By Jeremy G. Schneider, MFT
This morning the Okapis woke up ridiculously early and I went upstairs to get them dressed and ready for school. I had already put Dorit’s tights and skirt on her and was putting her shirt on when Lucas said, “She’s going to look so beautiful.”
“She always looks beautiful doesn’t she?” I said.
“Except when I wear pants,” she responded.
It is so amazing how these things just pop up. Everything seems fine and then all of a sudden…
“Dorit you always look beautiful – even in pants. You’re beautiful without dresses, Dorit. You don’t need dresses to be beautiful.”
But I know she doesn’t believe me and this is why she gets so upset when she doesn’t get to wear a dress/skirt, I suspect (though the fact that she is immersed in the Tortuous Threes is also probably a factor).
Somehow us letting her wear dresses has fed this belief that she is only pretty if she wears them, that if she wears pants she is not pretty. Is she already experiencing the societal expectations of beauty? Are we somehow sending a message that makes her think she is only beautiful in dresses?
If we stop her from wearing dresses will we be punishing her and only make things worse?
One of my nicknames for both of my Okapis is Beautiful. I think they are both beautiful whether they are wearing dresses, pants, jeans, sweatpants, or pajamas. When she wears pants we shower her with extra compliments because we know it is a big deal when she wears them.
I know how important fathers are in girls developing high self-esteem and confidence, and a healthy self-image. I have been paying extra special attention to this and yet…she’s not even four and already thinks her beauty is dependent upon whether she wears a dress or not.
Before we went downstairs I tried one more thing.
“Does Mommy wear dresses?”
“No,” she said.
“Is Mommy beautiful?”
“Mommy is beautiful and she doesn’t always wear dresses. You are beautiful without dresses, too.”
I feel like that had some impact, but I think I’m going to need to come up with something else to help her really believe me.
Because my little girl is gorgeous.