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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