Unlearning Shame

April 9, 2012 by Dad | Filed under The Thing About Life.

Dear Xander,

Your parents have always known that at some point in your education, we will need to help you “unlearn” things that you were taught in school.

We never thought that point would come so early in your life.

Au naturel – just as nature intended.

It started one day when you finished showering, and were running around naked and laughing while we were trying to catch you to put your clothes on. Halfway through, you started chanting, “Shame, shame! Shame, shame!” whilst pointing at your penis (yes, your parents use the word penis quite freely).

I had to spend a bit of time teaching you there was nothing to be ashamed of. I then asked you where you learned this “shame, shame” chant, and you replied, “Teacher [name withheld].” Exasperated at the mention of the name (we’ve had problems with this teacher before), I then taught you how to react the next time someone said that to you:

“Next time someone says ‘shame shame’ to you, you must put your arms on your hips, thrust your hips forward, and say very loudly, ‘I’m not ashamed. I’m sexy and YOU know it!‘”

To be fair to the teacher (whom I know will probably be reading this), I am not angry at her. As a child, I, too, have been a victim of the “shame” treatment, and I know it’s a societal issue that extends beyond that which schools teach. It was some weeks later that I reacted to a link posted on the Facebook page of a local fatherhood community project. Being the shameless, proud person that I am (despite being shamed as a child), I put in my reply:

“Shame breeds reticence… (and) may result in an unhealthy sense of needing to comply with standards that a child may or may not be able to achieve, and are reprimands that yield short-term solutions with dire long-term side effects.”

Shame? What’s that? Can eat or not?

The last thing I want is for you to grow up with low self-esteem, to be ashamed of any part of who you are and what we’ve brought you up to be. You need to be as proud of yourself as your parents are of you, of who you are and what you look like both inside and out. Our society has bred plenty of people who fear judgment from others, whether by looks, character, thinking or behaviour. You know you don’t need to be one of the many; you just need to be yourself.

Love,

Dad

And if you should think that this is but an opinion from a father of a son, you should see what a rather perturbed mother of a daughter has to say on the same subject.


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