The photos of the year we surprised my husband’s family and drove to Colorado Springs for Christmas still bother me. They are beautiful photos. Seeing all the families’ little girls lined up in the dresses grandma made for them is an adorable photo op. Remembering the 60 and 70 degree weather is a definite plus as well. But it put us in Colorado the Christmas everyone was reporting the news of the little Colorado girl found murdered in her basement, the six-year-old beauty pageant queen. It was very, very difficult to be right there at the epicenter of the news, seeing my own three girls and wondering how any mother could handle parting from any child, but most especially if you knew your child had suffered such pain. It was fourteen years ago, but I still remember when I look at the pictures.
Most disturbing to a lot of mothers, though were the newspaper and magazine pictures of little girls dressed up like a midget Angelina J1olies and parading in front of judges. The whole concept of beauty pageants for six-year-olds got a lot of press, and rightfully so. It disturbed me as well to imagine the messages that would send to little girls just like mine.
I never imagined something like the morning ritual of makeup would begin to present philosophical problems when I had kids.
“Mommy, why are you putting that stuff on your face?”
“To make myself look more beau . . . um . . . ah . . . becaaaaause . . . grown up ladies just like to change around their looks sometimes. For fun.” I just could not say the ‘b’ word. I told them on a daily basis that they were beautiful just the way God made them. And I believed it with everything in me. So how could I say I did not believe it about myself? Time to do some recalculating about Cover Girl on a more metaphysical plane.
This is not to say I gave up makeup. I do know my limitations. But I did start to watch what I said around my girls about looks, weight, and other things of that far-too-sensitive-to-women nature.
What happens to our girls when we send them messages that, on one hand, sex sells at the earliest age possible, but on the other, they’re special just the way they are? “Sure, you’re great kid. But nothing a little mascara and a push up bra won’t make better.” That’s why I found the concept of beauty pageants for little girls so abhorrent. Somewhere in that Christmas, I understood in a new way that I wanted to teach my girls to better themselves, not market themselves. Now they’re young women, and the pressure to do so is far, far greater. I hope they still know they’re beautiful, just the way God made them.
More lessons from scrapbooking Christmas pictures, fourteen years ago.