As a child growing up in the 80s, appearance was everything. Barbie dolls were thin with lots of makeup, Wonder Woman's hair was perfectly coifed, Madonna's eyeliner and provocative lace gloves were enviable, and Farrah Faucett's nipples were out on display in that red bathing suit. But college and graduate school (and a developing sense of self...) made me realize that I didn't want my children to consider their appearance as a factor in any part of their self-esteem. I heard these things all the time as a child- "Beauty is only skin deep," "True beauty comes from within," "A pretty face is nothing is you have an ugly heart." And while these sayings are created with good intentions, it's still reducing the world to beauty -or not.
We had boys first and I was determined to raise them in a gender-neutral way. Of course, they had trains and cars and mechanical toys, but they also watched Dora the Explorer along with Thomas the Train. When Jane Ellen joined us, she played with the same train toys, tinker toys, and Legos. But she was inexplicably drawn to dolls as well. At the store, I protested the Bratz and Monster High School dolls because they wore to much make up and their clothes were too small. I love that my kids will still walk past those on the shelves and say how tacky they look.
But the challenge with ignoring appearance as a personality characteristic is that children don't learn that someone is "pretty" or "ugly" or "could use some help." Why is this a challenge instead of a blessing? Because then they don't realize when they are insulting someone based on appearance. I've taught my children to be kind and think of nice things to say about people. But I haven't said "If this person resembles a cartoon character from a monster movie, please don't say they look like that character." Because how do you predict that?!
So earlier this week, we were checking books out at the library. The librarian was a kind lady with a fabulous pair of glasses. And a shirt the color of Roz from Monsters, Inc. I briefly thought of the association but then listened with agony as our middle child asked her if she had seen Monsters, Inc. I tried to step on his foot because I saw where this was headed. Of course, she had seen Monsters, Inc. Owen was trying to connect with her because they had just had a great conversation about books and which new ones he should read. And then (quickly glancing at me curiously while I was still stepping gently on his foot) he said, "You know you really look like that character in Monsters, Inc. What's her name? The one who speaks in that funny voice? Roz! Yeah, you really look like Roz!" You see the train about to crash into the station but there's nothing you can do to stop it. I tried my best attempts at deflection by pointing out how their glasses are just the same!! But still, my son had just compared her to a green monster with a droopy chin. Sigh. #parentingfail
Comments will be approved before showing up.