Our friend Melanie has shared the important subject of raising confident daughters who have plenty of girl power with us moms.
“As the mother of a five-year-old girl, I struggle a lot with making sure I provide a positive role model for my daughter. I know all too well what it’s like to grow up with self-esteem issues and like many women, I deal with self-image on a daily basis. Because of that, I try very hard to instill confidence in my daughter and am careful not to show weak self-esteem moments in front of her. It’s hard work, raising confident daughters in today’s society.”
Let me share some examples of conversations and instances we’ve had with our baby girl that show how body image is already of importance in our household, and has been for a while.
TIAS AND TUMMIES
A few months ago, one of my aunts was visiting from out of town. She was staying at my mami’s house and they were heading out for a day at a local park since they were bored with staying home. I took the opportunity to tag along so baby girl could have some fun at the park and get to know her tía better.
Before we left, my tía changed her clothes, and upon her return from the bedroom, my daughter noticed. Tía asked her, “How do I look?” to which my girl responded, “Good!” My tía proceeded to pat her belly in that manner we adults often do when we’re indicating we need to lose weight. But, my daughter stared at her blankly. I spoke up and let my aunt know that baby girl had no concept of what she meant. “We don’t really point out things like that at home. She has no clue what you mean by that.”
NO MAKEUP NECESSARY
Before entering her dance class one night, baby girl asked me if they would be able to wear makeup during their upcoming performance. I told her that no, she would not be able to wear makeup and that makeup is not something little girls wear. Raising confident daughters means embracing their natural beauty.
At the end of the dance class, her instructor turned towards the parents and said,“I’m not a believer of putting makeup on babies, so for Saturday’s showcase, there’s no need to put makeup on your girls. They’re beautiful just as they are.” Go girl power!
FINE AS WE ARE
One morning, baby girl turned the TV on while I finished getting myself ready. I had forgotten that I left it on the food channel the previous night, which shows infomercials in the early morning. A couple of minutes later, baby girl ran into my room and proceeded to explain to me:
“Mommy, this man found this melon and they take the melon and make it into some type of cream you can then use to make yourself look younger and pretty!” She waved her hand around my face as she said this.
“Really?” I said. “And looking young is what makes you pretty? Would I not be pretty if I looked older?”
“Oh no Mami! You always look pretty.”
“Thank you baby. So, why do we need to look younger, then? We’re fine the way we are, aren’t we?”
A bit puzzled, she paused, thought, then said, “Yeah!”
LITTLE GIRLS AND BRAS
“Mommy, you know there are bras for little girls too?”
“Well, not for little girls like you, but older little girls, yeah.”
“Like for 5-year-olds?”
“No, not for 5-year-olds. Older girls. Like 10 maybe.”
“Nuh uh! [classmate’s name] had a bra on when she was 3!”
“Are you sure it was a bra sweetie? Maybe it was an undershirt, like the ones you sometimes wear.”
“Noooo. It was a bra.”
“How do you know it was a bra? Did you see it?”
“Yes, she showed it to me.”
“Well, baby, even if she did, you’re not going to wear a bra until you need to – when you start growing breasts. That’s when Mommy started wearing a bra.”
“Awww…I wish I could wear a bra.”
“Baby girl, don’t rush it. Enjoy being a 5 year old and not having to worry about that. When the time comes, you’ll wear a bra. Your body knows when it’s supposed to grow and when things are supposed to happen. Don’t rush things, okay?”
These are but a few examples of the daily struggle of raising confident daughters. Regardless of how much emphasis you put on positive self and body image, or if you purposely refrain from showing negative examples, the images make their way into your household and child’s mind in one way or another. Whether it’s another family member, TV, or some other external influence, you still end up having to curb the perceptions created.
As parents, how do we overcome such images and perceptions and continue to provide positive examples for our children? How can we curb the outside influences? And as women, how do we avoid sending mixed messages by telling our girls one thing, yet doing another? It’s exhausting! I don’t pretend to have the answers. I just do the best I can, one day at a time. And hope that my little girl will grow up to be a happy, healthy, strong young woman, with a beautiful self-image.