Kate’s entire third year can be summed up in one word: pretty. She is obsessed with all things pretty. She wants to look pretty. She likes pretty things (think pink and sparkly). The only word she wants to describe her? Pretty. She quickly corrected me the one time I said she was beautiful. “Pretty, mommy.”
It has never, ever occurred to me to worry about her overwhelming love for pretty until recently. I had a few conversations and read a couple articles…all insisting that a preschooler’s obsession with pretty can be dangerous. It can indicate vanity. It could lead to body image issues in the future. She might (gasp) think being pretty is more important than being kind. She could become a Mean Girl. The list of concerns went on and on.
As I read and pondered the points made, I slowly began to realize: pretty is not the problem. As moms of preschoolers, we have an amazing ability to project our own issues and insecurities on our daughters. If I feel I can’t meet a certain standard of external beauty then I suddenly become fearful when my daughter constantly wants to be assured she is pretty. The real issue is not that she wants to be pretty, but that I am concerned she will feel inadequate..because I have felt that deep, gut-wrenching sense of not being enough. If I was treated with unkindness for not measuring up to a certain standard then I may find myself worried that she will experience the same rejection.
All of the talk about pretty being a problem does not indicate that we care about our daughters as much as it seems to reveal our own fears and insecurities. When did we start worrying about little preschool girls who are focused on being pretty? I can understand this being an issue as our children grow older, but . . . preschoolers?!
Our little girls know what we model for them. Instead of having long talks about external beauty not being as important as inward character, I choose to indulge her love of pretty. Then, after we have affirmed something is pretty, I talk to her about how I feel strong when I exercise. I never call myself fat or ugly in front of her (even when I am feeling far from beautiful). I notice when someone is thoughtful because it is a simple way to reinforce that the way we treat other people matters more than our personal beauty. I look for quiet ways to point her toward the truly beautiful things in life without worrying that her love of pretty is taking her down a wrong path.
While some claim that “pretty is pervasive” in our culture, I wonder in which culture it has not proven an issue. We need to stop worrying and realize that the time will come for the serious talks. For now, it is enough to enjoy their innocent obsessions. I don’t worry that somehow she will never grasp deeper truths like the beauty of being smart and kind because in her preschool years she only cared about being pretty. She is 3. Not 13.
I will not project my own body image issues onto a preschooler, convinced her future issues will somehow be rooted in her 3-year-old single-minded focus on being pretty. I want her to be the prettiest version of herself. So no, being 3 and focused on pretty is not an indication that “pretty is pervasive.” It is not a warning of her future shallowness. I refuse to be afraid that my girls will somehow develop feelings of inadequacy rooted in their preschool love for all things pretty, pink and sparkly.
My daughter is obsessed with being pretty. And it’s not a problem.