My 2.5 year old daughter is cute. Heck, she is down right beautiful actually. (She has that asian-caucasian mixology thing going on). And on a daily basis I am pretty sure I tell her how beautiful she is. But hold up....
She is also incredibly funny (ask her about her knock, knock joke!), intelligent, curious, and has the most amazing imagination of any two-year old I know. I am talking imaginary baby dragon friends and different voices for all the members in her doll house family. She also sat down at the (very rarely used) piano the other day, put both her hands up on it just like a pro and started to 'play'. And I don't mean the usual toddler bang on the keys play the piano, she actually played individual notes and it did not sound bad. She has a very artistic side to her that is just begging to be nurtured!
And in my mind all of these things add up and make her even more beautiful. Yes, I am her mother, so that bias does exist, but still, she is pretty darn incredible.
So when I read Lisa Bloom's article in The Huffington Post on 'How to talk to Little Girls', I was all over it. I have a daughter and I am somewhat of a feminist and damn straight you should talk to girls about their minds over their appearance!! I posted it all over Twitter and on my Facebook page and I am pretty sure that everyone who has a daughter re-tweeted and re-posted it too.
And then I started thinking about it a bit more....
It is really so bad to tell girls that they are beautiful?
Here's the thing. I never thought I would have a girl. Don't ask me why, I just thought I would have boys and was convinced for both my pregnancies that they were boys (I was right the first time!). And then L came along and with her, my life's ULTIMATE karmic twist.
At first I rejected all things girly. I believe one of my first status updates on Facebook the first week that she was born was "I HATE PINK!" I made an extra effort to find her clothes that were feminine, but NOT pink. She wore a lot of her older brother's hand-me-down baby sleepers and baby clothes and that was just fine with me.
I can pretty much pin-point the exact moment when L realized that she had her own sense of style and the days of me choosing her outfits were drawing near. That moment was the day of her first haircut. It was a tough milestone for me (as you can see from the picture!) and the (re) birth of Princess L.
EVERYONE complimented her on her new haircut, how cute she looked, how pretty she was and she just soaked it all in! And really, she did look adorable! It was right around this time as well, that she finally wanted and would let me put barrettes or clips in her hair. She called them her 'pretties' and the word has stuck and 'a pretty' is now the name for all hair accessories in our house.
At times I worry about this. I worry that she will associate having to wear something or have something in her hair to look pretty and then this will further translate to her feeling pretty. But then I realize that she is two years old and the clip or headband or whatever is in her hair for a grand total of about 20 minutes and then usually completely forgotten about as she goes about her day playing with her brother, reading her books, or creating more funny voices for all her little toys.
So what is my point with all of this? Do I agree with Ms. Bloom and her "don't talk to girls about their looks" stance? Granted, I have not yet read her book (it is ordered and on its way), but here are my thoughts on the whole argument.
I think that establishing a sense of self-esteem can not be done in a box. It really is about the whole child, male or female, and involves helping them to know themselves, have a strong sense of self-worth and know that they are valued and loved for their own uniqueness. And I believe that part of that includes how they look.
Lisa says in the article that "...teaching girls that their appearance is the first thing you notice tells them that looks are more important than anything....", but what she fails to say is that a person's appearance really IS the first thing you notice about someone. Maybe the fine art of accepting a true compliment from someone, is something that girls (of all ages) are lacking these days. Perhaps we need to work more on teaching them to say a polite and sincere thank you and then move on to more interesting topics like books or traveling or art or animals or whatever it is that they are passionate about! We need them to know that how they look is NOT the most important thing about them, but at the same time, I do think that it is unrealistic to not acknowledge it at all.
My daughter LOVES to dress up in her princess dresses. She has a trunk full of them in her room. She thinks she looks 'bootiful' in them, and frankly, she kinda does. And if I am wearing a dress that day, then I too am a 'bootiful' mommy (and yeah, it makes me feel good when she says it to me). And I am good with that because often we are taking our 'bootiful' selves out to the museum, or the park, or the grocery store or the library and really, who doesn't want to dress up like a princess some days AND go out and do all kinds of other cool things that enrich our minds too!!
I am pretty sure I am not going to stop telling my daughter how beautiful she is, and also how smart, how talented and how funny she is too!
Perhaps the solution is for all of us to truly redefine what beautiful really means....
...and teach this to our girls (and our boys too)!
What do you think?