Recently I had to do that thing which seems to cause parenting angst the world over. Give my daughter her first haircut. Unfortunately she seems to have inherited my hair. Fine, flyaway & somewhere inbetween curly and straight. Watching it falling into her eyes when she was trying to play, sticking to her food when she was trying to eat and covering her face when she was trying to run I knew it was time for the chop. So, I cut her a fringe and gave her a bob. She was thrilled and no longer had to squint or constantly push it out of her eyes. But I wasn’t prepared for the extreme reactions from everyone else. My mother practically refused to speak to me for a whole 24 hours. ‘Her lovely blonde curls’ she cried. ‘But she looked so pretty’ she wailed. ‘She looks like a boy now!’ was the final accusation.
It got me thinking about how we can send a message to our children, from a very early age, about the importance of how they look. Particularly girls. Was my little girl supposed to suffer discomfort just to look pretty?
During my teenage years I spent a huge amount of time and efforts on my appearance. Imagine all of the other stuff I could have been doing. Learning a musical instrument, skydiving, bungee jumping, having fun, living! I also missed out on alot because maybe I felt I didn’t have the right outfit or I had a spot or a bad hair day.
I don’t want my daughter to grow up with a skewed notion about the importance of her appearance. Of course I believe that it’s important to be clean, look after your body, brush your hair!! But hours in front of the mirror worrying about eyebrows, fake tan, nails or waxing. Is that really necessary? Think of all the other great stuff that girls could be doing with that time.
I realise that when my daughter becomes a teenager she will most definitely get distracted by make up and clothes, just as we all do. And there’s nothing wrong with that. Clothes and make up can be a fun and creative way to express yourself. But I don’t want her appearance to become a burden, an obsession or an impediment to anything she wants to do. Most of all I don’t want her to feel defined by it.
She has a life to live and she’s not just here for decoration. There are people to meet, places to go, food to eat and fun to be had. My daughter is kind and brave, funny and smart, noisy and impatient. I’ll tell her all those things. But I won’t tell her she’s pretty. She is so much more than that.