Thursday, July 7, 2011

How I Broke My Daughter

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The other day I was in the bathroom putting on my make-up, getting ready to go out. Tira was in there with me and asked if she could put on her “make-up” (which is a puff attached to a stick that has glitter dust on it). I told her no, she only gets to wear make-up for special occasions.

Her response was “But I look ugly without make-up.”

::Insert car-screeching to a stop sounds here:: Wait, what?!

I tried to keep the horror off my face and just told her that she wasn’t ugly and that she still couldn’t put on any make-up. Inside my heart broke and I felt panicked. I’ve somehow broken my child just a little.

I’d pretty much forgotten about this incident until my good friend and the mother to shnuggly, Heidi, wrote a blog post called Focusing on the inward. She links to an article by Lisa Bloom called “How to Talk to Little Girls”. What an eye opener it was. If you have daughters, granddaughters, nieces, friends with little girls, if you ever see little girls in the store, park, or library you MUST read this article and take it to heart!

We had been telling the girls that make-up is only for ugly and old people, jokingly giving them an excuse as to why we can put on make-up and they can’t. In hindsight that was a stupid idea. Someone please tell me what the right response is. I don’t think I put an emphasis on looks or weight but I do wear make-up, I do tell them they look cute and beautiful, I tell them they can’t go out looking like homeless beggar children, and I do tell them that if they want to be cute they need to sit still and let me do their hair. It all seems harmless and normal, but really what am I teaching them?

I’ve always known that I will NEVER EVER comment on their weight because of my own experiences. We make a point to tell the girls that they have to eat certain things and they can’t eat other things because it makes them healthy, not because it will affect their weight. But is that not enough? Do I have to worry about any time I point out their outward appearance? Do I have to completely stop telling them they are pretty and beautiful? I don’t think so. But because that is my natural tendency I will make an effort to focus inward and hopefully by being conscientious about it I will tip the scales to help them realize that yes they are beautiful, but more importantly they are smart, hard working, caring, protective, sweet, polite, strong little girls.


Heidi said...

Of course you don't stop telling your kids that they're pretty/beautiful/handsome. We all need to hear that too. And honestly, I'm realizing more as a parent or spouse or friend, that what comes out of my mouth really is an overflow of the heart and that I need to address these issues within myself, not just to set a good example or say the right things, but to BE the kind of person I want them to look up to.

I remember a while ago, maybe 6 months-1 year ago, putting on make-up and thinking about how I would explain that to my (non-existent at this point) daughter. How would I justify wearing it at all? Because I have acne and uneven skin and don't feel comfortable going out certain places in public without it? Because that's the honest truth. But not exactly what I want her to hear. And not just "her," but the message I send my boys about what women should look like.

I'm not going to stop wearing make-up altogether, but I have worn it a lot less lately, and that could be entirely due to sheer laziness. When you think of a good answer to explain make-up, let me know. :)

MommyTanya said...

@Heidi You said exactly how I feel. I know it's a problem with me but how do I change it and how do I change before it starts really affecting them? I only ever wear eyeliner and blush... It's hardly anything but they've never seen the hours some other women put into make-up and their hair. I'm hoping someone else will have an answer.

MommyTanya said...

Comments from FaceBook:

Bianka Rodriguez-Gay: Good post, I don't have an answer for you on how to fix it. I don't wear make-up (rarely even for special things), I always tell my boys, and later on Lila, that real beauty is more than skin deep. It's not about the clothes, make up, how your hair looks, brands you wear but who you are as a person. I also never bring weight into the food conversations, I remember when I was little that was all my family ever did, I was always the very chubby one and everyone was always commenting on everything I ate. I will never be the size 0 my family likes being, I'm very happy in my size 8.

Tanya Lelanuja: We constantly tell the girls it doesn't matter how pretty your hair looks or how cute your dress is if your mena and not polite you're still going to be ugly. *sigh* how do enforce that yes they need to brush their hair, take a bath, wear appropriate clothes and not make it about outward apperances. I'm not delusional... Outward appearances are important but they shouldn't define you or yourself worth.

Anonymous said...

Totally hit home. I hate the way I look w/o makeup, and have huge body issues. I had a breast aug. done...after nursing 2 babies I was completely flat. But lately I have been regretting it big time. I want my daughter to know that she is loved and beautiful the way she is, everything about her is perfect, because that is the way God created her to be. How do I teach this when I don't believe it about myself?

A good book I've been reading: "captiviating". Gives a little insight into women. I literally cry the whole time I'm reading.
I'm going to check out that blog too.

MommyTanya said...

@Anon ::hugs:: I ask myself that too. How can I teach them to be confident and love themselves when it's hard for me to do it myself. How do I teach them they are perfect the way they are when I doubt that about myself. It's hard and it's a struggle every day. Do you know the name of that author of "captivating"?

The Johnsons said...

Surprisingly, my husband is SO good about patrolling comments like, "Oh, you're so cute!" or "You look so pretty in that!" It irritates him that people call kids "cute" (boys or girls) so he patrols that with me. I am very minimal with makeup...and ironically, even more so as I get older. I have decided that if I can manage to put some concealer, mascara, and lipstick on (and sometimes I put it on while Katie is buckling her carseat). In the past, I've let Katie put on some powder or lip gloss when I was putting makeup on. It's one of those "fun, silly" things in our house, never critical about our looks. I think 90% of how girls feel about themselves as they grow up (and how they view others) is impacted by their parents. I let my daughter wear mismatched clothes. I let her make choices that I wouldn't make -- while she's little and they are dangerous -- so that she'll trust me when I give her advice in the future about making more important decisions.

I also tell her constantly that I love her. I love her because she likes to write. She loves her 'babies'. She tries hard when she colors. There are a lot of reasons to love her. I try to tell her about those things all those times.

I have to admit that I am pretty oblivious about the looks of other women. I don't sit there and wish that I looked like other women. I wish I were thinner or that my face was more symmetrical (ha ha!) but I know that when I look in the mirror I see features from my grandparents and that sort of makes me smile. :) How do we teach girls to be confident and embrace their 'imperfections' instead of feeling the pressure to be the SAME as everyone else. When I was in jr. high, I was desperate to have clothes that others had, but sometimes I did and sometimes I didn't. In high school and college, I started wearing clothes that I liked and looked better on me than what other people were wearing. I don't know how you get to this point in life. My parents never stressed clothing or makeup or body image because their parents never stressed those things. I compliment my daughter because it DOES feel great to receive compliments. But I look at all the ways and reasons to compliment her. :)

Lindsay said...

Personally, I think my daughter gets a lot of this message from media. Almost every show she watches places a high value on girls' outward beauty. She's obsessed with Barbie right now, and they're the worst!

I've simply combatted it by praising her for her inward beauty 10x as often as I praise her for her outward beauty. We often talk about being beautiful on the inside, so that it will shine through on the outside.

I don't hardly ever wear make-up. Maybe twice a month. Still, Ruby thinks make-up is *WAY* cool. And I'm about the least vain person you'll find, especially when it comes to fashion. But Ruby still insists that dresses make her prettier than shorts or pants.

I'm not sure how to help her see her true beauty. But I pray God's truth over her nightly.

Good luck. This being-a-mommy-to-girls thing is harder than it looks!

MommyTanya said...

Thank ladies for all your comments! I think the hardest thing for me is that I don't *think* I put effort into my appearance. I wear eyeliner. That's the extent of my makeup. I wear yoga pants or jeans pretty much all the time. But apparently I'm unconciously doing and saying things that brings outward appearnces into a place of importance and that's what I find scary. Hopefully this new awareness will help.