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.


The Yoder's Four said...

Well put!

I do see the value of not giving in to every fad and buying new, name brand stuff for your kids. But as someone who grew up without those things, I know how it is to feel left out and disappointed, too. So I try my best to say yes to a new Barbie every once in a while and just bought the Twinkle Toe shoes my daughter's been begging for all year.

The Yoder's Four said...

Just remembering how important puffed sleeves were to Anne... :)

Dansie Family said...

amen! i don't remember getting "new" clothes alot growing up. we didn't have a ton of money and i was happy to get my "new" clothes at the thrift stores and consignment shops. my kids get so many hand me downs and i love to find treasures at the DI. I dread the day they want a brand new pair of silver jeans for $75 when I can get the same thing for $8 at thrift store. My sister has done a great job with her daughters and they get all of their clothes at thrift stores and love it finding them and wearing them.

Mary said...

What a wonderful essay. Sometimes I am down on myself for worrying so much about my weight, etc. but then I notice that the General RS president looks pretty nice, so there must be a place for getting a nice haircut, buying pretty clothes, what have you, without crossing over into materialistic zone. And all of my kids clothes are second hand -- even the high schoolers -- and they think it's pretty cool, thank goodness.

Kyle & Alicia said...

I love that and I totally agree! Thanks for posting. Now I just need to figure out a way to incorporate this into one of my Young Womens lessons.

You are so great!

The Lemmon's said...

Like you and everyone has commented... I think it's all about balance and perspective. Nice things have their place as long as we understand what's most important. And hopefully our self-worth is based on nothing else but knowing who we are (sons and daughters of God) and appreciating what we've been given and strive to better what we can (talent-wise). You said it so well and I hope I can teach my children the same so they feel comfortable in their skin too.

Tee Shirts printing said...

I love that and I agree with you.Thanks for sharing....i remember that how important to our child I hope i can teach my children properly......

sammygrace said...

Amen. I agree.(funny, "dude looks like a lady" from aerosmith just came on...anyone else see the irony haha) On a more serious note, I'm scared for what little girls are learning these days, but I'm so so proud of you and grace, you for teach her so well and her for being so confident. Can I come hang out at your house everyday so I become a good mom too?

amy said...

Like :)

michelle said...

Jenny I always thought you had really cute clothes in high school and loved your style. I probably never told you at the time, I guess I should have haha.
So I myself have an obsession with dressing my kids cute but Chloe has NO interest in clothing at all. I would happily take her shopping anywhere she wanted just to have the fun experience of school clothes shopping with her, but she'd rather get a stick in the eye. She also has an inner confidence that I think is awesome and does what she wants regardless of what her friends think. I hope this sticks with her in a few years when she enters the dreaded middle school years!

Marie Says Yes said...

I am so happy Grace could say that. I think it is SO IMPORTANT to have that, and I think we develop it as small children, so well done.
Here's another thought: Grace will already know she is smart, that she is capable, and the things that really matter. She will know that both because you'll teach it to her and she'll be able to grasp it and see evidence of it herself. But I really, honestly, truly think it is just as important for ALL little girls to think they are BEAUTIFUL -- inside and out -- because they are told so over and over and over again by loving parents. As females, it is part of our makeup. Women WANT to be beautiful, and in my opinion the fundamentals of that are not from the world, they are from our nurturing, creative, make-everything-around-us-beautiful nature.
I have never had issues believing I needed to look like the magazine cover or like the prettiest girl in school, but I still want to be pretty, and I still want my parents to tell me I am -- make sense? If I can instill the belief in my daughters that they are truly beautiful inside and out I will weep for joy.

I had to laugh at your high school story. I think we can all relate. I'm glad you got those clothes anyway! New clothes are cool, whether from the store or from your cousin!

The Rookie said...

I love, love, love this post. I liked that article when I read it.

Little girls, old girls, teenagers, adults--as women we comment on appearance incessantly. It's an ice-breaker ("I love your belt!"), a moment for the catty ("Did you see her HAIR!?"), and it isn't necessarily a good thing. It is often so ingrained I struggle to break free from the non-stop appearance commentary.

I don't want to be remembered for how I looked. I want to be remembered for what I did. I want to treat other women (of all ages) in the same way.

That being said, I so love clothes. I think it stems from being that adolescent who shopped a week (or a month) later for school clothes, or had a $50 budget and that meant the DI and some serious creativity. And when I look good it really does help me feel good. But it isn't the only part of the picture: I feel good when I am kind and decent. I feel good when I am so tired from serving. I feel good when I feel intelligent.

Anyway. Super-long comment, I know, but this post has me thinking. That's a compliment to its writer. :)