I have a 6-year old daughter. She can be absolutely delightful – grown up, helpful, good to talk to (even when she gets out of bed when I’ve just settled into a lovely warm bath, and sits next to me on the loo to do a poo. True story). She can also be horrid and spoilt and is quite good at slamming doors. So far, so normal – nothing to worry me there.
But what does worry me is all of the outside influences she’s already getting battered by. And when I watch her try to make sense of it all, I realise what a complicated, confusing and potentially damaging world it is. She’s already graduating onto the girls pop magazines – she told me the other day that she likes Ariana Grande (no, no idea either). Not because of her music, but because she looked nice and pretty in a magazine and had some really nice clothes. She’s also somehow discovered a new TV show, Make it Pop (avoid if possible) where the height of a girls ambition appears to be a great wardrobe and the life of a pop star. Although maybe I’m just not paying much attention.
In truth it’s all pretty innocent stuff. I don’t actually mind her enjoying this girls world. Problem is there doesn’t seem to be anything much counterbalancing this. Already she’s getting used to evaluating people on how they look, what they wear and how famous they are. What they do and what they achieve comes pretty low down the list.
Unfortunately there’s little I can do to stop her taking in those messages from the world, and at least if I’m aware of them, I can talk her through it. But what I can do while she’s still young enough to take at least a little bit of notice of me, is to offer her an alternative view.
I’m not about to sit her down and give her a pep talk that will go in one ear and out the other. But I can show her in my actions. I can choose not to talk about my weight or the size of my thighs (not just in front of her, but in front of me as well!). I can choose to become more confident in myself and recognise the strength of my good qualities. I can choose to talk about exercise and activity in relation to my health and how it makes me feel, rather than in relation to how my body looks. I can choose to believe that the world has infinite, amazing possibilities and that there should be no limits to what she or I can achieve. I can choose to educate her about nutrition in terms of looking after herself, giving her energy and keeping her healthy. I can also choose to tell her that clothes and make up and nails are important. But that those things don’t make the whole person. That what you do, what you achieve, how you talk to yourself and how you treat those around you are all way, way more important. The other stuff is just the sparkle that goes on top.
What I’m really trying to say is this. The world is vastly different to what it was when we were little. But there’s not a lot we can do about that. Instead, its up to every one of us to start with ourselves. We can’t expect our daughters to be confident, self assured and healthy if we put ourselves down. We can’t expect them not to think about their weight if we’re always talking about our latest diet. We can’t expect them to love exercise for what it can do for them if we see exercise and good nutrition as a miserable, but necessary, punishment.
And if she can gain even a little bit of confidence and happiness from seeing her mum happy and confident then it’s something that’s got to be worth working towards every day.