12 August 2011
Ode on a Spaghetti Stained T-Shirt
I lamented to Grace the other day that she had spilled spaghetti sauce on her t-shirt at lunch time, and she said, "That's okay. I still look cute."
I posted the exchange on facebook, and it lead to an interesting discussion as to whether she, or little girls in general, have too much focus on appearance in their lives.
I enjoyed this article about How to Talk to Little Girls, from the Huffington Post, which a friend posted. The author posits that with all of the anorexia problems, and small girls wearing mascara and makeup, we need to stop saying how adorable little girls are and talk to them about other things like books, etc. She says this change of focus can send girls the message that we value them for more than just their appearance. I totally agree.
This subject has been on my mind lately because I have been trying to decide at what age I need to start buying new clothes for Grace to wear to school, even if I don't think she needs any new clothes because she has had plenty of clothing handed down to her.
I remember being very humiliated my first year of high school because I didn't get any new clothing to wear until a week after school started. I don't remember at what age new clothes became so important to me. In retrospect, I don't think the clothing was what bothered me. It was the feeling that every other kid in school had something that I didn't. Maybe I should have been thinking about the fact that I came from a clean, loving, non-abusive home. But I didn't. I thought about clothes.
I hate to humiliate Grace or emotionally scar her in any way, but at her age, she is as excited about the new hand-me-downs I saved for her as she is about going to buy new clothes at the store.
Anyway, I had more to say about this subject than I thought facebook-size. So here it is. I loved Grace's comment. To me that said, "I am comfortable in my own skin. I love myself just the way I am." Being comfortable with who you are does not come easily to many, and I feel that if my children are comfortable and happy with who they are, I am succeeding in doing my job as a mother.
What if my kid has a face that only a mother could love? (Of course, I would never consider giving birth to an ugly child, but that is another subject altogether.) Well, every day I will tell that child I love that face. That way, they will never question that no matter what the snotty girls at school say, there is someone out there who loves and treasures them and thinks they are great.
I do worry sometimes that she cares too much about clothes and toys, but I think many of us fight materialistic demons our whole lives. For some, including me, it is a skill to not want that car, that house, or that hoard of fabric. If I'm still honing that skill in my thirties, I'm not going to worry too much about my five-year-old mastering it. I'll encourage her away from materialism any way I can, but I'm not going to lock her in an empty room with no toys until she stops asking for them.
I understand the valid concern that five year olds and younger are worrying about being fat. I also think there is nothing wrong with caring about personal appearance if you keep that care in balance, and don't base your self worth strictly on your personal appearance.
I have learned from the family I married into that beauty pageants do have their place for some girls. I am into photography, and quilting. I am not really all that jazzed about the pageant scene. But some women are really into poise and appearance in the same way I dig photography. And many of these women are normal, healthy, and have positive, balanced self-images. I think it is wrong to dismiss these women as shallow or too-worldly just because they are not just like me. In the business world, personal appearance can have its advantages, and you don't have to be magazine cover "pretty," to look nice and take good care of yourself in a way that leads to success.
I might feel bad because my quilting skill is not where I want it to be. That disappointment can lead me to improve. As long as I don't engage in crazy bouts of negative self-talk and depression that I am not as good as Virginia Olsen, a little disappointment can be a positive motivator. I think it is the same with appearance. There is nothing wrong with thinking I could improve my appearance -- as long as it doesn't become an unhealthy obsession leading me to need botox and boob jobs.
For me the truth about beauty is this: Love yourself. You are a child of God. That is all you know on earth, and all you need to know.