Wednesday, September 8, 2010
Why Does It Have To Be Normal?
There was a discussion on a local moms' discussion board recently and one of the subjects has really stayed with me. I was home on Tuesday, cleaning house, organizing. My thoughts kept going back to the discussion. A mom was asking for advice regarding her 6th grader saying "I'm not pretty." This mom and several moms offering support said the same thing... "It's normal for this age." I stewed over that a good part of the day and the more I came back to it, the angrier I got. Yep, angry. Why are we willing to be okay with 10 or 11 year old girls being focused on beauty? Thinking it's just normal for them to criticize their appearance? Why are we willing to use that as an excuse to brush it under the rug? How often do we stand in front of the mirror and criticize our nose, our double chin, our cheekbones? How often do our children see skinny models on TV being told they look fat? How often do our kids take in magazines where various people and stars are being criticized for the latest "fahion faux pas?" How often do our daughters hear their mothers saying they need a make over, they need to lose 5 pounds? How often do we get overly excited about a new shade of lipstick and how it changes our face? How often do our girls see us hinging our self esteem on the compliments we may or may not get from our husbands or partners? I wrote once about being shocked to have Teagan asking a lot of questions about looking fat, what fat means, and so on. We eventually figured out that the language was coming from Alvin and the Chipmunks. However, the first thing I did was to look at my own actions and words. I'd spent about 3 months being focused on becoming healthier- had I been saying anything about being fat or food making you fat or... No, no I hadn't. But I had to look at myself first. Because I am the greatest influence on my daughter. It's not about controlling what we watch or what she takes in or what she sees or hears. It's about her witnessing my true feelings and reactions to things. She won't hear me say- "I can't go out! I don't have any make up on! I can't let people see me like this!" She won't hear me say- "I can't wear this! I look like a sausage! Look how fat I am!" She won't hear me say- "I hate my _____." She won't see me making negative faces at myself in the mirror. She won't see me obsessing over my appearance. And our family culture is such that there just isn't a focus on appearance. There isn't a right or best way to look. We don't dress to the nines for church. We don't obsess over the appearance of our home or how nice our furniture is. We don't have a single fashion or entertainment magazine in this house. Not because those things are inherently bad but because they simply aren't on our list of family priorities. Feeling like you aren't pretty... hating yourself... demeaning yourself... it's NOT normal! And the only way our girls will stop doing it is if we all make more of an effort to stop doing it to ourselves. We're the ones that make it normal. And then, when our children follow our example, we excuse it and brush it off as normal, a phase, or just what girls do. Well, that isn't acceptable for my family, for my daughter, for my son. I am going to fight the boxes that the world wants to put my kids in. I'm going to fight the automatic definitions of being a man or being a girl. I'm going to change the norm. I'm going to follow in my mother's footsteps and not focus on hair, makeup, beauty, wrinkles, gray hair, and more. I'm going to follow in my mother's footsteps and model the things that truly make a person beautiful- compassion, kindness, sacrifice for others. My kids are worth that. I am worth that. And so are you.