When A was very little I noticed that everyone, really everyone, even my hippie feminist mother started conversations with her by saying something like this, "You have such a pretty smile," or "I love your bouncy curls," or "Your dress is so pretty." On the surface these may seem like benign comments, even sweet. But, maybe because I'm high strung and a little sensitive, I found them to be condescending and insidious. If we open with "you're pretty" the message is clear: The most important thing is how you look. Even if we talk about something else next, the first and most important thing is that you are cute, pretty and well behaved.
I'm not an idiot, I get it that how we look is what people see and that it's an easy opener when you don't actually know someone. But little people don't always (or ever) get the intricacies of social interaction. They aren't thinking about how that woman on the bus just didn't know what else to say, but is wishing she had grandchildren and so she opened with the only thing she could think of. I promise the sweet babies are not having these thoughts.
They are thinking "I'm pretty, I'm pretty, I'm pretty. Pretty dress, pretty curls. Pretty." They like being complimented. So they keep trying to do the things that got them those compliments. Ick! Is this what we want our little ones striving for?! Not me.
Here are some things to say instead:
Also, these comments are not gender specific. You could say these things to boys or girls. Why oh why are we assigning gender roles to our small little people?! Just let them be. We begin sending the secret and coded message to girls at such a young age that it is good when they are pretty, quiet and clean. I asked my husband and a thoughtful friend of mine with a boy what people say to boys. Both of them said that people either said nothing (What?! WTF? Nothing?!) or they commented on the boys being tough. That is just as effed up as telling girls they are pretty. I'm sorry?! Nothing? We're not talking to little boys?! Or we're complimenting them on their toughness. Again, ick! And no fucking wonder we have some problems!
I'm Molly. I'm all in for parenting. I'm all in for good food. All in for big and small outdoor adventures. And really only partly in for homemaking. I want a Martha Stewart home and meal, but the truth is, we mamas just can't do it all. Not really. This shit is tricky!
This is a collection of musings and missives about parenting like you mean it. I mean really mean it. About how you can pull off a really mostly decent meal, keep your house kinda clean, do some of your laundry, and also even remember to usually feed your pets. But mostly about how being a mama is hard and we can totally rock it, but maybe that dream of perfection has got to give a little.