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My One-Year-Old is NOT 'Sexy'

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I'm happy that my nanny loves my daughter -- until she calls my baby daughter "sexy".

two women with baby

Guest blogger Gina on the language barrier with her nanny:

My husband I are happy that our nanny Violetta is Guatemalan. Our one-year-old daughter is learning Spanish, has developed a taste for exotic food and she's exposed to people of diverse ethnic backgrounds. Most of of our friends are "New Age" white Californians, so I make a conscious effort to accept and welcome all cultural differences.

Last month, as I was blindly walking through life, patting myself on the back for successfully embracing cultural diversity, Violetta said something to my daughter that made me fall right off my high horse. She walked in the house and gleefully exclaimed, "Addison, you look so sexy today!" Wait. What? She continued, "Mami, your outfit is sexy. Let me see."

My right mind was telling me that this is something that is said in Violetta's culture -- that it doesn't really mean she thinks my daughter is or looks sexual in any way. She is saying that she looks cute. But, I cannot help but think she's living in my culture and this is an unacceptable label for a baby.

She has said it a few times since -- and the initial shock has worn off. I still haven't said anything to her, so in a way I'm to blame. She may have no idea how I or others around me interpret that. For now, I think I'll leave it alone although -- if it's still going on when she's three -- I may change my tune.

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22 comments so far | Post a comment now
Michelle September 28, 2008, 11:12 AM

I don’t think she meant sexy as in sexual. Of course, I wasn’t there, but coming from deep South Florida, some words are mistaken for others when learning english. For example, my 3 year old’s teacher was from Columbia, South America. She was always telling me my daughter was in a delicate condition, but what she meant was my daughter was a whiny brat. She just didn’t know the local american colloquilisms? Is that right?

Anonymous September 28, 2008, 12:39 PM

CULTURE???????OO GOD..WHITE PEOPLE,FIGURES

Anna September 28, 2008, 1:13 PM

I agree with michelle, i dont think it was meant as a sexual thing. I always hear people say that their son is going to be a “lady killer”. I would let it pass, but if it really bothers you i would say something.

crystal September 28, 2008, 3:43 PM

I had this problem too only it was my mom saying it. She is white as can be and I don’t know where she got it from but I just told her that I didn’t think it was appropriate. The longer you wait to tell her the more awkward it will be.

Debbie September 29, 2008, 10:04 AM

If I were you I would nip it in the bud. I’m sure your nanny means no harm but it seems to be more common in Latino culture to objectify women/girls so it could very well be that when she says “sexy” she actually means it.

hyperactivelu September 29, 2008, 1:29 PM

Kinda like Anna, people say my eldest son will break hearts. I know its just a term, but no, I want to raise him to respect women and not to enter in relationships to where girls will get their hearts broken, yada, yada… I think I would say something the next time she mentions that again. :) Way to go for embracing culture though!!!

veronica October 3, 2008, 11:51 AM

YALL ARE SOOO STUPID. SHE DIDNT MEAN ANYTHING BY IT IM BLACK AND I KNOW A LOT OF WHITE BLACK SPANISH AND ASIAN THAT SAY THE SAME THING BUT IN DIFFERENT WORDS. COME ON PEOPLE IF YOU DONT LIKE DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT, BUT IN MY EYES IF IT BOTHERS YOU SO MUCH THAN MAYBE U NEED TO LOOK AT YOUR SELF. WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO WHEN HE/SHE GROWS UP?

Adrienne October 4, 2008, 11:21 PM

Wow, Veronica. Way to turn this into a racism thing.

It’s not. Different cultures are… different cultures. You aren’t racist for being worried about your nanny sexually objectifying your toddler. She really *is* sexually objectifying your daughter, whether it’s her intention or not.

I may be White (which really shouldn’t matter), but I grew up in a Hispanic neighborhood (my parents wanted me to have the whole ‘multicultural’ upbringing, too). I don’t know too many White girls (it’s hard to actually find them in my community, because the few we have have absorbed the local culture), but I find the Hispanics in my hometown put a lot of emphasis on sexuality.

You need to say something.

erin October 6, 2008, 12:28 PM

I suggest you stay at home and take care of your child by yourself so you are so worried.

Erin October 6, 2008, 12:30 PM

Gina—If you are so concerned you should be the one taking of your child if you are that worried!

Michelle October 8, 2008, 12:36 AM

This is Michelee # 2 I guess!!! I call my son a sexy little man….I never mean anything bad by it. I never thought about how other people might take it but I’m the mom so maybe it’s different than the nanny saying it. I gotta say though…it doesn’t seem like a big deal to me. I could see getting upset if she called the kid ugly, fat or stupid bacause that will affect a childs self esteem but…….. I’m normally a really over protective mom, (my girls 3 and 9 aren’t even allowed to wear bikinis, halter tops or midriff baring tops) but I kinda think you’re making a mountain out of a molehill. Just my opinion.

Momtoo October 8, 2008, 12:54 AM

Gina, if the language makes you uncomfortable then I think you do have to say something. When she says sexy you can say “I think you mean cute, adorable, sweet etc because a baby isn’t really refered to as sexy”.
It may be your hang-up pr mountain/molehill but this is your child and your nanny is part of your caregiving team. You all need to be on the same page.

And to; Erin your intolerance is unfortunate and your childlessness is apparent.

Regina October 8, 2008, 8:46 PM

Adrienne, I don’t think Veronica’s intent was to turn this into a “racism thing”. She was merely making the point that maybe Gina is jumping to conclusions that this has something to do with her nanny’s culture since a lot of different types of people have said the same type of thing, not just Hispanics. In fact, this seems to be why Gina doesn’t feel comfortable just telling her nanny to stop - becausing she’s ASSUMING that it will offend her culture. An assumption, in my opinion, that’s based on her own need to feel she “embraces diversity” because by her own admission, she doesn’t have very many non-White friends but her PERCEPTIONS probably have nothing to do with the reality of the situation! Racism has nothing to do with it but maybe the author’s need to be a typical “limousine liberal” does.

By the way, there are a lot of non-Spanish speaking people who objectify their kids - ever seen a kiddie beauty pageant?

colleen October 8, 2008, 10:43 PM

it would bother me if someone called my daughter “sexy” also, she is just a baby (18m)

Anonymous October 9, 2008, 4:26 PM

It doesn’t matter where or how you grew up, or if you are racists or not, if you are uncomfortable then you should tell her..or better yet, tell her..”No, No, those words are caca!” lol..jk…that might start problems.

You know Veronica, I’m not white either, and I know alot of different kinds of people but that doesn’t automatically make me better than everyone. If someone is trying to understand a culture or a person or what have you, then we should respect them and help in any way we can. Belittling someone for the way they were brought up or what part of the country they are from is incredibly selfish and rude and certainly doesn’t mesh well with message Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was trying to convey to ALL of mankind including Black people.



Anonymous October 9, 2008, 4:31 PM

Actually Regina she said most of her friends are New Age WHITE Californians

Anonymous October 12, 2008, 6:35 PM

Ugh, I find your post really condescending—are you actually congratulating yourself for having a hispanic nanny? Gross. My friend Yubicela calls my daughter sexy all the time. She’s two. In her culture, girls are sexy, and boys are macho. If it really starts to bug me, I shoot her a look. She thinks its stupid, and usually laughs at me. But she stops. Grow a pair and tell her you don’t like it. Jesus.

cynthia October 14, 2008, 7:27 AM

yeah I call my son a handsome lil man…and my daughter a lil cutie..but sexy??..no thats something reserved for an adult..a teen ager shouldn’t be referred to as sexy even…people are too sick out there…cute..handsome..adorable…yes..sexy??..NO

nanny October 14, 2008, 10:59 PM

OMGplease!!! grab a cup of coffe and shut -ut!!!

Mandy October 15, 2008, 8:13 PM

The term “cute” comes from “acute” and implies “knowing”. The word came about at a time when “to know” somebody meant to “have sexual knowledge” of them. (eg. “Joseph knew her not until after she had brought forth her first born son”. (from the Bible).

So every time we say that that a little girl looks “cute”, we are quite literally implying that she looks “sexually knowing beyond her years” ie “sexy”! However, modern usage has watered-down the meaning of “cute” considerably, even though, in our culture, we often dress little children in quite provocative clothing.

Your nanny has simply by-passed our nice little word “cute” and gone to the most basic meaning. It may well be a cultural thing. I think that you need to tell her straight, and soon, that you don’t want her to use the word “sexy” for your daughter, because it’s not considered appropriate. Tell her- “We say ‘Don’t you look cute!’”

You need to do this. You need to take on board that you employ this woman to care for the child to YOUR standards, as best she is able. As the child grows older, or if you need to change nannies, there may be other issues in which you have to make your feelings known, or give very definite instruction that contradicts the practice of the particular nanny. In other words, take control of this small situation and you’ll feel more able to deal with later ones as they arise. Bringing up baby is a long journey. And you are just beginning. A little while down the track you’ll have a genuinely sexy teenager trying to tell you what clothes she’ll wear and what movies she’ll watch… and on it goes… Start now!



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