“Mom, I want to be Beautiful,” my preschooler told me today.
“This is about my own some-day daughter. When you approach me, already stung-eyed with insecurity, begging, “Mom, will I be pretty?” I will wipe that question from your mouth like cheap lipstick and answer “No, the word pretty is unworthy of everything you will be, and no child of mind will be contained in five letters.
You will be pretty intelligent, pretty creative, pretty amazing. But you, will never be merely…pretty.” – Kate Makkai
Let’s back up a little; Ly had her preschool Halloween Party last week. She is four now. Gone are the days of dinosaurs and owls. Now, my rough and tumble toddler is growing into a little girl, and she wants to be “beautiful”. Her favorite shows are morphing. Last year, she chose to dress as Cinderella for Halloween. This year, Elsa reins queen.
She already had the costume from when we visited Disney back in February. (Why yes, I will take the 17.99 costume from Amazon over the 50$ one sold at the Bibbidi Bobbity Boutique, thank you very much!) I found a coordinating Olaf for her baby brother, and I made the Anna and Kristoff costumes she required of my husband and I- all for less than 30$. Totally winning, right?
Never Merely Pretty
As she twirled in her new satin dress, sequins reflecting the autumn light as the sparkles danced on the wall. She swirled her lace cape dramatically behind her, and she insisted that her costume would not be complete without glitter nails and make-up. Oh, and don’t forget;
“And Mommy, I want my hair in an ‘Elsa Braid.’”
Once the appropriate princess assembly was finished, she gazed admiringly at her sparkly nails. “Mommy, my teacher will say how beautiful I am.” My heart squeezed in that moment, because of course, she is beautiful. My heart thumps every day when I look at her, and I marvel at how I grew this beautiful little form. Of course she should be told how beautiful she is. But… baby girl, my always baby… don’t you see, you are so so SO much more than beautiful.
“Lyla,” I said, “glitter and sparkles and make-up, this stuff is fun, and it makes you feel fancy. But it is not what makes you beautiful. The way you treat others, your kindness, the way you love your friends and family, THAT is what makes you pretty. Cinderella and Elsa’s kindness and love is what makes them beautiful. Not her dress or her sparkles or her magic. Just like you. The choices you make and how you treat others is what makes you extra beautiful.”
Now, I’m not sure how much sank in, but I will make sure to tell her every day, every chance she gets, that she is beautiful. But I will also tell her how smart she is. That she’s a hard worker. I will point out every kind act she does. She will learn how strong and capable her arms and legs and body are. Eventually, (hopefully) she will learn that while it is fun to feel fancy, it is her heart that makes her truly beautiful. Women spend so much of our lives boxed in and categorized. Are they a beauty? Or not?
Society, deeply rooted in patriarchy, deemed women only as valuable as our outside package. Breasts are for beauty, not for nurture. Our bodies became valued over our brains, and our hearts. What we wear, who we are, our hair, our size, the color of our skin- everything about us is labeled. Our girls quickly find themselves shoved into these tiny labeled boxes that cannot truly contain or explain the depth, strength, and complexities that women embody.
However, it’s a mindset many of us were raised with. It’s part of the reason we “let ourselves go” after childhood- because if our physical self no longer feels “pretty”, what is the point of bothering with the rest? I never want my daughter to go through this.
My little princess will never feel boxed in, labeled, or raised with a “beauty matters” mindset.
I am not raising a pretty package. I am raising a strong, smart, compassionate, brave, creative, complex tornado of a human being. She will always find support idealizing and dressing as her beloved Disney Princesses. See- they, too, are more than their package. My goal as her mother, as my son’s mother, as the caretaker of tiny humans, is to teach them to look underneath.
Together, as mothers, as women, we build human beings for the next generation who have eyes that see beyond the fancy, the pretty. We raise children who value kindness, bravery, and gratitude. How will you raise your children to see beyond the beauty as they grow?