Has your son or daughter has ever said something negative about themselves that has stopped you in your tracks? Something that made you pause whatever you were doing, so you could think through exactly what you should say in response? It’s happened to me on a few separate occasions and each time, I’ve found myself stalling for time, knowing that whatever I say could make a huge impact, whether negative or positive.
“I don’t want to wear that coat, because kids make fun of me.”
“I want to wear makeup, because then I’ll be beautiful.”
“I’m the ugliest girl I know. I look like a boy with long hair.”
That last remark was the one P!nk’s 6-year-old daughter said to her one day in the car, she recounted in a speech at MTV’s Video Awards at the end of August.
Can you imagine your child saying that to you? Those types of comments from children tend to catch parents off-guard, and what comes out of their mouths in response may not be the ideal thing to say. Personally, I might have said something along the lines of, “There are many different types of beautiful, and you are one of those types.” An acceptable response, but kind of paint-by-numbers.
What P!nk did was truly amazing, though. First, she talks about her own critics, many of whom have said that she is too manly looking, too muscular, asking her daughter if she appeared to have changed herself at all to appease those critics (clearly not). Then, she full-on busted out a Power Point presentation, taking her little girl through the roster of androgynous and gender fluid rockstars throughout the decades. Talented, unique, stunning individuals, all of whom embraced looks that didn’t fall under the “classic beauty” heading. Prince, Annie Lennox, David Bowie, and so many more who didn’t just bend the gender beauty rules, they remade them and were celebrated for it.
Can we all give this celebrity mama a standing ovation?
These days, I try incredibly hard to make sure both my kids feel secure exploring the gender spectrum. My daughter scowls when people call her “cute,” or “pretty.” She wants to be called smart. At Disney World, she got mad at the people calling her “princess,” telling each one that she was a superhero, and she has all but rejected wearing dresses. My son wears hand-me-down pink running shoes, because let’s face it: high quality kids’ shoes are expensive and if I can get some extra wear out of the ones we already own, who cares what colour they are? He also likes to wear his hair in barrettes sometimes, as he plays with his Lightning McQueen car or dresses up in his favourite T-rex outfit.
As kids become more self-aware, the notion of fitting in can feel all-consuming. The fact of the matter is, though, it’s the “weirdos,” the kids who don’t conform as readily, who grow up to change the world, to create art and live their truth. And so, I find myself encouraging my kids more and more to embrace their individuality and march to the beat of their own drum.
P!nk has always done exactly that, embracing her body for what it is, loving it when there was more to love, and never capitulating to the critics who told her she wasn’t “enough.” This is definitely something I struggle with, at times, but if there were ever a role model for me as a mom, it’s her. She is living her truth, and teaching her daughter to do the exact same thing.
Isn’t that something we should all be doing, as parents?