I have seen a couple of viral posts of late with the same theme and to be honest, they make me want to sit in a corner, rock slowly backward and forward and beat my head against a wall. They are basically along the lines of how you should never call your daughter pretty. I mean seriously. For fuck’s sake. I made the mistake of falling down an internet wormhole and reading some of the comments on these posts. Great screams of things like, ‘Insightful!’, ‘Spot on!’, “Oh my god you are so right!” One lady even said, “This is amazing, we should all be aware of this, I am never calling my daughter pretty again.” Poor little pumpkin head. Her daughter that is. What if one day she just feels like being pretty? DO NOT call your daughter pretty. It will damage her and fuck her up for all eternity. Tell her she has an amazing brain, she has lungs of steel, she has legs like springs and she has a lovely nature. Do not call her pretty though. You fool. You backward moron. You wretch of a mother you. Sometimes I think the world has gone mad with political correctness and we are lost somewhere in a murky world where people just want to be right all the time. I really need to stop falling down internet wormholes when I can’t sleep. They make me so cross.
What is wrong with being pretty? I understand it is bad if you make physical attributes the sole focus of your praise. If you dressed your daughter up like a Hollywood Hooker, got her Botox, put inches of makeup on her face and told her that her entire worth was tied up in her beauty so she better suck her fat little toddler gut in. That would be bad. That would be mean. But why is beauty so bad? I am not talking about the air-brushed beauty that we find in magazines and in those weirdo teenage Instagram and snapchat poses. I am talking about the beauty that comes from within. The beauty that makes someone you love the most beautiful person in the world. The beauty that comes from someone who just likes the way they look. Someone who is confident, strong, brave and smart and everything else. Being confident and brave is beautiful as well and why can’t we tell people that? Why can’t we encourage our kids to be proud of the way they look, whatever that way may be?
It doesn’t bloody matter either if you are dealing with boys or girls. Isn’t our purpose to bring up strong confident kids who can deal with all the crap in the media when they are older. All I know is that when we have our occasional treat at the local Thai, Rissie loves to get a bit dolled up. She will brush her hair, maybe lash out on a little plait, pick out a dress, stand at my dressing table and sigh wearily when she realises that there is still not much makeup there that she can play with. But she seems content to brush a bit of powder on her nose. She might throw on another necklace or bracelet. Whatever she does in her room, when she emerges, I always tell her that she looks pretty. Because regardless of her dubious fashion sense and the strange ensembles she can put together, she feels pretty, so I am going to tell her she is. Also, quite simply in my eyes, she is.
Likewise, Archie’s preparations can involve putting too much gel in his hair, buttoning his shirt up too tight and putting on one of his Poppa’s ties that can sometimes hang lower than his crutch. When he emerges from his room beaming, I tell him that he looks handsome. Even if at times I don’t agree with his fashion choices. Because when you have that sort of beaming face and you feel special you are handsome. When I am feeling strong I say to them, “I got two words for you, Gor – Geous.” I can only do that when I am strong though, as that is what Tiney used to say to them. She said it was one of her favourite things that our Momma always used to say to us when were growing up. I can still remember how that felt, when I emerged from my bedroom as a teenager and I would hear Momma say, “I got two words for you – Gor-Geous!” It didn’t make me feel like less of a human being, or that I was objectified or a piece of meat, it made me feel special.
I don’t know where we have lost the ability to be kind. Is it the internet? Is it the fact that people devoid of a heart can now hurl abuse at anyone on any platform and it is now almost acceptable? Is it political correctness gone mad? I don’t know what it is. But being kind trumps everything. One of the kindest things you can do for someone is to make them feel special. If that means telling someone they look nice, then what the hell is wrong with that?
I never know what the kids are going to want to be when they emerge from their rooms. Rissie often asks me if she could be a Rockstar. This is after belting out songs in the bathroom so loudly that they hurt my head. I could be right and say to her, “Look to be honest Rissie your chances are slim. I suspect I am tone deaf, so I don’t really know much, but your voice hurts my head. Also, on top of that, I am not a Rockstar mum, so I am not going to push you so hard that you hate my guts when you are the second Taylor Swift.” That would be right, but it would also be mean. All I say to her is, “why the hell not Rissie? You love singing, don’t you? Go for it.”
When Archie finishes another soccer practice and he realises he is one of the least experienced kids on the field and he is last to be picked for the practice team again, he asks me if I think he will ever play for the Socceroos? I could tell him the truth and reply, “Archie, your chances are slim. You should have started playing soccer when you were 2 and right now I think you have as much chance of making the Socceroos as I have of looking like Audrey Hepburn.” That would probably be right, but it would not be kind. So instead I tell him, that something like that takes hard work and dedication and if it is something he really wants, then give it his best shot and he has as much chance as anyone else.
Kindness is so much nicer than being right. If we could all be a little kinder the world would be a better place. It is not necessarily a lie either, it is just injecting a little joy and hope into someone’s life rather than crushing them with despair. I honestly believe if you can’t say anything nice, then you are better off saying nothing. It is like when someone whacks you across the face with what is the equivalent of a verbal slap, then shrugs and says, “Just being honest, that’s all.” “Sorry! I can’t help it, I am honest.” If you need to substantiate anything you have just said with the expression, “Just being honest that’s all” then you know it was probably hurtful, and it is not about honesty. It is about the absence of kindness.
I figure if I can teach my kids to be kind then I am doing ok. I am also going to tell them that they are pretty, handsome, strong, brave, smart, fearless and funny. I honestly believe that growing up and getting ready for adulthood is like preparing for war and you need as many soldiers in your army as you can get. God only knows what we will be dealing with in ten years’ time. I will puff my kids up with confidence as much as I can, and I resent political correctness that tells me it is wrong of me to make positive comments about the way they look. Why is that so much worse than how they feel, how they think, how they laugh and how they empathise? It shits me.
Recently, I decided to pick up a hair colour from Coles as my hair was turning ginger as it is prone to do. Mum calls it golden, but that is just her being kind. It goes ginger and frizzy and I start to feel like a ginger fuzzy wuzzy bear. I randomly picked the reddest hair dye I could find and put it in my hair when the kids had gone to bed. When Rissie woke up in the morning and saw me in the shower, she said, “Mummy your hair is red.” I nodded. She was stating the obvious. Then she asked me if I was trying to be like Anne of Green Gables. All my bloody life. Then she left the bathroom and returned and stuck her little head into the shower and said to me, “You know Mummy, next time you go buy a hair dye I might come with you to help you pick it.” There you have it. She didn’t like my hair. When I got out of the shower I asked her if she liked my hair. She looked at me and said, “but do you like it mummy?” I told her that I thought it was ok, I felt a bit brighter. She nodded and said, “Well that’s all that matters. It looks nice.” She wandered off leaving me with the distinct impression that I had a fluoro red mop on my head.
But the important thing was that she was learning to be kind. She could probably use a bit of work in that regard. But she was learning kindness. Just as good as being pretty, and I am going to tell her as often as I can, that she is both.