If you have daughters, I'm sure you feel the same way about them.
We can't help ourselves, really. They s t r e t c h us, but we know every freckle, and are familiar with every scar. We see our light in their eyes, and we're smitten. Like magic. Our eyes only see the beautiful creatures we are raising---the hard stuff falls away.
One of top articles shared on facebook in 2011 was Lisa Bloom's write-up in the Huffington Post titled, How to Talk to Little Girls.
I read it, along with the rest of the world, and tucked it away in the recesses of my mind.
Then, I was confronted with the reality of our culture's go-to-conversation-icebreaker with little girls--appearance. The reality of all Ms. Bloom's article talked about hit me like a ton of bricks.
Over the past several weeks, we've had some visitors to our home, and the girls and I went to visit my husband at his office.
Compliments and praises from friends and family flew at my daughters:
You're so pretty!
That skirt is adorable!
What cute shoes!
Oh, those pigtails are so sweet!Meanwhile, my daughters are standing there, uncomfortably, inching closer to my legs. And I was, equally uneasy, smiling awkwardly, or maybe my mouth was gaping open, I can't be sure.
In her article, Ms. Bloom says this:
Teaching girls that their appearance is the first thing you notice tells them that looks are more important than anything.The barge of compliments and gushing praise, and the inability to speak to my daughters about anything else was mind-boggling to me.
I'm pleased to tell you that one of my husband's co-workers actually spoke with my daughters about something other than their appearance. It was refreshing.
He asked the girls about going to the park, and new words they had learned to say. He showed them (and let them handle) geodes from his travels. He let them explore with some magnetic balls he had in his office. He even responded to them with sign language, when they signed 'thank you' for letting them play with his "toys".
As I've mulled these recent instances over in my mind, I've reach a conclusion.
I believe, as parents we need to take Ms. Bloom's words a step further. Certainly, we can do our part to engage the little girls in our lives with intelligent conversation that engages their minds.
But there's more.
Standing by, smiling awkwardly, as someone drenches my daughters with compliments about their appearance, is doing my daughters a terrible disservice.
As parents, we can't remain passive, hoping that everyone that approaches our daughters has read and embraced Ms. Bloom's way of talking with girls in a way that engages their minds.
As our daughters' biggest advocates, it behooves us to
Tell Ms. Smith all the colors that are on your skirt.
Show Mr. Jones the sign for 'shoes'.
Can you tell Mr. Miller how many pigtails you have in your hair?
Why don't we show your grandpa the pretty flowers we planted in the garden?Don't get me wrong---there's nothing wrong with a well-placed compliment. And I understand that these people are well-intentioned.
But, when you lead with their appearance---you're telling my daughters that the most important thing they can do is to show up and look pretty.
We are not raising our girls to be wall flowers!
At age two, my daughters are smart, and funny, and active. There are a million different ways to engage them without ever mentioning what they look like or how their hair is styled. I dare you to try.
And parents---I dare you to step in, and steer conversations focused on your daughters' appearance. Help others to engage their minds. Show off their brains, their talents, their abilities, their interests.
How do you engage little girls in conversation?