I know we are gifted the children we are born to raise. We give life to the personalities, spirits, genders, and character strengths and struggles we can guide, nurture, and love. I know this is why I have girls. I know this is why I have fiercely independent girls. I will raise them despite their appearance, and our cultures dependency on always exclusively commenting on their looks, but no one is making it easy.
I have daughters, whose appearance attracts “positive” attention. ALWAYS.
My six year old told me people like her because of her hair. “Everyone likes me because of my hair. Except [boy at school] he told me it was to crazy.” I obviously immediately responded with, “Everyone likes you because you are awesome, and smart, and fun.” It barely registered with her. I could not undo six years of people commenting on her hair, first and often only.
I attended a party last night with my youngest daughter. She is 10 months old. She is super sweet, smiley, mild mannered and mellow. She is engaging with her smiles, and waves, and “yes” and “no” head nods. She loved all of the party food, and was ridiculously endearing. However, no one commented on her wonderful, easygoing nature. Everyone commented on her, “gorgeous eyes”, or “she’s a beauty”, or the worst one, “her dad better get a gun…” yuck, so gross.
I left wondering can I literally ask people to stop. Please, please stop commenting on her appearance. I do not even know what to say anymore, and “thank you” is awkward and forced. My sweet, thoughtful, inquisitive daughter is going to start hearing you; she is going to begin to internalize the messages she hears over, and over again. She is going to wonder if there is anything else the world values. She is going to start spending too much time caring about appearance. She is going to measure her value, her self worth by only what she looks like.
My daughters are amazing tiny humans. And they hear everything we say. Tell them they are funny; tell them they are smart; tell them they are strong. Tell them they are kind, and that they are good friends. Tell them they are future leaders. Tell them you enjoy their company. Help me; teach them a new inner dialogue.