“Maya,” I said, crouching down at her level, looking into her eyes, “very nice to meet you.”
“Nice to meet you too,” she said, in that trained, polite, talking-to-adults good girl voice.
“Hey, what are you reading?” I asked, a twinkle in my eyes. I love books. I’m nuts for them. I let that show.
Her eyes got bigger, and the practiced, polite facial expression gave way to genuine excitement over this topic. She paused, though, a little shy of me, a stranger.
“I LOVE books,” I said. “Do you?”
Most kids do.
“YES,” she said. “And I can read them all by myself now!”
My daughter is the most beautiful baby I’ve ever seen. I understand that I have a certain fatherly bias, but it’s true. Wherever we go, strangers approach and comment on how cute Lucy is, what pretty eyes she has, and how big her cheeks are. Women pinch her cheeks in public and tell us how lucky we are to have such a beautiful baby. This terrifies me, not because they are strangers, but because of how it will share the way Lucy thinks about herself.
Every woman I know struggles with self-image. Every one.
Self-image dictates so many aspects of the lives of the women closest to me. Health, exercise, intimacy, self-esteem, self-confidence, clothing, work, entertainment. How women spend money, allocate time, build relationships, and value themselves ties directly to their perception beauty. (Not to mention its impact on men. A topic for another day.) Lucy is only about a year old, but I’m already conscious of the effect that my words and the words of others have on how she will think about herself, her body, and her value as a girl and, eventually, as a woman. I cringe inwardly whenever someone comments on how cute Lucy is because I know that every compliment builds the lie that Lucy’s worth depends on her appearance. One thing I’ve been intentional about with our church community is speaking truth when I see those close to me engaging with a lie in their life.
That is a lie I never want Lucy to learn. Her value originates from her identity, not her appearance. She has worth because she is unique. Because she is my daughter. Because she is a child of God.
This is why I smiled when Jason Kottke, whose blog is one of my daily go-to sites, shared a post entitled “How to talk to little girls“. It references a blog post here originally written here. The author tells her encounter with a friend’s five year old daughter at a dinner party.
I definitely recommend reading the full post. You can feel the statistics in your gut. Encourage girls to value more than just outward beauty. Tomorrow is Lucy’s first birthday party and I’m so proud of my wife for planning a book themed party with library card invitations complete with stamped due dates and decorations plastered with pages from Shakespeare. Maybe one day Lucy will have a princess birthday party where everyone can comment on how pretty she looks in her dress, but this year we are going to focus on the little developing mind inside the most beautiful baby in the world.