We are a materialistic, consumerist culture. I’ve noted these traits in myself, I fight it at every turn, and sometimes I forget. I scour Pinterest or watch Reno Rumble coveting every glamorous or trendy thing I see. I look around my home and see what could be but isn’t. I look in the mirror and imagine having the money to visit the hairdresser every six weeks, how much better I would feel if we just had the money to do it all.
It gets worse. I’ve been known to change Curly’s outfit three times before heading out the door, because her pants just don’t look right with the top she’s wearing. Or I know I’ll be bumping into mum friends so we pull out the trendy (but usually less practical) clothes. It get’s worse yet. There was the time she dressed herself with dad’s help. I could hear them in the room chatting away happily…I felt rushed, we were late, I was stressed. But no excuses validate what I said. I marched in to the room and discovered Curly dressed in mis-matching clothes with pants that were slightly to big and bright red shoes.
“She looks like a clown!” I exclaimed disapprovingly.
My husband was shocked, and hurt on behalf of his beloved daughter.
And staring at me, unsure what to think, my three year old knew I’d said something mean. My regret was instant, but pride took over and I tried to brush off my husbands reproach.
I’ve thought about it a lot since, though long forgotten by an ever loving toddler, it’s an attitude I don’t ever want to repeat. Curly dressed herself. She applied those tricky skills she’s been learning of pulling a top over her head, getting the arms in the right holes, pulling pants up over the bottom and the right way around. Then in comes mum, dismissing her wondrous achievement to zero in on the way she looks…a totally irrelevant factor for a toddler. There I was applying the kind of scrutiny which had me vomiting my food up when I was 16 years old. I was telling my daughter…appearance matters, that more important then the dexterity she displayed and fun, quality time with dad was the clothing she wore.
My children are not an accessory. They weren’t created to make me look good.
That event was a significant reminder to me of the way I wish to raise our two daughters, and how that might play out in practice. Whilst not insulting my daughters appearance is clearly a priority, I’m also aware of the reverse being equally important. I was praised over and over again as a child on how beautiful my blond curls were, how photogenic I was. This didn’t build my self-esteem, it didn’t instil confidence in me as I hit puberty. Instead it made me keenly aware of how important and valuable those things were to people. And when I felt ugly, had a bad hair day or a few too many pimples I was letting everyone down. People are just trying to be nice, but those things are over-valued in our culture. We love to post photos on instagram of our children looking their best, dressed like mini adults…and our children ARE cute, oh so breathtakingly beautiful. But my mission as a mother now is to show my children what I truly want to see valued, the real beauty of their humanity. Being brave, strong and most importantly, kind to others.