Sunday, June 6, 2010

Mommy said I'm not beautiful

My oldest daughter turns 3 next month. And as many girls her age she is obsessed with all things princess, and girly. She would prefer to be dressed in a princess dress 24 hours a day and always wants to pretend she is going to the ball. And of course by nature of the dress that is worn, marriage is a big thing on her mind these days as well. She's always talking about wanting to get married and about how I should share daddy so she can marry him, etc. Last week we went to a birthday party at build-a-bear for one of her friends and when it came time to choose an outfit for her bear, nobody was surprised when my little Pumpkin headed straight for the wedding dress with matching veil. So today in the car her dad was surprised when he said "Do you wanna get married?" and her answer was no. I was in a store at the time and not present for the conversation where she told her dad that she didn't want to get married because she wasn't beautiful. He asked her why she thought she wasn't beautiful and she told him that I said she wasn't beautiful because she had bumps on her face. Here is the actual conversation I had with her:

Me: Sweetie help me remember when we get home to put some lotion on your face.
Her: Mommy why do I need lotion?
Me: Because your cheeks are dried out
Her: No they aren't
Me: Yeah they are. When your cheeks get dried out they get little bumps on them. Can you feel them? (I put her finger up to her cheek)
Her: Oh I feel them
Me: When the bumps come that means your cheeks need some lotion so help me remember and we'll put some on when we get home.
Her: Okay

So imagine my surprise when my husband related to me her interpretation of that conversation. Apparently what she heard was "honey you aren't beautiful because you have bumps on your face." It broke my heart to think that I had made her feel not beautiful. I of course did my best to clarify to her that she would always be beautiful to me. When we returned home she immediately asked for some lotion for her face. As I was putting it on I talked to her about what really makes people beautiful: being kind, sharing their toys, helping others. We've talked about that before and we'll talk about it again because I really believe it.

I have been thinking about this all day. I remember really loving when Dove came out with their definition of beauty campaign and all the advertising about true beauty and their emphasis that there is not one kind of beauty. That's what I want her to get. I'm just so surprised at how the most subtle things can send specific messages to our children and that at less than 3 years old I am already stressing over this with her. Oh how I wish I could raise her in a bubble of praise and support and love and not have to let her out to get influenced and beaten down by the world. What's a mother to do? Can I skip the teenage years?