When I was pregnant, my husband and I chose not to find out the gender. We wanted to be surprised, but the whole time I was pregnant, I knew, I mean I KNEW I was having a boy. We picked out everything “gender neutral” but definitely leaned more towards the masculine, because, I knew, KNEW I was having a boy.
Well, after a more than dramatic 24 hours (that I am SO not sharing on the internet), I was handed my brand new baby, and since things were
super crazy a little complicated, my midwife didn’t tell me the gender, she just handed this brand new baby to me. I remember staring at that cute little face, those tiny hands, those… I glanced down and looked at my husband WIDE eyed and stuttered (literally stuttered) “It’s a girl! We have a girl!” He, apparently, hadn’t noticed yet either. We smile, we cried happy tears, and we were thrilled, absolutely THRILLED to have a beautiful, healthy, baby girl.
We really were thrilled, and I felt so silly that I was sure I was having a boy. With my baby in my arms, I knew, KNEW that I was supposed to have a girl. It was perfect.
Later that night, I sat there in the dark hospital room holding my brand new baby, and definitely not sleeping (I don’t know how anyone expects you to sleep the first night with a new baby that you can’t quite believe is YOURS). I remember staring at the sweet little face and worrying. As thrilled as I was to have this beautiful baby girl, I knew that being a girl was not easy. I knew that she’d have to work twice as hard to prove herself. I knew that she would be bombarded with “Look like this photoshopped model” “Act like this popstar” “Be skinny” “Be cute” Be X,Y,Z” and it would be so hard to protect her from that.
I vowed to let her play with blocks, trucks, mud, tools, whatever she wanted to and not to put her in the superficial “girl box”.
I didn’t want her to think her value was in her looks, that being smart wasn’t cool, that she couldn’t like bugs, or science, or whatever.
I also thought that I had a while before I had to worry about that, and then my sister told me a story about my 3 and 1/2 year old niece.
Let me start off my telling you: my niece is one of those kids people notice. She has big green eyes, curly red hair, and the sweetest little personality. Wherever she goes, strangers constantly tell her how gorgeous she is, how pretty she is, how cute she is. My sister is constantly told she should be a model or in commercials. Recently, my sister was at an event where there was a crayola booth. My niece wanted to write the word “flower”, and she did.
While she was writing it, a man came up and went on and on about how cute she is and how my sister REALLY should put her in modeling, commericals, etc. He didn’t comment on how great of a job she was doing writing her letters (She’s onyl 3 and 1/2 and look how great she did!), he commented on her looks, her cuteness, her appearance.
These people think they’re being nice, and they are, but in a way, they’re not.
My sister also has a son who’s almost 9. He’s always been very inquisitive and curious. He enjoys taking things apart and reading about science.
People are always telling my nephew that he’s so smart. He’s so bright. He’s so knowledgeable.
A few weeks ago, my niece went up to my sister and broke her heart. She said, “Mommy, I’m not smart like my brother.”
My sister, of course reassured her that she is, in fact very, very smart and explained that my nephew is older and she knows just as much as he did when he was 3 and 1/2.
But, where do you think she got that idea from? I’m sure the fact that she’s always bombarded with “You’re so cute.” and her brother is always told “You’re so smart.” has more than a little to do with it.
I write all of this to say, we need to really be aware of the messages we’re sending our children and students, but especially our daughters and girls in our lives. What do we compliment them on most? We need to make a conscience effort to tell the girls in our lives that they are smart and show them that their worth is NOT in their appearance.
So, yes, my daughter is adorable, and she gets tons and tons of compliments on how cute she is, her red hair, her big eyes. I don’t mind. I agree. She’s adorable, but that’s not all she is. She already has more to offer than her looks. She loves to play peekaboo, she can sit all on her own and entertain herself for half an hour, she recognizes her name, and so much more. I am already making a conscience effort to tell her how smart she is, not just how cute she is.
I mean, look she’s already even reading on her own! 😉
I challenge you to work to praise your daughters, nieces, and female students on their hard work, their intellect, and their talents, and not focus so much on their appearance.
Just think what the next generation could accomplish if girls felt that their value was not tied to their appearance.
A whole lot.