The following is a story of a young teacher, who faced a rare for today’s traditional and correct education, inculcating girls with modesty and diligence. A strict but fair father is perceived by a sick society as a tyrant and a despot.
In the 4th grade, Masha is a girl from a large family. She is the eldest of four children, there is a brother and two sisters. The girl does not participate in any of the extracurricular activities. For example, when the primary classes went by bus to an excursion to the forest park, Masha did not go with us. I asked her friends why Masha is not here, and the girls began to vocal chatter that Masha has a very strict father, that he does not allow her anywhere.
“My mother asked Masha to be sent to me for her birthday, but her father did not allow it.” said Anya. “And she was not allowed to see me on my birthday!” Vika picked up. “My mother says that they treat Masha as Cinderella. She does homework, but she’s not allowed to go out.”
I was surprised and decided to find out what is happening in Masha’s family. I was just given this class, their teacher had taken a maternal leave, and I did not know all the parents yet. I did not want to go straight to Masha’s home with a check, and I decided first to ask the mothers of Anya and Vika.
“Strict? Well, he’s just a tyrant!” said Anya’s mother. “My daughter came to visit Masha, we live on the same street, we have a house nearby, so he sent her back.” He said: “Go and tell your mother to dress you. You cannot walk around naked. Can you imagine? Anya was in a T-shirt and shorts. Is a nine-year-old child, in the summer heat, cannot walk like this?”
“Masha’s father is a despot,” Vika’s mother sighed. “I’m sorry for the girl. If he is now such a tyrant, then what will happen when Masha becomes a maiden? Will he put a burqa on her?”
I decided to observe Masha. The girl is of pleasant appearance, tall, slender, charming face with a slight blush (in a big city you do not often see a ruddy child!). Excellent, engaged in a collective of folk dance and in a drawing group at the school. This already contradicts the words, as if she is overloaded with homework, like Cinderella. And dressed like all girls in the school uniform: a plaid skirt in a fold, a blouse and a vest or jacket. Stop-Stop, but Masha’s skirt is with a secret! The folds are built up below the hips. Such a skirt will not accidentally get caught, and if the wind comes, it will not rise above the head. Way to go father! I was surprised and could not help smiling. Another week of observations, during which I noticed a constant hairdo: the braid is braided classically, as in my mother’s childhood, and the absence of hairpins and baubles, loved by other girls, and even always a low voice, as if Masha tried to observe silence, and not only in class, but also in-between classes, when other children yelled, squealed and howled like animals.
I wanted to meet Masha’s mother. Then another even arrived just in time, which Masha, of course, was not allowed to attend. It was an exhibition of crafts “The Golden Autumn” for students of 3rd and 4th grades, after which they arranged a dance. Dressed up children danced, drank juice from cartons and had fun. The teachers and several people from the parent committee observed the children. “What’s so dangerous for Masha?” I thought “They are depriving the girl of simple joys. Look at how her girlfriends are dancing out. Maybe, really, her father is a domestic tyrant?” On Monday I wrote a request in Masha’s journal, for her mother to come to school.
Who do you think came to school? Of course, Masha’s dad, a “tyrant” and a “despot”. A man was far beyond forty. Teaches in a technical university, associate professor. He was handsome, bald, military, his eyes gray, his gaze fixed. I involuntarily pulled on my blouse and straightened up. He explained that his wife, the mother of four young children, does not have the opportunity to come to school. What happened?
He looked quite adequate, and I decided not to beat around the bush, and asked him head on, why doesn’t Masha participate in extra-curricular activities, why is she not allowed at the birthdays of her girlfriends. He sarcastically smiled and declared that he was categorically against school dances, excursions to the forest park and “going for visits at girlfriends’ homes”. Nowadays, these are situations that are potentially dangerous for a child. His daughter attends two clubs, this is enough for a harmonious development. Yes, Masha is forbidden to visit other girls. After all, he cannot be sure that there she will be safe. However, he does not mind that the girls come to their house and play with Masha under the supervision of his wife. And on Masha’s birthday, they always invite her girlfriends.
“Why then did you literally expel Anya Efremova? You did not like that she was wearing shorts? All girls wear shorts in the summer.”
“Listen,” he again smiled unpleasantly, “I’m against letting the girl out of the house in such short pants that half of the buttocks stick out out of them. And a shirt with such holes, that through them the stomach is visible. And I did not kick Anya out, as her mother says, but brought her by the hand to the gate of her house. Do you think that as an educator that I did wrong?”
I was silent, thinking what to say to him. In principle, I was in solidarity with him. Modern moms sometimes do so bare their little daughters, that others are frightened for them.
“Masha also has shorts, if this is so important to you.” he continued mockingly “But it’s shorts, not swimming bottoms. And in the summer she wears sleeveless shirt, in which you can raise your arms without showing your navel.”
“And the folds on the school skirt are also your doing?” I could not resist.
“Not me, of course, her mom.”
“But was it you, who told her mom?”
He laughed, this time good-naturedly.
“My wife and I have the same views on the upbringing of our daughters.”
“And what does Masha do about the house? What are her duties? Do you know that girls call her Cinderella?”
“Masha cleans the room, where she lives with her sisters, and washes the dishes after dinner. Well, and help her mother, when she asks. Waters flowers in the yard. In my opinion, not enough for a Cinderella.”
“I agree. But do you not think that excessive strictness, prohibitions on attending a school dance can give the opposite result in adolescence?”
“Why should Masha get used to these dances? Do you know that in high school, it is a place where teenagers sell drugs? She already dances three times a week in a circle of folk dance. It is much more useful for the girl – the correct posture, grace is formed. And at dances, they are all tossed in one place, like demoniacs. Music thunders, ears are deafened. What is the benefit for children?”
“Listen, I want to bring up in the daughters two main qualities that every woman needs: modesty and hard work. And if the school does not help me in this, then at least do not interfere.”
On this the conversation dried up. He left, once again pleasing me with his height and posture, and left mixed feeling in my Soul. On the one hand, I wanted Masha to have fun at school matinees and dances, to go with the class to excursions. But, on the other hand, Masha’s father is in many ways right. What a pity that he does not even try to find the middle ground! But after talking with him, I had a topic for talking with the mothers of the girls.
I’ll invite them to a women’s meeting-party! A good way to also get acquainted.
A week before the meeting, I gave the students a leaflet with two questions for their mothers:
1. What is “girlish modesty” in your understanding?
2. Do you want your daughter to be humble?
And here is the meeting. Mothers of the fourth graders gave me the filled out leaflets and took their places at the desks. Probably, I was given a bacillus of Puritanism from Masha’s father, because I looked disapprovingly at two mothers, who literally dumped their charms on their desks. Why such a décolleté in the blouse? Honestly, in this foreshortening, the half-naked woman’s chest becomes like an a**. Then I noticed in many fighting colors – too bright flashy make-up, ridiculous huge hairpins in the hair, shiny clothes (do they really go to work like this?). My eyes rested on three-four women dressed simply and with taste, with normal hairdresser. I tried to guess where Masha’s mother was. There were other mothers sitting at the other girls’ desks, I knew them. Probably, this pale woman without makeup. She is about forty. The face is tired – still, four children!
But I guessed wrong. Masha’s mother was young, no more than 30 years old, in blue worn jeans and a black jumper, light brown hair gathered in a long tail. One of those, on whom my critical review rested. Way to go Masha’s dad! He chose such a beauty! And four children – it’s probably his guarantee to keep a young wife at home. So, is he a despot…?
I began to lead the meeting. At first, I reminded moms that their daughters are at such an age, when they turn into big girls. It is necessary to carefully monitor their appearance and behavior. For example, some girls in the class grew out of their skirts and look immodest. And when the satchel rises up a without that a short skirt, even the seams on the pantyhose are visible. Still it would be desirable, that the girls behaved more modestly in a class and the worthy behavior set an example for boys, instead of provoking them to be rude.
In my address, I stressed that we are not talking about internal modesty (not sticking out one’s self, not attributing oneself to the merits of others, being able to step back in the background if necessary, show tact, do not make corrections to adults, do not argue with them). It’s about purely external signs. Of course, even rudeness can hide behind a modest shell. And all cannot be modest and quiet. Yes, it is not necessary. Charming type – girl-demon, etc. The main thing is that the behavior does not go beyond the bounds of decency. Without naming the names, I noted the bad behavior of some girls in the class (being called, using crude expressions, pushing). Along the way I mentioned that in every girl it is necessary to develop femininity (posture, gait). A good method for this is gymnastics, dancing.
Then, I read out the answers of my mothers aloud (without naming the names), some we discussed (there was a lot of shouting and arguing). Many mothers formally approached and answered in two words. But several people explained their opinion in detail, which made me very happy. I will quote excerpts from the most interesting answers.
Mother of Alyona
As a child, I was a very modest girl. My mother worked as a teacher in our school, and she was very afraid that her colleagues would not reproach her for the poor upbringing of her daughter. Therefore, I had to watch the teacher diligently in class during lessons, to walk on the string at school events, recite poems about nature at school events, while other girls sang merry songs or skipped on stage in short skirts. How I envied them, in my mother’s opinion, “teases”! When I became an adult, for a long time I hesitated to express my opinion, to participate in a general conversation. Therefore, I bring up my daughter in a different way. She also sings, and dances, is never bashful, and to the beauty contests I take her since she was 6 years old. I do not want her to grow up nerdy-modest. Let her be bright, let her laugh loud, let her raise her legs in the dance. In my understanding, modesty is not a submissively lowered head and eternal silence. Therefore, let my daughter look more immodest, than a suppressed one, as I did in my childhood. And I’ll tell her about the girlish pride and honor in a couple of years.
Mother of Yulya
Girlish modesty is a trick to which stupid men fall. The girl is all so quiet, modest, and will marry and will swing to the right and the left. Still waters run deep. I do not like shy girls, I do not believe them. I do not scold my daughter for loud laughter or lip gloss.
Mother of Alexandra
I do not like the behavior of the three girls in the class (everyone knows who they are). They are very noisy, ill-bred, immodest. Often I watch them when we walk out of the school: they shout to the whole street, loudly laugh (we can say – they laugh like horses). I try to take Alexandra by the hand and take her away so that we don’t even have to walk near this bunch. My daughter is modest (she knows how to behave in public).
Mother of Karina
Karina is still young, behaves like a child. I do not consider her immodest, therefore, we have no problem with this. But to my older daughter (she is 16), I explain that in our time, to stand out and be liked, the girl should be modest. Indiscreet have become boring. I’ll tell you about one observation. Last summer we vacationed on the sea in Europe. On the beach, most girls and women were sunbathing topless. Only some men looked at their charms – and more often with a grin, and not with lust (have got used to!). All of a sudden, I noticed that all the men from the company next to us are looking attentively in one direction. I followed the direction and saw a girl, who was trying to lift the wet top off the leotard and put on her shirt, without showing her breasts. With one hand she held a towel by her breast, the second tightened her bra, then took the vest and pulled it with one hand. The men, who stared at her so, kindled their eyes! On the beach, a modest woman attracted more male attention than all half-naked girls! This scene made an indelible impression on me.
Mother of Vika
For example, our dad cannot stand quite. He likes brisk women. And even the saying is: “The girl is adorned with modesty, if there are no other advantages.” And in general, in our time, it’s silly to be modest – you just will not be noticed.
Mother of Kristina
Dear teacher! Do not try to make from an ordinary school an institution of noble maidens. Let’s learn, and we will take care of the behavior of our daughter.
Mother of Anya
For me, the main thing is for my daughter to trust me. If I constantly pound her, so she behaves quietly and modestly, my child will turn into a wooden doll. Who needs it? I do not want to bother, while she’s still a baby. I think the issue of girlish modesty will only become relevant in a couple of years.
Mother of Stacy
I want my daughter to be cunning, and I teach her this. A cunning girl is always on her mind, she is safer than the open one. Behaving modestly is also a cunning. Therefore, I often tell Stacy to be more modest, to not start fights (only my daughter does not always listen, she is the fighting type!).
Mother of Sonya
I used to demand from my daughter that she behave modestly – she did not fight, she did not call others names. Only here, other girls in the class are so impudent, that modest ones can be crushed. So now I’m teaching her to defend herself, to snarl and say taunts. Even if it is immodest.
Mother of Masha
We try to educate Masha, so that her behavior does not lead to trouble for her. The girlish modesty in my understanding is, first of all, good upbringing. I really want my three girls to be shy. This is a great joy and pride for parents.
The results of the meeting:
Once again, stipulating that the theme of the meeting is only the behavior of girls, and not their inner world, my mothers and I, together, formulated several external signs of the schoolgirl’s immodest behavior. In our common opinion, a modest girl should not:
1. Open mouth wide and cackle when laughing – is vulgar;
2. Spread knees apart like boys when sitting;
3. Wear clothes that flaunt the child’s body or in which the little girl looks sexy;
4. Be untidy;
5. Talk too loud and impolite, use foul language, fight;
6. Be rude to elders, or argue with them;
7. Scandalize or gossip about other children.
In general, mothers were satisfied: according to the majority, this was a useful meeting. And I remembered the old saying: “The modesty of the daughter is the wealth of the father” and mentally thanked Masha’s strict dad. I liked his daughter more than others. Among many, frankly speaking, not according to their age disheveled and cheeky fourth-graders, she looked like a charming young lady of Pushkin’s time. Carefully braided braid, clear eyes, good posture, correct soft speech, freshness, neatness. The natural low-key beauty of the girl was in harmony with her upbringing and politeness. The charm of modesty – that’s what I wanted to say about Masha. And I would like to sincerely thank parents for the upbringing of their daughter. Despite the fact that the issue of Masha’s participation in the extra-curricular activities remained open to me.
Translated by: Dmitriy Kushnir