Standards of Beauty and My Three-Year-Old

Am I over thinking this? I’d love for someone to tell me ‘yes’ because I’m not ready to be dealing with this already!! My son is only 3 and the other day was looking at pictures of fish in his Bible and telling me which ones were girl fish and which ones were boy fish. When I asked him how he knew, he told me that it was because the girl ones have long eye lashes and the boy ones don’t.  I really don’t know where this came from – and despite my husband’s and my best efforts to show him that boys and girls both have eyelashes he remains convinced that only girls do. Has he started absorbing what society tells him is beautiful already? Has he already started to have (unrealistic) expectations about what he can expect of his future wife? Have I already missed the boat to help him view women as God sees them and not as the media and society objectify them?

The other day he took my pony tail, put it over one shoulder and said ‘Look mummy, now you’ve got Elsa hair’. Which leads me to wonder – how long until he notices that I don’t have an Elsa tummy (and not just because I’m pregnant!) or Elsa eyes, or indeed, Elsa anything else?! And will he expect that, just like he could with my hair, I should somehow be able to create these features for myself? There’s plenty of research and writing out there already about the damaging effects of this socialised notions of beauty on our children growing up. And I’ve read lots about how we can help protect and prepare our girls from young age, and how we can help our boys once they get a bit older – but what can I do now for my three-year old boy?

So, I’ve thought of a few ideas, but please do add to them! Like I said, I certainly wasn’t prepared for having to deal with this insidiousness tainting of my child’s mind already! I thought I had at least 5 more years – apparently not!

Accept a compliment

When my husband compliments me or tells me I’m beautiful I’m pretty good at just shaking it off as irrelevant and untrue. But I need to be accepting these, and thanking him for them in front of my children. I have many flaws, but I’m also normal, and having flaws does not mean that I should not be able to accept compliments given to me. I am not perfect, but beauty does not require perfection (or even a photo-shopped version of it) and I need my boys to know that.

Be open and honest

There are opportunities to discuss what’s ‘normal’ with my children from a young age: we went swimming the other day and Boaz wanted to know what the holes in my legs were. I told him quite openly that they were cellulite and that nearly all women have it. I wasn’t embarrassed about it and I didn’t make excuses for it as though I shouldn’t have it. Hopefully, as these questions come up it will give me the opportunity to combat what society will be telling him.

Avoid talking about diets and weight

We hear about this a lot for girls but perhaps we need to be as conscious about it for our boys, and ask people to support us in it. If our boys grow up expecting that women should always be worrying about their weight or on a diet or not having second helpings, then presumably they’ll also grow up thinking that this is the correct way to think and that, unless they’re a size 0, there’s something not right with a woman. Of course, talk about healthy eating and good habits – but because we want healthy bodies so we can best serve the Lord, not because we feel in some way inferior because of our weight.

Wear make-up IF you want to

I have no problem with wearing make-up and if I have time I like to pop a bit on. But if I don’t then that’s ok too. By all means wear make-up, but only if you want to – not because you feel you ought to, or because you don’t feel confident to go out without it. I don’t want my boys thinking that there’s something wrong with a natural face in public, or that all women (including female fish) have long fluttery eyelashes as per Boaz’s Bible!

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