Wednesday, November 07, 2007

What We Say to Little Girls

*Note: I wrote this several months ago. Since then the mom whose shower I attended gave birth to a beautiful baby girl on my birthday!

Several weeks ago I went to a United Methodist Women's meeting at the home of one of the women from my church. There were seven of us there. Six of us were moms. Five of us have girls. We started talking about raising girls and about how we can counter all the negative messages that girls seems to receive, particularly the messages that the way we look is of utmost importance.

My friend R told the story of being on vacation. She, her husband, and her daughter (who is Joshua's age) were in a restaurant when one of the patrons commented that R's daughter is "such a pretty little girl!" Another patron within earshot said, "And I bet she's smart, too!" Even strangers are trying to make sure that we send our little girls the right message.

I've been intentional lately about how I speak to Clare. I realize that, at seven weeks, she's not picking up much other than, "There's that lady yakking at me again." But I want to get into the habit of giving her the messages that I want her to receive. I picked her up from a diaper change today and said, "You're such a pretty little girl!" I caught myself and continued by saying, "And smart, and witty, and kind, and clever!"

This evening I was at a baby shower with several of the women who were at the UMW meeting I mentioned before. One of them had her one-year-old daughter along. During her explorations, the daughter made her way over to where I was sitting. "Oh A" I said, "What a pretty little girl you are..." I caught myself again. "And generous and thoughtful..."

Pretty soon all of us were chiming in.

"And industrious!"

"And efficient!"

"And charming!"

Maybe if we all start in our own little corners of the world we can start sending the message to our daughters that what we look like isn't the most important thing about us, that we don't have to have "stuff" to make other people like us, and that we can be OK just the way we are.


HP said...

Amen to that!

The other comment that drives me crazy for babies/toddlers is about "driving the boys wild" or "oh, is that your little boyfriend?" (when referring to a playmate.) As if babies/toddlers are already thinking about dating and marriage!!

I had a friend who when someone said that about her little boy ("He's going to drive the girls crazy..."), replied, "Well, actually at 2 years old, we don't know what N's sexuality is going to be. Maybe he'll drive the girls crazy, maybe he'll drive the boys crazy. We just don't know. Either way would be fine with us!"

Sparky's Garage said...

I agree.

I also make sure I include, "And you'll take care of Daddy when he's old."

anna said...

I totally agree. Though there are times when I think it's important to tell your daughter how pretty she is as she gets to be a teenager. Sydney is at the ugly duckling stage that I remember so well. Glasses, clumsy, just had 4 teeth pulled in preperation for braces, long and get the idea. So there are times when she just feels ugly and says it over and over. (Doesn't help that she overheard a couple of "friends" making fun of her teeth the other day behind her back) so while I make a consistent effort to praise her other talents (brains, athletism, humor, creativity, ect) I also make sure I tell her how beautiful she is and that God doesn't make mistakes. And while I know having your mom saying your beautiful doesn't really make up for a bunch of mean girls it does at least put a bandaid on the wound. That and I pull out pictures of my ugly duckling stage and let her laugh away and help her realize that if all we had judge people on their looks we wouldn't have computers, internet, space travel, cures to deadly diseases, ect.
Plus I remind her that one day she'll be something great while those girls will still be talking bad about people behind their backs.

Mary Beth said...

HP--I have to admit that I was guilty of accusing Joshua of having "girlfriends" when he was younger. I don't anymore.


Anna--Girls can be so mean. My guess is that no one at home is telling those girls that they're smart, industrious, efficient, bright, and witty! My best friend in high school cared about little more than what she looked like and whether she was prettier than other people. At our ten-year reunion she said to me, "Well, I can go home happy now that I've seen that X and Y are fat." And I thought, "What a small, sad person you are."