I was babysitting last week for a family with two very little girls- one is four years old and the other is close to turning two. The youngest, who was sick and cranky for most of the day, was finally taking a nap around noon, and the four year old and I got to have some "big girl time," making crafts with these long sticks that stuck together (cross between play-dough and a pipe cleaner- do any of my moms out there know what these are?)
The four year old, like most girls her age, adores Disney princesses, and we were talking about which ones were our favorites.
I made her a yellow crown out of the silly-sticky-stick things, and put it on her head. I took a picture on my phone and told her that she was as pretty as a princess.
"I am sometimes, but not all of the time," she replied, continuing on her own little craft project.
This response took me by surprise. Back when I was four, I was mommy and daddy's pretty little princess. I was shy and modest around strangers, but when I was at the castle (a 2 floor plus basement home with 3 bedrooms and 1.5 bathrooms), I had full reign of my kingdom, which extended to the front and backyards. My loyal subjects (my family and neighborhood friends) praised my beauty at all waking hours- in my head of course. I would grow up to be a beautiful queen someday, just like my mom (who was, of course, the prettiest woman in the world.)
17 years older and wiser, but still a princess deep down, my heart broke for this little girl. What made her think she wasn't pretty all of the time?
Maybe she's just too young to understand the concepts of self esteem and our society's definitions of beauty. Maybe her idea of pretty is when she's in a party dress and her nails are painted, or when her mom is dressed to the nines and her nose is powdered. Maybe people are only pretty when they're downstairs in her mother's makeshift salon, getting new haircuts and hair colors. "Mommy is going to make this person pretty," she might say as she transforms her customers from everyday to fabulous.
Maybe her childhood friends are telling her she isn't beautiful. Maybe she watches television and movies, sees the pretty women, and doesn't see herself looking like she is "supposed to" someday. I have major doubts that this is the case, since she is so young and the world is much less cruel at that age, but is it out of the realm of possibility?
"You are a beautiful princess all of the time." I told her. We continued with our crafts.When do children become self-conscious about how they look? Do you think their family, peers, and the media may be effecting their views on themselves at younger ages? What experiences did you have as a child with beauty, or what have you observed from the children in your life?