Friday, March 6, 2009

A Perfect Example.....

....of what is wrong with our society.

First, the background info. Georgia and I were having a disagreement today about her clothes. Mainly because she loves to wear as many items as possible during the course of the day, and I am sick of the amount of laundry she generates. She has other, quirky, 4-year-old requirements about her clothing, of course. She prefers to wear dresses and tights, and does not like to wear pants that have a button and zipper. She is very sensitive to how things feel on her skin, so I try to work with it. Consequently, whenever I see any elastic-waist pants on sale in her size, I usually bring them home. But the child must add to all of this by feeling the need to change her clothes almost every 3 hours, and by putting on such crazy combinations and layers that I end up doing 2-3 loads of laundry a week just for her. It is never-ending.

So today, after we had a potty accident, I sent her up to her room to get new underwear and pants. And I specifically said, "only underwear and pants." When she comes down she has on a completely new get-up: pink leggings, pink long-sleeved shirt, blue skirt, and pink and brown short-sleeved shirt. So I tell her she needs to take off the one shirt and skirt, and we will take them up and put them away when she rests this afternoon. A meltdown follows, with her flailing on the floor, and me pointlessly trying to help her understand the copious amount of time that washing and putting away her clothes takes me. Eventually she calms down and I hear her say quietly, "But I am not pretty unless I wear a dress or skirt."


I called her over to me and asked her to tell me what she said, and she told me she didn't want to, that she was just talking to herself. But within a minute she was crying in my lap, that she, "just doesn't feel pretty unless she wears a dress." My heart broke for her, and tears began to stream down my face. I just wanted to hold her and rock her and go back to those quiet moments we used to share when she was an infant and toddler.

Now, I know this is not the worst thing a child could say. But for my just-4-year-old daughter to say something about not feeling pretty enough based on the clothes she wears , something has to be seriously wrong out there. I can not figure out where such an idea would come from. I, like every other mother out there, think that my baby girl is the most beautiful thing to walk this earth. And I tell her so everyday. But I also tell her how brilliant, and funny, and caring I think she is as well. And maybe I am making too much of this remark. Maybe she just likes dresses more. She does play with her sparkly, frilly, dress-up clothes every single day. But she also plays with the doctor, pirate, and chef outfits, too. So why on earth does she think that she isn't pretty unless she has a dress on?

My only thought is that there is such an emphasis in our society on appearance, both material and physical, that is has already reached our girls in their pre-school years. And it makes me sad.....and sick at what the next 20 years will bring both Georgia and I. I fear that she will travel down the same road I did, only now it seems like young girls have it a thousand times worse. I have struggled with body issues, feeling like I just don't have the "right" thing to wear, and fear of rejection for a large portion of my life. In my mid-20's and 30's I have finally come to believe, really believe, that I like myself exactly as I am. Sure, I would love to lose a few pounds, and the stretched out skin that my soon-to-be three kids have given me. Who wouldn't? But I try to focus more on just doing things to keep me healthy. Besides, every stretch mark I have is a reminder of the amazing process that my body underwent, and that brought me the most treasured beings in my life. I will never be a size 6, and that is okay. I don't think I would feel like myself if I was. But I do take care of myself, and want to make sure that I am as healthy as I can be so that I can see my babies grow for years and years to come. I want my kids to see that taking care of yourself and your health is what is most important, not looking a certain way, or having a certain item of clothing. I try to focus on the relationships that I have, ways that I can improve myself and the world around me, which is why I chose to become a social worker. And it makes me ache that my only daughter is already starting to think that some "thing" could make her feel better or worse about herself.

Maybe I am over-reacting, blowing this whole thing way out of proportion. But I was so blown away by the intensity of her feelings and tears, that I feel like I need to start really paying attention to her self-esteem. I know she will ineveitably have those moments where her self-confidence falters, when she wishes her hair or eyes were a different color, her clothes from a different store. Right or wrong, those moments are a part of every teenage girl's life. But those moments should be few and far between, not constants. I want to raise a daughter who is proud of herself, all of herself, for who she is, what she does, and how she treats others, not for the label on the back of her jeans. And now I know that I need to work even harder to help her get there.....starting now. At 4 years old.

1 comment:

  1. That's too bad. You are really not going to be happy to hear this news, then: