Beauty. Babies. Bathrooms.

Not coincidentally, most of the blog posts that I write that really resonate with readers are the very same posts that really resonate with me.  The posts that make me laugh or cry, make me introspective and reflective, make me transparent and emotional.  This is one of those posts.

My five-year-old daughter wasn’t feeling well yesterday, so I kept her home from school.  She wasn’t really sick, just not quite herself, and a full day of rest for her seemed like a better choice than sticking her into the first-day-after-March-break Kindergarten chaos.  Her tired little body needed to stay in pyjamas, to watch movies, and to re-energize.  Mondays are an 11:00-7:00 day for me at the clinic, and my husband was unable to take the day off, so my in-laws stepped in and agreed to play nursemaid.  But before I took her to their place, we stopped into one of my happy places to sneak in a workout.  I saw my 9am crew, completed week four of the five-week Crossfit Open competition, and set her up with an iPad, crackers, and water.

It was after the workout that she threw me for a loop.  She was sitting on the vanity in the women’s changeroom as I applied my makeup, getting ready for work.  “Why do you need that mommy?” she asked, pointing to my eyeshadow.  “What does it do?”

Radio silence.

“Well, it makes my eyes look brighter,” I said.  And as she asked about each subsequent piece of makeup, I explained away concealer and powder and eyeliner and mascara as “it makes my skin smoother” or “it makes my eyelashes darker,” stumbling to find words to minimize the aesthetic component of cosmetics.  As I spoke, I cringed inside, realizing that this is where it starts.  This is where she starts to learn about society’s rules of beauty.  This is where she starts to learn about her beauty.  Her worth.  Her value.  Am I being too dramatic?  If you think so, then I will boldly tell you that you’re wrong.

Now, I don’t wear much makeup as it is, and you can often find my face completely bare, but nonetheless I swayed her views, however unintentional, to believe that having smooth skin, bright eyes, and dark eyelashes are desirable.  I fuelled the machine that believes that young skin, blonde hair, and a thin body defines beauty.  I contributed to the belief that natural looks are not good enough and I influenced my own daughter towards an ideal that I don’t even believe in myself, yet have somehow bought into.  My history of disordered eating is no secret, and I’ve written about it a few times; I still feel emotionally stripped down and exposed when I read those posts.  But with adulthood and hindsight and years of self-reflection under my belt, I’m sure that disordered eating also falls into the realm of beauty and self-worth too.  And it starts young.

So what should I have done?  What should I have said?  The truth is, I don’t know.  But I do know that I find parenting my daughter much trickier than parenting my son, because of social issues like this.  Beauty.  Value.  Self-esteem.  Uuugh, it’s just all so damn hard.

I’m trying to raise my little girl to value her brain.  And her abilities.  And her kindness.  Even if the world at large values hair extensions and self-tanner more.  It starts young and it starts with us.  And maybe, just maybe, it starts on a bathroom vanity at the gym.


“Please try not to spill it”

“Please try not to spill it.”  These words have come out of my mouth many times over the years, and I’m going to change that immediately.  Here’s why:

  • Because confidence.
  • Because self-worth.
  • Because who has time to care about messes?

How-To-Believe-In-YourselfI have two impressionable little people under my care, and I think my most important job is to make sure that they believe in themselves.  In their self-worth.  In their abilities.  In their importance.

“Please try not to spill it.”

The last time I said this, my newly three-year-old was carrying her plate from the kitchen counter to the table for lunch.  This is a skill she’s just learning- to balance a plate of food while walking.  She’s graduating from toddler to kid, and is starting to help out around the house with the little things she’s able to do.  Expectations for my kids are age-appropriate, but when she sees her six-year-old brother doing things, she wants to be a big kid too.  And I want to foster that.

“Please try not to spill it,” I said, as I passed her the plate.  And I saw her hesitate.  Just a little stutter-step, just a little pause, just a little self-doubt….. that I’d planted with my comment.  My heart broke into a million pieces.  I saw it happen:  right before my eyes her mind shifted from the confident “I’m-a-big-girl,” while “Mommy-doesn’t-think-I-can-do-this” creeped in.

Now perhaps some of you are thinking that’s ridiculous.  We need to parent our children, you say.  We need to guide them, you say.  We need to teach them, you say.  And I believe this to be true.  But please tell me why it would be necessary to say “please try not to spill it?”  As if, by omitting this phrase, you would be encouraging the child to spill?  As if the child would purposefully try to spill and fail?  As if the child cannot make a mistake?  “Please try not to spill it” does not need to be said because the child will already be trying not to spill it.  Done and done.

Am I being too sensitive to this?  Too emotional?  Too picky?  I don’t think so.  I’m a sensitive soul and I know my kids.  “Please try not to spill it” does not promote the iamawesome-b649faed7b69b457b00e75e50158d7db self-confidence that I’m trying to cultivate in them.  It does not add to their world and their worth.  So it doesn’t make the cut.

Back to my earlier example, my daughter did not in fact spill her lunch, and she was very proud of herself for crossing the kitchen successfully.  But if she had spilled, I would hope to use that as an opportunity for both of us to learn and grow.  First, she was using a plastic children’t plate (like it would make a difference if the plate was breakable?  ‘Wear the Dress Socks,’ remember?).  Second, I can control my reaction so that it provides no fear component or worry about my approval.  And third, and most notably, spills teach that people make mistakes.  We clean up and move on.   Life happens.  And it’s often messy.

So I’m going to keep trying to set my children up for success, I’m going to keep trying to help them learn from their mistakes, and I’m going to keep trying to figure out this parenting gig.

“Children are great imitators, so give them something great to imitate.  ~Unknown.”