This is not something I ever thought I’d have to write or even think about. From a young age, I have told Alyssa, pretty much daily that she is beautiful both inside and out and so funny and clever. I wanted her to have confidence in herself. Confidence that I know I lack in myself. No matter what she had looked like or how clever or funny she had been, I would have told her exactly the same thing, because that is what I think children need to hear. Fast forward to the end of summer holidays this year and once again she was in her room, playing with kids make-up, posing and strutting her stuff like most other little children and like she had done often both in our home and at her daddy’s. She comes in to see me, with a pensive look on her face, crawls onto my lap and cuddles in. After a moment of silence, she asks me if I can get her some more make-up and thinking that she had used hers up or broken it I had said no. To which she replied, “But mummy I need it because I look ugly.”
This statement completely threw me and I asked her what she meant. She went on to tell me that without make-up on (bare in mind this was smears of bright pink and blue cream stuff over her face like war paint with some glitter thrown on top) she was ugly and could I please get her some more make-up. Also, if we chopped off her hair could she grown different hair or get new hair because that was ugly too.
Needless to say my heart broke. I held it together and kept her snuggled on my lap talking to her about it. I asked her if she thought I was ugly and she said no and I asked her if she thought a few other women in her life were ugly and she said no. I pointed out to her that myself and all these other women, hardly wore any make-up, if any, except when we were going to parties. I also reminded her that she was beautiful and that I told her that every day.
It was at this point I questioned having given her the play make-up to begin with. She ran off to play, doing the same thing again and I went to the bathroom and shed a tear. I’m not ashamed to say that, when she was asleep that night, I went into her room and removed every item of make-up, including the brushes, as well as the little mirror she would sit and look in and threw them all in the bin. In the morning, there were tears when couldn’t find it and I confessed that I had broken it and that I was sorry. However, despite her pleas for new make-up I told her she didn’t need any but when we went to parties she could have a little bit of mummy’s sparkle on her lips.
This whole incident was pretty much then repeated when she went to her daddy’s as well and both him and his partner did the same as me and removed all the make-up. Thankfully her step-mother and siblings don’t really wear any either.
Why am I only writing about this now, months after it happened? Because I wanted to see if there were any lasting effects on Alyssa and her opinions of herself. For a few weeks, every now and again she would ask for new make-up and it was denied and the requests became less frequent, until, thankfully they stopped completely.
I also changed putting on my own make-up. On a day to day basis, I don’t really wear anything and instead choose to hide behind my glasses. However, when I do need or want to wear some, I do not put it on in front of her, so she has no opportunity to request any. Thankfully, it would seem there have been no lasting effects.
All of the people around her and who love her, continue to tell her what an amazing, clever and beautiful girl she is and that we love her as she is for who she is. You may wonder why we always add clever and that is merely because we don’t want her to think that beauty and appearance is all that matters, because I truly believe she has so much to offer.
I have no idea where these thoughts appeared from in her precious little mind. I checked her tablet and the computer for what she had been watching, which I do regularly anyway and she has extremely strict parameters and restrictions on these anyway and there was nothing there. This small dark seed that planted itself in my little girl’s mind came from somewhere and I prey has been flushed out.
I used to think that play make-up was silly harmless fun, in the same way the costumes and dressing up is, but somehow it now seems less okay and less innocent. Our young children do not need it. They do not need to imitate grown-ups or think about their looks and appearances. They need grubby knees and faces smeared with dinner and hair that looks like they’ve been dragged through a hedge backwards and more importantly, they need smiles on their faces.
Mummy, I’m ugly is one of the hardest things I have ever had to hear.