My daughter turns four years old in a few months. How time has flown. I have no idea how she became this little person so quickly, emerging from the murkiness of toddlerhood. It's like I looked up one day and had a little girl on my hands, and she is her own person.
With two parents who do not spend a lot of time or thought on fashion, she has somehow become a kid who is exceedingly aware of what she wears on a daily basis and that it makes a statement about her. It's as humorous at times to me as it is puzzling. Whereas we don't really encourage that attitude, we also haven't seen much of a reason to dissuade her either. For as long as I can remember she has been a princess loving, unicorn riding, glitter throwing maniac wrapped in pink and I have no clue where this came from.
But over thanksgiving she said something that has stuck with me and caused me to think a lot about the values kids get in their early years. My wife's family has a tradition of talking about what we are thankful for at Thanksgiving dinner. It's kind of a nice moment to put some things in perspective. The Wee One was happy to chime in at her turn and say that she was thankful for her family, which was cute. Everyone went around and we started the meal. Then the Wee One suddenly needed to add another thing she was thankful for. With great excitement she exclaimed "I'm thankful I'm beautiful!"
Okay, it's funny and cute once you get past the idea that we are raising a vain little princess, but she's 3 and whatever, right?
Well, it bugs me a bit and here's why - "being beautiful" was the first thing that sprang to her mind as she thought about the good qualities about herself*. Even if, for arguments sake, she is beautiful, it bothers me that she is making that part of her identity already. She didn't say that she was thankful for being smart, or good at puzzles, or happy all the time. Instead she placed value on her appearance and I can't shake the feeling that I'm failing her.
Now it is entirely possible that I'm over-reacting to an innocent comment, although her comment is hardly the first time she has equated beauty with worth. I will say that she does not lack self-confidence, which I am happy about, but I also want her to believe she is beautiful in lots of ways. But this was one of the first times that I really felt like outside influences were playing a role that went directly against how I would like her to see herself, and it was a bit jarring. I'm pitted against Disney and their damsel in distress princess pigeonhole and I all of a sudden I realized how much of that she has internalized already and it's creeping me the fuck out.
It'll be fine, she'll be fine and I certainly believe that we can instill in her the kinds of values we believe in. I guess I just didn't expect the Trojan Horse of the patriarchy to be sitting at the gates so soon. Now if I can just keep her out of JC Penny...
*Yes, she completely meant it in the physical sense.