Feeling Beautiful—by Jamie Levine
Yesterday morning, while my pajama-clad daughter sat playing in her room, I left her clothes on her bed, and told her to get dressed by herself because I had to “run downstairs to put on my makeup.” Jayda responded, “Why do you always put on makeup before you go to school?” Jayda only sees me get ready for grad school two mornings a week, because on the other days I simply dress in my workout clothes, and, sans makeup, head to the gym after I put her on the bus—saving my makeup application for later in the day. I wasn’t really sure how to respond to Jayda’s query, since I didn’t want her to think I needed to wear makeup to go out in public, so I just shrugged. She continued, “Maybe you could wear makeup once in awhile…but not every time.” I said, “ok..sure…” and she explained, “just wear makeup when you need to be fancy, or if you’re going out with a boy.”
Jayda loves playing dress-up and putting on makeup, so I was surprised she didn’t want me to apply it every day, myself. But I was pleased, too. My daughter tells me I’m pretty all the time—but more importantly, she articulates how pretty she is, and exhibits high self-esteem. The other day, she put on a new, flowery shirt before going to school and, while standing in front of the mirror, exclaimed, “I’m going to be the prettiest girl in school!” I had to agree. That same afternoon, at the supermarket, we passed by a woman with very frizzy, unruly hair and Jayda whispered loudly to me, “that woman has CRAZY hair!” As I tried to shush her, I also mumbled, “Jayda, we’re all different, and everyone has different hair…” and she interrupted, “but you and I have beautiful hair! We’re lucky.” I just smiled. What could I say to that?
Acting conceited when you’re an adult is frowned upon, but when an almost-five-year-old like Jayda prances around like she’s a model, and admits how pretty she feels, it’s something I have to support. I’m thrilled my child feels good about herself…and hope she loves the way she looks forever. Personally, I’m in pretty good physical shape, but I still sport a little belly, and would never don a bikini. But my little girl—whose belly is bigger than mine—struts around in her Ariel halter dress like she’s really a mermaid-princess, and I admire her for that. I hope her self-esteem never diminishes.
However, being pretty—and feeling pretty—isn’t all I want for my child. And therefore, I teach her manners as well. When people compliment Jayda on her lovely curls (as strangers often do), or remark on her beauty, my little girl immediately acknowledges the compliment with a resounding, “thank you!” And often, she gives back compliments, too. Better yet, my daughter knows that simply being glamorous is limiting to a young lady. The other night in bed, Jayda asked me, “Mommy, what do you want to be when you grow up?” I smiled and said, “well, you know I’m in school to be a speech teacher, so that’s what I want to be. What about you?” Jayda thought for a minute, and responded, “I’m not sure. Either a nurse…or a doctor…or a princess!” I chuckled, and said, “why can’t you be a doctor and a princesss?” And, quite confidently, my daughter explained, “I can’t wear my princess gown under my doctor uniform!” Ahhh…clearly my kid has beauty and brains.