Thanks to the time machine that is Facebook Memories, I recently ran across a pointed rant I posted some six years ago. While there are so many posts I see that make me cringe and wonder what I could possibly have been thinking, this one serves as a reminder of my mission as a mother.
My oldest daughter was almost eight years old and dabbling in dance classes as most girls her age. It was the most exciting class of the year where the costumes for the upcoming recital were passed out and tried on. That year for their tap number they were performing to a snazzy Taylor Swift song and wearing a “nerd” costume complete with argyle print and thick-rimmed glasses taped in the middle. It was absolutely adorable.
As we parents sat along the wall of mirrors, the girls excitedly donned their costumes and accessories. My daughter ran up to show me and when she caught sight of her reflection in the mirror, she exclaimed, “Mom! I look AMAZING in these glasses!”
No sooner than the smile reached my face I heard the mother sitting next to me say with a roll of her eyes, “Wow, conceited much?”
Imagine here the sound of a record scratch as my entire body fills with white-hot blinding rage.
There have been a million retorts that have popped into my head since that day. When it happened, I calmly replied that at seven years old it’s not conceit, it’s confidence.
While what this woman said was vile, she said it to me and not to my child. For that, I am thankful. While my child did hear her, I’m not sure that she understood what was said and that it was referring to her specifically.
This short story is illustrative of so many of the problems that young girls face today. We blame the media, we blame magazines. We point the finger at social media and Snapchat filters. We limit their exposure to bikini-clad models and we stand behind companies who pledge that they won’t airbrush their ads. But what about the things we say as adults? About ourselves? About others? In earshot of our daughters?
As time has passed, I often think not of my child that day, but of hers. My daughter lives in a home where while we don’t always hit the mark, we do our best to build her up. She knows she is loved and she knows she’s worthy. But this daughter of hers has a mother so concerned that a child who truly loves themselves might be considered full of themselves. How many times might she have questioned her worth? How many times must she have doubted that she was good enough – even in the eyes of her mother? Why must she be taught that moving through this world as a female is only allowed in shame and self-deprecation?
Do you remember the movie Mean Girls? I recall the scene when Regina George tells Kady, “You’re, like, really pretty,” and Kady replies, “Thank you.” Regina’s immediate follow-up is, “So you think you’re pretty?” As if that is a bad thing. At other times in the movie, they take turns commenting on the things they hate most about their bodies. We all know this is par for the course with teen girls…but why?
Why can’t seven-year-olds love the way they look? Lord knows there’s plenty of time for the world to proverbially beat that out of them. As our daughters grow up in a world of texting and social media they’re inundated with messages and comments that, however well-intentioned, can make them second guess even the smallest of details about themselves. Sadly, many of the messages they receive aren’t even of the well-intentioned variety.
Over time, my anger has transformed into sadness and resolve. I’m sad that more young girls don’t feel the confidence my daughter did then. I’m sad that despite my best efforts she doesn’t still have that confidence at 14. And I’m committed to trying every day to make sure both my girls are reminded all the time of how awesome they are.
So tell your kids today that they’re great. Tell them every day. Make them repeat it back to you. And look them dead in the eyes and say the same about yourself. I am great. Let them see your confidence in action. Be the example they need to see.