A friend of mine just sent me an article from the Huffington Post written by Lisa Bloom, author of Think: Straight Talk for Women Who Want to Stay Smart in a Dumbed Down World; it's called How To Talk to Little Girls.
I appreciated this article. The author goes over how when she met a friend's little girl her first impluse was to tell the girl how pretty she looked, she choked it and then started talking to her about books. They read a book together and had a good conversation about reading.
I think most of the times I talk to children I talk about school. Mostly because it's kind of big deal in kid's lives. I think after this I'll start watching my first impulse when I talk to little girls, just to see what it is.
As a parent I always get a chill down my spine whenever I read an article like this. My mind starts racing how many times have I told my daughter that she is beautiful, what does that to her focus on beauty, am I telling her that beauty is the most important thing in her life...and the second guessings go on. Then I check myself. I do call my daughter, 'beautiful,' and, 'pretty girl,' and 'beautamous.' (The last one is my favorite.) Are these nicknames harming her?
I do want to point out that this was one woman's interaction with one child on one occasion, I do wonder if she has children.
As a parent raising a little girl I think it would be detrimental to her not to tell her that's she beautiful. Well, because she is. Having talked to many women that weren't affirmed in their appearance by their parents, and in specific, their father, and having heard from them how this hurt them and made them feel insecure I think it's important we tell our daughters that they are beautiful.
Then I start to wonder how am I telling her that other aspects of her personhood are important? As a mom I think it's important to remember that a daughter will get her idea of femininity from you, that you are her first line of defense against the messages of culture. What am I telling her about being a woman? How much time do I spend on my appearance? How much time do I spend shopping? How much money do I spend on clothes and makeup? How do I spend my time with her? How much do I fuss over her appearance?
I do think appearance is important. I think taking care of yourself and presenting yourself well shows that you like yourself and you're worth being respected. I do want my daughter to look beautiful and presentable. I also don't want her to think she needs to wear a full face of makeup to go on a hike (I have seen that woman in the woods, it grieves my heart every time).
Sometimes with parenting I feel the need to rest on my laurels. To relax and know that my daughter is well loved and as person I think I present an approach to beauty that is balanced. Of course I think it's important to check myself and try to change my habits if I feel that I am spending too much money or time on appearance, but I am the type of person who timed myself while putting on makeup because I wondered how much of my life was being taken by putting on mascara.
Doesn't that count for something?