Last year my daughter voiced concerns over her not being cute anymore. Absurd, right?
I thought of the role I may have played in creating this concern. Clothes, hair, and make up can serve as a form of artistic expression, so I am not entirely uncomfortable complimenting an outfit or style. However, I do continue to consider the pressure of beauty ideals and consumerism. In short, I practice critical thinking. I try not to compliment inherited physical features – as much – because I don’t want to place one’s value on their looks. I say “as much” because I screw up sometimes and I am open to discussion on this topic. For example, my daughter’s curly hair reminds me of my own, and my mother’s side of the family and gives me a sense of comfort. As I’m sure her lips may do for her father. Every aspect of my daughter fascinates me so I inevitably compliment physical features, while certainly making a point of praising her wit and other unique talents, as well as discussing this issue with her an awful lot. I still have learning to do, for sure.
Because of this uncertainty and constant revision of principles I cannot say I haven’t played a part in her no-longer-cute worry. I myself have the same worry after being complimented on my “cuteness” more than anything else. That’s where my self-worth has laid for a long time and I am re-teaching myself and trying to present myself differently than I did throughout my teens when cuteness was a – misdirected- survival tactic.
I also understand that she has lived her life being constantly complimented by friends, family and strangers on her cuteness. It feels naturally for people to do this considering we live in a physical appearance obsessed society that sees being called cute a compliment. If harm is done, it isn’t intentional and this is all a symptom of larger issues.
All this being said: there are actually people who complain how she has grown, to me and in front of my kiddo. Her hair is darker, the ringlets have loosened, she is thinner; she has less baby fat. Some are disappointed when they see her after a period of time. She is six and this is already happening! How frustrating it must be to be praised your whole life for something and then lose this source of praise simply by aging, something that cannot be controlled.
These statements are born from the aforementioned appearance obsessed society, and, I believe, the little credit given to the minds of children her age. We all say, “They hear everything,” but do we all believe it? Or truly understand what this means? Language is important, and messages sent can’t be reckless.
A six-year old shouldn’t have this worry. No one should.
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