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.
I also call my three boys Beautiful. Or, “Would you mind helping me with the dishwasher please Gorgeous” Or, “calm down Blossom, let me show you how to do it.” Rarely do they get their real name when I refer to any of my children – and if I do try, it’s usually arrived at after tripping over their brothers’ and sister’s names first.
So if I call my boys Beautiful, Blossum and Gorgeous, am I also setting up their self image as Boy Barbie? Am I encouraging femininity? But it’s ok to be male and feminine nowadays, isn’t it? Or am I smothering their maleness by using a feminine term for them? Or is beautiful even a feminine term now? Wow, I’m really feeling the pressure here.
Is this what we want – to have girls who are not too beautiful, play with matchbox cars and never wear a skirt, and boys who are not too beautiful, who’ll nurse a doll, and wear pink shorts, so that everyone is, well, the same?
I’m so confused.
And now that I think of it, does this mean I can’t read my daughter stories about fairies anymore? Because Fairy Pengiuns now have to be called Little Penguins. “And the little gender-non-specific-not-wearing-a-sparkly-dress-or being-a-good-someone person, hid in the bushes waiting for the family to get home…” I guess hiding in the bushes when you’re not a fairy is taboo too now.
My life has been full of the “fairies” this change of wording aims to stop offending. And I couldn’t be more thankful – in fact, I feel very special to have had so many people who are not the standard norm in my young life growing up – all of them showing me their individual “beauty”, and teaching me lessons on how to be “good” in this life. I think it has made me a more tolerant and accepting person. Qualities which I really hope I can help grow in my children. “Good” qualities for a person to have.
I don’t think I can stop myself calling my children beautiful or gorgeous and blurting out “good boy!” or “good girl!” when they’ve exhibited qualities I wish to encourage, or I’m just downright proud of. I think it tells them I love them – it comes tumbling out of my mouth without restraint and unconditional love. I’d be no good at a measured, well thought out statement that by the time I have concocted it in my head the moment has passed and they’ve no idea what I’m talking about.
I want to raise children who ARE gorgeous, beautiful, fun, loving, caring, strong and just plain old wonderful all over.
But, they came out like this anyway. No need to try so hard.
Felicity Lenehan is a former champagne swilling fashionista, turned nappy-Head of the Lenehan Awesome Foursome. She blogs here: http://mummy-duck.blogspot.com