Tuesday, January 17, 2012
Does this tutu make my butt look big?
It's official. She's my daughter. I realized this on Sunday when my parents came over to watch the football game and Ella didn't understand why everyone was paying more attention to the silly men pummeling each other on T.V. than to her (don't worry El, I don't get it either). So, she pulled out all of her toddler tricks to get some attention. These included: wearing a tutu (not really out of the ordinary), wearing a bowl on her head (okay, definitely cute, but kind of cliche), carrying a bowl full of shredded cheese (that didn't end well), and finally just running into the room and yelling "Everybody look!" until she had all eyes on her.
It got me thinking about how I was just the same at her age, a "ham" my mother would say. At family parties, my cousin Sara and I would spend hours developing skits and dance routines to showcase after dinner. I would parade around in costume and pretend to be a rude New York waitress taking everyone's orders. If there was a camera rolling, I would instantly hold up one hand like a microphone, put the other behind my back, and find the nearest person to interview. I was full of accents, jokes, routines, and couldn't wait for the opportunity to have everyone's complete attention.
Then, of course, adolescence hits and having everyone's eyes on you seems like a fate worse than hell. But when exactly does that happen? When do we go from, "Look at me in my tutu!" to, "Does this tutu make me look fat?". I was talking with Christina the other day about raising our daughters and all the drama and heartache and sensitivity it will entail. She worries that Loreli will be picked on for being too tall as a kid. We decided that if current personality is any indication of the future then we won't have to worry about Ella B. She seems like the spunkiest most confident girl on the block right now, but will that last? Will she wake up one day wishing she were blonde? Will she try to hide her adorable round booty with strategically tied sweatshirts? I'd love to say that we have a good ten years before we have to worry about these things, but unfortunately, I think that is merely wishful thinking. I look at this little girl now who has no idea that she will one day hate her thighs or her big brown eyes or whatever. But one day it will happen. It is inevitable.
As a society I think we hope for attractive children because we know the world is kinder to the better looking, but when it comes to teenage confidence, it doesn't really matter how attractive you are. For me it was always about being thin, but if weight hadn't been an issue, I would have spent more time worrying about my crooked teeth or my beauty marks. I recently learned that my best friend, one of the most beautiful women I've ever known in real life, hates her elbow skin. Really, her elbow skin.
So what can I do? How can I as a mother shield Ella B from the self-loathing? The truth is that I can't. Somebody in third grade is going to tell her she has a funny nose or a silly name or an ugly coat and she's going to feel bad about it. What I hope I do have some control over is whether or not she lets it define her. I think I do that by encouraging her and reminding her of all the things that make her who she is that no one can take away from her. I think I do it by reminding her how beautiful she is, but also how smart, and funny, and strong, and fearless. I will tell her that it feels good to look pretty, but that there is a lot more to life than how you look in a tutu.