There are those moments from childhood where you remember clearly something you were told and whatever you were told stuck with you. I find about half the stuff that stuck with me is because I had a WTF reaction to whatever my parent was telling me at the time. My mother in particular tried to get hippy-mystical about some topics and to this day I am still not sure where she was going with some of the things she told me. Nevertheless those moments are coming up between me and Thing 1. The kicker is I don’t know which moments they will be. So I have to be on form as much as possible.
The other day Thing 1 with a resigned sigh said:” boys like me”. (This on the back of a 2 year old her saying something along the lines of “I like boys”. Cue parent of girl ingrained panic. However, when we make an effort to see beyond the boy-crazy and lock up your daughters archetypes pushed at parents, it’s not so bad. Just a statement. Though apparently she does recognize the difference between boys and girls. And doesn’t make similar statements about girls. Hm.) So being a thoughtful parent I didn’t say anything like “oh, because you are pretty”. Nope. I was prepared. I said “oh, because you are fun”. She considered this and nodded, satisfied. Parent victory lap! As an afterthought I added in that she was strong and smart too but fun seemed to cover whatever caused her to voice her concern in the first place and she lost interest in the conversation.
Not to say we don’t ever tell her she is pretty. Because we do. But it’s something she gets praised for after being groomed or dressed. Especially after hair brushing because brushing hair sucks. God what an awful mother-daughter interaction. I had it with my mother and I think all mothers and daughters (with hair) must have that struggle at some point. We also use words like neat and tidy, but she gives us a surreptitious smile for pretty. She also likes fancy (though amusingly enough she also equates fancy with fat. Like, fat-suit fat. We discovered that while watching Weird Al videos, mainly Fat, but she also calls Weird All the Fancy Guy because of that video, and in Shrek 4 she referred to Puss as a Fancy Cat. This makes us snort with hilarity). Perhaps we are inadvertently teaching that pretty is something you work at, it isn’t a basic quality. I’m ok with that.
She is a pretty girl though, and kids in general do seem to like her because she is attractive. But she’s wild and fun, as mentioned, and instigates activities as well. And at 3 I’m sure that boys, and that could easily be amended to kids, like her because she is fun. But it’s my job as a parent to have good answers to her statements and questions. Even things I incidentally say might stick with her. It helps that I am fairly secure in myself. I don’t gripe where the kid can hear about my weight or my diet or my body. I do want to lose weight (and am more or less) and I don’t particularly like the way I look but I am very mindful of how insidious such statements can be. I told my mother I was fat for the first time when I was 3 (and I got a lecture and she was worried and that made the memory stick with me), and I probably got it from her, or some other relative. So if I talk about losing weight or eating or anything to my husband I do it after the kids are in bed. I tell Thing 2 how delightfully chubby (She’s not really. She has chub but she is not a very chubby baby. I’m just proud of her chubs) she is all the time though, but I frame it as a good thing for babies (which it is!), so hopefully Thing 1 is not feeling negative about that.
Keeping control of those pivotal moments is mostly about viewing the world how you want your kids to view the world. Sounds simple, but it’s a bit of a tall order in reality. All your snap answers needn’t be meticulously thought out …if you are secure that those snap answers are going to be the ones you want to give your kids.
Of course she’s probably not going to remember that conversation and instead the one that will stick in her head will be the one about frog farts she had with her dad…