My 28-month old daughter is pretty cute. I know we all think that about our kids, but really…she is damn cute. Everywhere we go people are taken with her and tell us how beautiful she is, commenting on her eyes/cheeks/smile.
And it scares me to death.
The compliments (while it warms my heart to hear them and makes me swell with pride) scare me. The constant referring to her beauty and her charm (and oh can she be charming!) worries me to no end.
I temper Daddy’s “Where’s my pretty girl?” with “You did that puzzle all by yourself, smart girl!” When the clerk at the grocery store tells her how adorable she is, I ask her to count how many apples Mommy put on the counter.
Don’t misunderstand me: I want her to feel like the most beautiful person in the world. But I’ll be damned if she is going to grow up thinking the only thing that contributes to that beauty is physical appearance.
If we are going to change the conversation about women, I need to change this conversation with her now. It is so important that I give her enough tools in her life to be successful. If that success is as a high fashion model, then fantastic! After she is done on the runway, she can pore over her investment portfolio during dinner. If the success is as a neurosurgeon, then I hope she will relax after a tough day by getting a mani-pedi.
It’s all about balance. I want her to know she is beautiful and smart, sensitive and capable. I hope she will be empathic and trusting, with the ability to know when she is being taken in. I need her to grow up knowing that physical beauty isn’t everything, because in no way do I want to try teaching her that at 13.
I know my daughter will have self-esteem issues; life has very rough edges, there is no escaping that. The likelihood of her reaching womanhood unscathed by mean comments or a media hell-bent on making her feel less than perfect is slim to none.
It is up to us to pass down that balance and make her comfortable in her own skin. This comfort is something I didn’t have until I was 30, and still I can’t claim to completely have it now. I look back at all the time wasted worrying about what I looked like and that is the last thing I want for her, for any girl.
The best we can do is give her the right tools, and hope that we have given her the knowledge and power to use them.