Recently, an article titled How to Talk to Little Girls found its way to numerous motherhood blogs. Basically, it says that in a society were 25% of young women would rather win America's Next Top Model than the Nobel Peace Prize, people, when interacting with young girls, should not compliment them on their appearance. Instead, they should focus on more intellectual things...such as the conflicts in the Middle East (aahhh, me and sarcasm!!!).
I would be devastated if Alice would rather impress Tyra Banks instead of heading to Oslo to receive her Nobel Peace Prize! On a more realistic level, I would also be devastated to see a tween Alice wear mascara, eyeliner and lipstick to go to school (according to the article, 15% to 18% girls under 12 years old wear makeup regularly).
I won't do an article review. Actually, the article inspired me to write a little something about "parental gray area". How come every aspect of motherhood (and fatherhood) seems to be black or white? Pacifiers, diapers, breastfeeding, co-sleeping, etc., It seems to be 100% good or 100% bad....nothing in between! However, life is full of gray areas and finding the right balance is, to my opinion, key.
We do, as a society, put a lot of emphasis on beauty standards and it obviously has a drastic impact on the way that little girls perceive themselves. However, I don't think that lecturing a passerby who told Alice that she is as cute as a button will have changed the way that my daughter will grow up.
I think that, as a mother, it's my job to make sure that Alice receives the right balance of physical compliments and, as the author wrote, intelligent conversation that respects her brain.
So the next time I meet a little girl, I might ask her what her favorite book is but I might also compliment her on the lovely dress that she is wearing. Even better, I could do both!!!
note: pictures taken at my mom's house this weekend...Alice's first trip to the country!
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one claire day: I think that I should do a cat and dog photo session this week. I don't want them to think that they are not photogenic anymore ;)
anonymous (jRob): It is from...IKEA! http://www.ikea.com/ca/en/catalog/products/70108177
courtney: But it is sssooo much fun to take baby pictures. They are sssooo cute!
ali: Ah, thank you Ali xox
astrid: I also can't wait to see your baby pictures.
tiffany: Wow, thank you so much Tiffany. I hope that you will take A LOT of baby pictures...soon soon soon :)
lila: I get pretty much all of Alice's clothes second hand. I'm always happy when I find something adorable and in perfect condition for 3$ - 7$.
shine little light*: ah ah ah, glad that you like them :)
kate / tinywarbler: I try not to take too many pictures that are humiliating...like her pooping face (oh, wait, I did that already!!!).
joanna goddard: Thank you so much!
I kinda fall somewhere in the middle... though I've never actually thought about it. I'm not a super big makeup wear-er, fashioniasta myself though. With three little girls, it was an interesting read for sure. I rarely talk about looks or "cuteness" but my middle daughter is a total princess who loves to dress up and always asks us if she's beautiful (or rather tells us she's beautiful). I always just tell her that of course she is but throw in a cheesy "you're a beautiful kind person on the inside and that's what matters" comment here and there. :)
The whole black and white thing bugs me too. Really it's all grey and fuzzy! On another totally superficial note though, your mum's house is GORGEOUS!
Interesting article - sometimes I am relieved that I only have boys.
Alice is lucky to have a thoughtful and aware muma...Am sure she'll grow up a balanced, beautiful and intelligent little girl. x
I agree completely with you... I keep wondering how Olivia will grow up to be. I hope I can give her as much balance as I can and that she understands that beauty isn't all. I come from a country that is so contaminated by superficial notions of beauty where being model like is so important. Norway on the other hand isn't as bad... I hope it stays that way. Anyways, to end on a positive note, we are super cool mamas that are aware of this situation and will do the best we can! :D
My 14 month daughter has crazy-long dark eyelashes and her dad's grey-green eyes. So she (and I) get a lot of compliments on how cute she is. To strangers I say a polite "thank you". but to close friends who comment on how pretty she is, my standard reply is "and more importantly, she's SMART!". It is a fine balance. She loves books more than anything (woo hoo!), but we both had a ball this past weekend when I put a bunch of my vintage jewlery and a pink tutu on her for the first time. I mostly don't want her to feel bad when she goes through the inevitable awkward stage. It's all about self esteem and confidence-building. But how exactly do you do that as a parent w/o making them too self-involved? Travelling, volunteering, learning about other people and developing empathy from a young age (and not too much tv or facebook, I guess). Any other ideas?
It was a good article - lots to think about.
I agree it's absolutely about balance. If you never compliment a child on their appearance surely you run the risk of them looking for that validation elsewhere? The same going for complimenting them for other qualitites. It's sad that people still seem to think there is a right way to parent, every child is different which is why as you say there are grey areas. I think Alice will be fantastic with the thoughtful way you are parenting.
I think news articles make it seem like all of these choices are black and white, one way or the other, never can mix different approaches, but most parents that I know practice a mix of whatever works for their family. I think the media do a great job of setting up mommy wars about all kinds of topics.
Oh! And I think Alice is going to do really well! The fact that you're thinking about these topics and really care about them is great.
what a beautiful home your mom has!
i can't lie, i was slightly dreading having a little girl because of these kinds of issues. i was a little girl once (duh!) and i think i made it out relatively unscathed, but i've seen how bad it can be. i think your awareness is powerful and she'll be great (you both will!). i am sure there are other issues that exist for little boys, so i'll follow your lead and make myself aware of them.
When I comment on babies and little people being gorgeous, adorable, beautiful etc... it's not about the physical appearance. It's more about their childlike innocence, the twinkle in their eye, they way their emotions are completely genuine. Those are the qualities that make tiny people so, well... beautiful.
That is a great article, and it's definitely something to be aware of. Just the fact that you are writing about this leads me to believe Alice is going to grow up with a strong identity, healthy values and confidence in herself as an intelligent, beautiful and compassionate human being. xx
P.S - gorgeous photos, don't you just love the country! That house is what dreams are made of!
Wow, that's your mom's house? I thought it was an arboretum!
Thanks for your insight. I feel the same way about finding a balance. It's hard not to get caught up in looks with a little girl. People judge on appearance and I get worried that if my Lucia isn't well dressed people will worry about my mothering abilities. Plus, I do want her to look cute. I've also been interested in the book Cinderella Ate My Daughter. I haven’t read it yet but heard the author interviewed on the radio. It made me very worried about the whole Princess culture in our society. We don’t have TV and Lucia doesn’t know anything about the Princesses. But last weekend when she was in a wedding I got a glimpse of what everyone was talking about. Everybody who commented on her in her flower girl dress called her a princess. What happened to angels? I guess it’s up to the parents to let these things go when people say them to our little girls, but to find ways to limit the reinforcement at home.
guilty! as having my own strong opinions in regards to parenting but totally with you in regards to not imposing them on others or judging.
you guys are awesome and so is your mama's home and property! aii so cute.
A ta place je ne m'inquièterai pas qu'Alice veuille être un top modèle et qu'elle porte du maquillage a 6 ans...Dan et toi êtes assez loin de ses stéréotypes et je ne voit pas comment elle pourrait être attirer vers ça...déjà a 3 mois je perçoit en elle un petit ''Tom boy'' qui joue dehors au parc et qui n'a pas peur de se salir de la tête au pied...
de plus elle est vraiment intelligente et ''avancé'' pour 3 mois...elle tourne elle même sur le ventre...
I love this post! As the mother of a 6 month old, I've been dismayed by the black-and-white attitude you describe. Other than "should I use a car seat?," I've found that almost everything falls into that gray area!
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