I have two beautiful daughters. They are four years old, and two years old.
And they are my life.
They are both incredibly intelligent and alike, but in many ways, completely different from each other. Their personalities shine in their own unique ways, and their marvelous minds are absolutely beautiful. They both love fiercely, and care so deeply for others.
But like every child, they are incredibly impressionable.
My oldest daughter, Lily, has begun to ask a multitude of questions on a daily basis about her specific role in this world. And while I do my best to answer them, I find it incredibly sad that at only four years old, she’s already beginning to feel the weight of the world on her innocent shoulders.
In our house, we do not believe in gender roles. We do not push any specific colors or interests on our children from the time they are born. We prefer to provide the opportunity to experience, and let them decide on their own path from there. My daughters, however, have decided to gracefully walk down what I like to call the “Princess Path.”
They enjoy every shade of pink, loads of glitter, and princesses of every kind. Disney movies and ballet. Shopping and dressing up like their favorite characters. They are your “typical” American children.
I’ve worked hard to make sure to diffuse the gender roles that come along with this path that they have chosen (because they are strong!) but one single sentence from my oldest daughter completely changed and restored my passion for not only diffusing gender roles, but teaching her self-love and acceptance- another common issue that is unfortunately inherently taught on my daughters path.
While I was getting dressed one morning, I was also rushing my daughters to get ready as we were running late. I was running around like a chicken with my head cut off, and my daughter went into my bathroom and looked in the mirror.
Over the commotion in our house, I heard her sweet voice say “We can’t leave yet. I need makeup so I can be beautiful.” She was serious.
I stopped right then and there. It felt as if the world decided to shush itself in that moment, and I stood there in complete shock. I stared at her and really wondered if those words had escaped from her mouth. Did she really just say that?
My mind began to race as I attempted to process those bitter words that were so innocently spoken.
“Oh, Lily” I crouched down to her level and wrapped my arms around her. “You will never need makeup to be beautiful. You are perfect. Absolutely perfect.”
I forced as much love and compassion into my voice as I could manage, and I felt some warm tears begin to burn at my eyes. This was wrong.
She seemed to accept that, and she gave me a hug and ran off. But I couldn’t let those words just disappear from our minds. Oh, no. She spoke those too matter-of-factly. It was obvious it had been drilled into her mind. At four years old.
I felt sick to my stomach, and retraced my parenting steps all the way back to her infancy. I should have never let her watch Cinderella. I should have never bought her a pretend makeup set so she could play “just like mommy.” Hell, I should have just given up my makeup from the time she was born so she would never have seen it at home.
But in that moment, my hatred for the world grew, as did my confidence in my parenting.
I have always taught my daughters that we are all beautiful creatures. That we are flawlessly created. I have also tried to engrave in their minds my own definition of makeup. That it is another way of painting and creating art. Not to cover or hide our unique faces. Because I use makeup. I love makeup. I’ve done makeup for others. I’m an artist, and to me, it is yet another way to express my own creativity. I do not wear it to impress others. I do not wear it to shield my so-called “imperfections.” I wear it for myself.
I realized that it was not necessarily my parenting. But that the influences of the world were stronger than my ramblings.
The pressure to be perfect is so incredibly intense, that it is teaching our children in the prime of their dreaming and imaginations that they need to be perfect. Like they need to begin from toddlerhood, climbing that never ending mountain to reach the unreachable. That beauty should be their top priority, because its the key to becoming well-liked. Like those gorgeous princesses. Like Cinderella, who was shunned when she was dressed in rags, and loved by everyone in her beautiful ball gown.
It was not until that one sentence that was spoken from the sweetest girl that I realized exactly how difficult it would be to raise my children without the weight of the world influencing them negatively.
So here begins the route of teaching them more body positivity than I thought they needed. Here begins cutting off a lot of the world’s media. Here begins connecting them with nature, and our tribe of beautiful, body-positive women. Here begins enforcing the world’s beauty, and teaching them just how effortless and natural it is- just like them.
Because I’ll be damned if they end up with the longing to be something they’re not. Something that doesn’t exist.
For what they are is pure perfection.
Just like everyone else.