“Am I beautiful?” Preschooler asks me, swathed in her princess dress-up clothes.
“Yes you are!” I say. “But you know what’s better than being beautiful? That you are smart and kind and brave and helpful.”
Preschooler contemplates this. Several seconds later... “Mama, guess what? I’m a beautiful princess!”
I’m not sure what to make of this. We do reminder her, on a daily basis, that she is smart. We thank her for being helpful. We compliment her when she’s nice to her sister.
And, we tell her she is beautiful. Actually, I’m probably a little too conscientious about telling her this. I never felt beautiful growing up, and I want to instill in her a sense that she is beautiful just the way she is.
Yet for all of the daily reminders of her intelligence, her helpfulness, her kindness what does she seem to walk away with? Beauty.
Some (ok, lots) of this comes out when she plays “princesses.” Which is pretty darn often. In fact, I’m not sure there’s a waking moment where she isn’t, in some corner of her mind, a princess.
I could blame Disney for this. But, I think she’d be enthralled with princesses even if the Disney Princesses didn’t exist. And when we watch princess movies, I try to emphasize other positive behaviors the heroines display, beyond beauty.
To be honest, I don’t quite get it. When I was a kid, Disney Princesses were not the commercial powerhouse they are today. Oh, they were on the radar, in the sense that some girls had Cinderella on VHS, but that was about it.
I liked princesses, but I was a nerd (though I didn’t realize it at the time.) Best Friend and I might have dressed our Barbies in ball gowns, but then we sent them to the moon in a space shuttle. Cape Canaveral was quite relevant at the time, and space camp was definitely on MY bucket list.
Somehow, things seem to be going different for Preschooler. Like any parent, I want her to feel beautiful in her own skin.
But when it comes to pride, I want her to know she is smart, kind, helpful... any redeeming quality other than beauty.
Update: I wonder if this has to do with her maturity level. At three, she might be able to appreciate that pretty things are "nice," but she doesn't have the maturity to appreciate that being smart, or kind, or brave is also "nice."
Update (again): Mom has insisted that I stop calling myself a "nerd." She she always thought I was really cool, since I usually marched to the beat of a different drum. This is probably fodder for a future post. Thanks, Mom!