Can I Tell Her She is Pretty?

Hey Pretty Girl! I see you! Good morning, Beautiful!

Each morning since school started, I try to be the one that wakes Alice up. She sleeps in her footie jammies in a sleep sack, and since being able to roll, she prefers her tummy. I usually find her with her head in the same corner of the crib, not quite up against the slats, but close. She is a cuddle bug and I know she likes to feel cozy, but she is too little yet for me to let her have her bunny or a blankie in bed.

When I flick the light switch on, she rubs her eyes and buries her face in her hands and the flat sheet. Then she brings her head up, turns toward my voice, and with her eyes still squinted shut, smiles a big three-bottom-tooth grin.

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Hey Alice! Hey there Pretty Girl!

Cortney picks Alice and Charlie up from daycare each day. They get home after Eddie and me around 5pm. When he sets Alice’s carrier on the counter, I am almost always the one to greet her and get her out. The moment she catches sight of me, I get a big, nose-scrunchy smile.

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She is beautiful. Gorgeous, even.

When I look at her I see the prettiest baby in the world. When she coos and “talks” I tell her she has so much to say. I tell her what she says is important and that I love to hear it. I tell her she is so smart. I tell her she’s such a Big Girl when she accomplishes something like grasping a toy she has been working for or trying a new flavor of baby food.

I also tell her she is pretty. Constantly.

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When I had only boys, I never thought twice about telling them how smart and handsome and wonderful they were. Yes, I read some things here and there that said you aren’t supposed to say “good job!” to your kids (of course I can’t find the dang thing now. I see it all over Pinterest forever and when I go to find it? Nope. Sorry.), but as someone who works with kids, I know what encouragement–or actually the lack of it–does to kids. So I vowed to always affirm my children’s positive behavior, accomplishments, and words.

For six years I have been raising men. I have focused in on how to be a mom of boys who will be good men someday. I have been conscious of not just encouraging them, but of being a role model of a strong, confident woman. I try to model constructive communication over yelling (key word: try). Cortney models how women should be treated.

I’m not going to say it’s easier to be the mom of boys, but I will say that I feel like encouraging them and guiding them to have a positive self-image is less of an anxiety trigger for me.

I don’t know a mom out there who doesn’t think her own children are the most beautiful in the world, but when it comes to girls, I also know that somewhere society becomes louder than our moms’ voices.

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I don’t know when I started thinking I was awkward or less pretty than the other girls at school, but it was early. It was for sure by fourth grade. Maybe earlier.

I felt lanky and awkward. My hair was too frizzy. My bangs were weird. Then middle school rolled around and I had acne. I was flat-chested. I had zero curves. I weighed barely 100 pounds in high school and I felt like my thighs were too big.

In college I didn’t have the right “black booty pants” (fellow 90’s girls, I know you know what I mean). I was more Metallica than Back Street Boys, more Wu Tang than Will Smith. I wore a size 6 and was afraid of how many calories were in the beer I drank–although I would never say anything in front of all my guy friends.

As an adult I long for those size 6 pants and the short plaid skirts with Docs. Now I struggle with grey hair in my 30’s and pine for my long brown wonderful hair of my 20’s.

I can’t remember ever feeling pretty. Well, that’s not true. I can remember feeling pretty here and there, but not as a general rule. Not as an every day thing.

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Before having a daughter, I agreed with people who said not to focus on looks. Talk about her brain. About how smart she is and how important her words are. Let her know she can be whatever she wants. Let her know it’s not about looks anyway.

But you know what?

For a lot of us, even though maybe it shouldn’t matter, it does. We want to feel pretty.

We want to feel good about ourselves and all of our nooks and crannies…just the way we are.

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I still agree that we need to tell our girls how important their words and thoughts are; society still makes everything harder for women.  But I also think it’s ok–imperative even–that we tell our daughters they are beautiful.

Every day I have middle school girls who walk into my classroom feeling less than beautiful. I see the affects our culture already has on them at just thirteen years old. Some are already beaten down because they do not fit what our society defines as beauty…and no one has told them any different.

I equally don’t want Alice to feel like she has to fit some sort of mold as far as her looks, as well as I don’t want her to feel like she is anything less than gorgeous.

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So maybe I’m not “supposed” to tell her she is pretty because heaven for bid, she may believe it. She may walk into a room not worrying what people think of her hair or skin or size. She may be able to focus on her thoughts and words because she is not worrying about whether or not she is pretty enough.

I am willing to take that risk.

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Photos by TMV Photogrphy

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About Katie

Just a small town girl...wait no. That is a Journey song. Katie Sluiter is a small town girl, but she is far from living in a lonely world. She is a middle school English teacher, writer, mother, and wife. Life has thrown her a fair share of challenges, but her belief is that writing through them makes her stronger.

Comments

  1. Yes, this. The world will tell them they aren’t enough — not pretty enough, not strong enough, not soft enough. I want both of my kids to know they *are* all of those things, so they can concentrate on what to do with their lives instead of worrying about if they deserve those good things.
    Angela recently posted…Remembering the lakeMy Profile

  2. Yes. I battled the same worries when I would tell my girl she was beautiful and when strangers would stop to coo at her. But, then I thought why can’t she be told she is pretty, as well as intelligent, as well as kind? When she was a toddler I started saying to her, “You are sweet, cute, and smart.” And do you know how she responded? “And, so. are. you.” It’s something, years later, I’m still telling her and what I love most is how easily she is able to not only look, but find, the beauty in others. Our girls can know they are beautiful on both the inside and outside.

  3. Yes! I agree so much. I have one girl and two boys, and I definitely worry more over what I say to her than I do the boys. When it comes to society and peer pressure and the world view…I think girls are a bit tougher because we have all this pressure that boys don’t have. We had a whole bikini epiphany this summer and I honestly still don’t know the right answer. But I do tell my daughter she’s beautiful and I tell my boys they are handsome. How could I not? They so are!!!

  4. So much yes!!!! We need to build them up in all the ways. All of them.
    Jennifer recently posted…Catch Up on Your Favorite Shows with Netflix before Fall PremieresMy Profile

  5. I can relate. My daughter’s early years were marked by claims of beauty, and I wondered how it would affect her. Now that she’s gotten older, I’m careful to tell her she’s strong and smart and confident (oh, pretty much all the things I didn’t feel as a teen) as well as beautiful. I have the right to tell my kids they’re gorgeous, but I also have the responsibility to raise them to believe they are so much more. I think you are doing the same thing with your kids.
    Andrea recently posted…September 23, 2015My Profile

  6. Eventually, little girls learn to speak . . . now? my Leila, to whom I tell her that she’s pretty, or gorgeous, or beautiful, or cute, regularly, will say the same. “I am beautiful, right dada?”

    So I say it even more often, now. I want her to know “being pretty.” I want her reality to be only that she’s beautiful.

    Though we do talk about what it means to be “pretty on the inside and pretty on the outside.” So, when we’re talking about how pretty she might be, we also talk about how she treats her friends.

    I say it less to CJ — not necessarily because I feel that he’s not as attractive, or anything like that, but because it seems to not matter to him as much. It’s something I need to remedy.
    John (Daddy Runs a Lot) recently posted…Where I think back on the past 1000 daysMy Profile

  7. I struggle with this often. I have three girls! I don’t want them to think that pretty is all that matters, but just like saying someone is creative or someone is a hard worker, I think it’s the affirmation that’s important. As long as her life doesn’t completely revolve around her being pretty, I think you’re doing okay, mama.
    Leigh Ann recently posted…the red flags that weren’t really redMy Profile

  8. As always, you write my heart and thoughts (in a way I couldn’t). I tell my little L the same things, and I do think she IS beautiful.

    Alice is gorgeous.
    Alison recently posted…Why I Stopped Saying “No” to Screen Time    My Profile

  9. Parents are our children’s safe haven. The place where they feel loved and accepted at all times. If we as mothers don’t tell our daughters that they’re beautiful they will believe it when the world tell them that they’re not beautiful. Yes our daughters need to know that their worth does not come from their beauty, but they also need to know that they are absolutely beautiful. I tell my daughters that they are beautifully and wonderfully made every single day and I will never stop.
    Allison B recently posted…7 Ways to Avoid a #PinterestFail when Picking RecipesMy Profile

  10. My daughter is sixteen and I’ve always told her how beautiful she is.
    I also tell her she is smart and kind and generous and courageous because she is.

    Beauty comes in many forms. Karly has all of them.
    Alice does, too.
    XO