At the tender ages of one and two, both of my kids already bear scars on the outside. Elliot has one on her forehead from being smacked in the head by a playmate. Graham’s is over his eye from falling into the baseboards when he was first walking. Their legs are always bruised and they’re forever banging their clumsy little heads. These tiny scrapes and bumps aren’t going to matter in a few years so we take them in stride. The physical scars will heal, emotional scars are way more damaging.

Today I have the pleasure of joining Wicked Step Mom’s project, Beautiful Like Me. As I was writing this post, I realized that I had already written a fitting post on this subject, self esteem. I’m reposting the original which was posted on September 28th, 2008.

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I am totally head over heels in love with my daughter Elliot. Really, I am. As I write this, she is laying next to me on the bed, watching me intently and smiling from ear to ear. After every few words I type, I stop and smile at her and she bursts into the most adorable laugh I have ever heard. It’s hard for me to concentrate, almost enough to make me overlook the fact that she’s supposed to be napping but fought like hell to be able to stay up and play.

Having a daughter worried me in many ways. There’s the obvious me being a tomboy and not knowing what to do if she turns into a princess. There’s the stuff about “girl problems” and having to protect her from all of the boys out there that are going to try to get in her pants. Mostly, there’s the fact that as a girl, she’s going to grow up in a world where looks, popularity and being thin will turn my precious girl into a self conscious mess if we don’t work extra hard on building her self-esteem.

Growing up, I spent most of my time around boys. At home, there weren’t any other girls in the neighborhood so I played alongside the boys. I raced BMX and there were only a handful of other girls in the state that raced so I was usually the only girl. Boys didn’t care if I wore makeup, or what I dressed like. They cared about if I could beat them out of the starting gate and how I rode the doubles going into the second turn. Boy stuff. Because of this, I never noticed my weight or thought to eat a salad instead of a burger. I was accepted by my peers and never gave it a second thought.

I recently read that 20-40% of girls begin dieting by the age of ten. TEN. A ten year old shouldn’t know what a diet is. Kids these days are being pushed into adult situations long before we were at their age. It scares the shit out of me. It’s not just dieting, it’s also sexualization, peer pressure and drugs. Little girls are dressing like sluts (I’ve heard them called prostitots), preteens are developing eating disorders and becoming sexually active. What the fuck is going on with the world?

Elliot is only five months old and I’ve already caught myself slipping up. When we play, I call her “Pretty Pretty” and tell her she’s the most beautiful girl in the world (she is, by the way). It comes naturally to tell her these things, but I know I should be telling her she’s smart and capable instead. When she’s old enough to understand me, I will. We plan on buying her gender neutral toys and not toys geared solely towards little girls. She WILL NOT own a Bratz Doll. We will encourage her creativity and her brains and help her to feel good about herself. We need to teach her that it’s ok to wear clothes that cover her body and it’s ok to eat a decent meal.

When I look at Elliot, I worry about how I will be able to make her strong enough to be happy. I want her to know that it’s her brain and her heart that make her special, not which shade of Revlon she puts on her lips or what size clothes she wears. How am I going to do that when the odds are against us? I wish I had the know how to help turn my little girl into a balanced person with a healthy self-image. I wish I may, I wish I might, have this wish I wish tonight.


How could you NOT want to protect this kid?

28 Comments

  1. Andrea
    on
    1

    What a wonderful post. I couldn’t agree more. The way the world is today with all the pressure on kids to look a certain way and be a certain way it’s very scary out there. All we as parents can do is try to steer them in the right direction and be on the lookout for signals that they need a little help along the way.

    Andreas last blog post..Sign Language Wednesday

  2. Cat
    on
    2

    Unfortunately, even doing all the right things as a parent sometimes doesn’t work, but it certainly gives your smart, capable daughter a head start. Great post, thanks for re-sharing!

    Cats last blog post..Sick, But Not Really Sick

  3. Stacy (the Random Cool Chick)
    on
    3

    Beautiful post! Those same exact thoughts have been running through my head in regards to the Princess Nagger. The world really has changed significantly from when we were kids, that’s for sure! I’m always telling the Princess Nagger that she’s pretty and smart – and a dork…I want to make sure her mindset in that regard is balanced…(grin!!)

    Stacy (the Random Cool Chick)s last blog post..Wordless/Wordful Wednesday – Elvis Gets a Shave

  4. Peggy
    on
    4

    I can totally relate to this with a 7 year old daughter. You can already see the “pressures” and mine is kind of falls in the middle of tomboy vs. fashion girl. I’d be pretty content with a happy medium.

    Peggys last blog post..Wordless Wednesday

  5. The Stiletto Mom
    on
    5

    That was a great post. Mine is 7 and she has already slipped into being worried about what she wears, etc. Having girls is not easy in this day and age…hopefully you share this post with Elliot some day, I’ll bet it will mean a lot to her to know how much her Mom worried early on!

    The Stiletto Moms last blog post..Busted!

  6. WickedStepMom
    on
    6

    Welcome! And may your wish come true.

    I know we are definitely trying. The 8 year old has been asking recently if she is fat. ::sighs:: 8 is too young for such questions.

    WickedStepMoms last blog post..Step Mom Fail #286

  7. Robin
    on
    7

    Sigh. Life sure is difficult. But you already have a head-start by being so self-aware. Good for you. πŸ™‚

    Robins last blog post..The Spin Cycle: My Cinnamon Girl

  8. WickedStepMom
    on
    8

    P.S. you are linked!

    WickedStepMoms last blog post..Step Mom Fail #286

  9. Amy @ Five Flower Mom
    on
    9

    Welcome and thank you for joining the Beautiful Like Me Project! As a mom to six children I have asked myself the same questions as you many times! I am not sure there is one answer but at least you are asking and seeking answers — that is the best first step to doing the right thing!

    Great post!

    Amy @ Five Flower Moms last blog post..Beautiful Like Me: Dance

  10. Sprite's Keeper
    on
    10

    I remember reading this the first time! Still a great post!

    Sprite’s Keepers last blog post..Redux Reflux

  11. Michele
    on
    11

    Great post. Boys go through this a little bit but just later in life and to pick up girls. I’m pretty sure you didn’t want to hear that part. Sorry

    Micheles last blog post..Pioneer Cooking

  12. jenni
    on
    12

    great, great post, casey.

    jennis last blog post..Toddlers are Assholes

  13. Ginny Marie
    on
    13

    When I taught second grade, I had a mom very concerned that the P.E. teacher was focused too much on healthy eating. Her little girl was already getting obsessed with the fat content of food, and she was a skinny little thing. It’s such a fine line. We all need to be careful in what we say and do. I call myself fat in front of my girls sometimes, and then regret it. I want to project my healthy self esteem as a role model for my girls, but it’s really hard!

    Ginny Maries last blog post..Random Tuesday Thoughts: Cheese: It’s What’s for Dinner

  14. GreenJello
    on
    14

    No Bratz dolls– or Barbies– at my house, either. But there is makeup, and cute clothes, and hairdos. Dolls and dollhouses. And I’ve had to learn it, since I’m also the proverbial tomboy.

    But they’ve also had dinosaurs, and trucks, and balls of all sorts.

    And my girls eat WELL and HEALTHY. I encourage them to exercise and be fit. And I lecture them on the stupidity of diets, that eating well is the best “diet” around.

    We talk about how models and billboards and magazines are filled with airbrushed fake women, and point out real women around us. I focus on body fat percentage (if they’re concerned), rather than weight.

    I teach them good hygiene, good manners, and how to be independent and assertive.

    They will be strong women, and I am GLAD. πŸ™‚

    GreenJellos last blog post..Wordless Wednesday

  15. Zip n Tizzy
    on
    15

    There will come a time when all she cares about are her peers, but, fundamentally she’ll be affected by how she’s raised. Just thinking about these things is the first step. Even when she’s just thinking about her peers, your voice will always be reminding her of greater importance, and the kids whose parents encourage their self esteem are the kids who will make choices of their own.

  16. Sammanthia
    on
    16

    This is an awesome post and I couldn’t agree with you more. Having three boys I haven’t had to deal with it, but I’ve hung out with youth group and gone on enough field trips to see it’s so much harder being a girl nowadays. I’m not saying there isn’t peer pressure being a boy, but it’s just so much different with girls. G is only in the 7th grade and already the girls are fighting over who is the best dressed and which cell phone to have. It’s crazy. Last year I overheard a girl, who wasn’t any older than 13 or 14, saying she’s already been tested for STDs. She was BRAGGING about it. This is the kind of thing that scares the shit out of me, too.

    Sammanthias last blog post..A Memo To Myself

  17. anymommy
    on
    17

    I do those subconscious things too. At dinner tonight, my three year olds were discussing how she was as princess and he was a prince and only princesses wear pink. It’s so hard, so much of this thinking is a part of our lives and we don’t even see it.

    Great post!

    anymommys last blog post..Hide Your Goats, Bring Your Kids

  18. Shangrila
    on
    18

    AWESOME post, Casey~ this past weekend, my 10-year-old came home from school, took a shower, dressed herself and came upstairs wearing my red lipstick. Now, mind you, she doesn’t OWN a single inappropriate piece of clothing. That said, I almost had a heart attack because I swear-to-God she looked like an adult. Like I could’ve walked her into any bar to sing karaoke without any id-related hassle. With my history, I have always been super-crazy-extra careful about what I say to her. Words like “fancy” and “clever” and “artistic” and “healthy” have replaced words like “skinny” and “pretty” etc. (I’m no paragon-“bella figlia” means “beautiful daughter” and she hears THAT daily.) Anywho, long comment short, I sat down and gave her the first part of “The Talk”. Because I’m afraid for her. Fingers crossed.

    Shangrilas last blog post..Cinderella Flips the Bird

  19. bex
    on
    19

    Great Post! I’ll try to help you out by raising boys more interested in a girl’s character and personality than her looks. I have my fair share of insecurities but as a kid I was very secure in my cuteness and I was pretty well balanced. I used to climb trees just to paint my nails in peace.

    Even as an adult, I like to ride motorcycles, camp, fish, lift weights, play poker, video games and drink beer. But I also like my house and my person to look pretty and smell pretty.

    I don’t know what my parents did but they told me I was pretty as much as they told me I was smart. Maybe that’s a clue? My mom should write this post!

    bexs last blog post..RTT: Yeah you know me!

  20. Krystal
    on
    20

    I don’t even want to think about when the girls get older – there are so many things in the outside world that scare me now. I can only imagine in the future.

    Awesome writing as usual.

    Hugs!!

    Krystals last blog post..1

  21. mrsbear
    on
    21

    It’s all so true (again). πŸ˜‰

    So I should return that pink sequined halter top I bought for Elliot then?

    mrsbears last blog post..What Were We Thinking? – Spin Cycle

  22. Kyooty
    on
    22

    This is a great post, I really enjoyed reading it and hearing your thoughts. She looks like she’s floating on a cloud on that blanket πŸ™‚

    Kyootys last blog post..Random Tuesday, No Toast for Me!

  23. Heather
    on
    23

    I remember this post!!! And it doesn’t matter how hard you try to keep things away from her….she has an older brother!!! Just saying….Diva asked what an erection was the other day….damn older brothers!!!

    Heathers last blog post..My pinkie toe is such a bitch!!!

  24. Christy
    on
    24

    I remember this post and I still love it! Bratz are the devil.

    Christys last blog post..The Place Where I Live

  25. Karen@If I Could Escape . . .
    on
    25

    What a wonderful post — thanks for sharing it again! Love the photo!

    Karen@If I Could Escape . . .s last blog post..MomDot Blog Link-a-Thon

  26. Lisa (Jonny's Mommy)
    on
    26

    Great post. You’re right, the job is a hard one, but we can do it as parents because we know that image isn’t everything. Appearance isn’t everything. Kids will think it is corny, but when they get older, they will realize it is true that beauty is on the inside and what is on the outside, really isn’t as important as others try to say it is.

    Lisa (Jonny’s Mommy)s last blog post..Squirrel watch: Days two and three

  27. ck
    on
    27

    I think you’re already doing it. Showing her how loved she is. Making her feel important. Building her insides as strong as you can so that she’s ready to stand up when she needs to. She’s lucky to have a mama who loves her so much.

    cks last blog post..by way of microphone

  28. Amber
    on
    28

    So this past week I was getting my daughter in the tub. She’s almost 8. I was running the bath water as she was getting undressed. My kids always weigh themselves before they get in the tub. Mostly to compare to each other. So she says, “mama, when I have my shoes on it says 72.0 but when I have them off it says 70.5”. She’s gained 10 lbs in about the last 6 months. It scared the shit outa me. I panicked. I immediately went to thinking how I can get those 10 lbs off of her. WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH ME????? She’s absolutely darling. She’s tall and dances and is active and eats fairly decently. I even joked with my friend that “I’ll give her an eating disorder if I have to.” And while I was totally kidding, it’s still in the back of my mind how much I don’t want her to be chunky.
    All of this because I KNOW what a fucked up world we live in. I KNOW she’ll base all of her self esteem on whether she’s skinny or not. Right now she knows she’s beautiful. (In fact she tells me how beautiful she is on an almost daily basis.) But oh how I worry about how she’ll be in 5 years when she’s a teenager.
    BTW, Harley will treat Elliot with the most respect and won’t try to get in her pants. Til the second date.

    Ambers last blog post..And Here’s to 100 More…

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