By FELICITY LENEHAN
I just read that I am no longer allowed to call my daughter beautiful, because it’s forming the opinion in her head that beautiful looking is what matters. That she has to retain the flawless face of her three year old self, aim for the figure of Miranda Kerr (which she has never had and never will have, my yummy little stocky girl), be scarred by terrible eating disorders, failed romantic encounters, the whole frightening shebang. I’m petrified of all this stuff for my daughter.
In the same week I’ve also read I’m not allowed to call her a “good girl”, because it perpetuates the glass ceiling. It stifles her want to be dominant, a risk taker, and all those other things that being a leader requires. It says she has to remain bound by 18th century corseted social rules – sit in the corner and read your Jane Austen you, you, female you!
I understand this theory, I really do, and believe me, I’m the last person who wants to damage my children’s self esteem.
But it is very hard for me not to say these things because, well, my daughter is beautiful. Stunning. Everyone tells me thus. She has huge, summer-sky blue eyes, framed by long dark lashes, a button nose, ruby red cherub lips, and the most amazing curly hair. Me, of the limp, permed-three-times-in-a-week-and-still-poker-straight variety, has aimed for this kind of hair all my life. And I’ve made it on my daughters head. And now – I can’t believe it – I’m not allowed to call it beautiful!
However, physically gorgeous as she looks, when I call her “my beautiful girl”, I am usually referring to her beautiful personality. Because she has come into the room early morning, with sleepy doe eyes, with hair to rival Mad Einstein, clearly still waking up but nevertheless sporting a huge smile on her face (how I wish I could do that), and she bumbles toward me with one thing on her mind – a big cuddle good morning. That, is beautiful, no other word for it.
I also can’t help but proclaim “good girl”, when her preschool teacher tells me she’s well rounded, friends with everyone, inclusive of all (and not exclusive, apparently a trait three year old girls display already – eek!). Is this not a “good” quality that should be encouraged in my “girl”?
The experts suggest changing the way you express it. So, in this instance, I need to say “Well done Stable Personality (nothing to do with looks). What a balanced attitude you are displaying at preschool, not adhering to gender pigeon-holing. MUMMY WILL GET YOU AN ICECREAM!!!” (Or is that not allowed?)
Show me one parent who has not gazed down at their hairy, peeling-skinned, purple-pink in colour, nose squashed into chin newborn and fallen into tears at how “beautiful” they think they are? Even if they do look like an alien cross ape, a newborn baby is nothing but the word beautiful.