t you dare. You can’t tell me what to do.” I said all bluster. Mom and Dad, had they been home, would have been on his side, and I knew it.

“Oh yeah, I can,” he said suddenly whipping the car into a driveway and twirling the steering wheel to spin the car around.

Stone still he ignored my dramatics all the way to our driveway and pulled to an abrupt stop.

“I’ll wait out here in the car.”

Arms folded I glared daggers, but he didn’t flinch. In the end, I slammed the car door behind me like a bomb and ran into the house.

We didn’t speak of it again. My parents never knew.

I returned to the car with different clothes. He took me, dropped me off and picked me up again. I never told him how glad I was he made me change. Even now as I look back I admire his courage. He was my big brother, and he was my protector. Instead of widening a gap between us, it did the opposite. It built trust and story between us. I recognized in him a desire for my best even if he had to fight for it, and that touched my heart.

Now my daughter stood before me, retelling my own story, admonishing me with her matching stubborn pose. I wavered, caught in the battle of being a mom-friend and being a mom-authority, of winning an argument or being cool.

I don’t think I’m alone in the predicament.

In I Timothy 2:8-10, Paul gave guidelines for women’s attire. “…women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control…” (v. 9 ESV).

Specifically, the text refers to the mode of dressing in the context of group worship. Dress should not be distracting, taking attention away from the One worshiped.

It encourages an attitude of humility, motivated by desire to please God. The demeanor is one of a woman sensitive to sin, someone who understands how sin grieves God’s heart, and doesn’t want to provoke it in another. Her dress demonstrates self-control and respect.

The conversation with my daughter required several considerations in order to foster her heart.

1. Motive. Why did she want to wear those clothes?

We both needed to pull the conversation back from the precipice of assumptions and accusations. I did not want her to set focus solely on the basis of what others thought or said, nor did I want to place the guilt of another’s sin on her shoulders. Yet, I didn’t want her to be inconsiderate or naïve of the effects of appearance. She wanted style. I wanted my daughter to marry sense of style with discernment.

2. Attitude. What was the state of her heart?

Was it really about the clothes? What clothed the attitude of her heart? I didn’t want to birth or encourage an attitude of rebellion or defiance. Rather, I wanted to bestow a sense of safety, a respect for authority, and to build security in knowing I would fight for her best.

3. Actions. Were her actions in accordance with the teaching of Scripture?

My daughter needed guidance from God’s Word to help her place boundaries. How could His instructions apply to her situation? How could this situation nurture love for Christ and open her eyes to His care for the details of her life? The time had come to disciple rather than buddy, to mold and construct a future.

The tension eased from my shoulders. I looked into her eyes and smiled, willing it to touch her heart. I stretched out my hand to her. Hesitantly she reached hers to mine.

By: Sylvia Schroeder serves as Women’s Care Coordinator at Avant Ministries. She and her husband raised four children in Italy and Germany, where they were missionaries with Avant. Their children are all married and they have twelve grandchildren. Visit her blog, When the House is Quiet, at

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  1. You were such an excellent teen parent.I feel so blessed to know you now.
    It is so great to get a glimpse of your life through your writing.Thank you Slyvia for sharing your thoughts with all of us.

  2. Thanks again!!! Jason and I were just talking about this parental issue, tho not about dress but.. the core is the same.. I want my way. What a privilege to share what the LORD has taught us. Many blessings to you all!!

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