Isabelle and I had lunch at Panera today. Prior to our friend meeting us for lunch, an older woman came over to tell her what a pretty little girl she was. Someone else stopped by to say “I love your curls,” while another came by to say, “your sweater looks so cute on you.” All this within a five minute time span!
Fast-forward to lunchtime and there were more compliments about her looks from total strangers. The pièce de résistance came from a woman who sat down at the table beside us and asked, “Is that a permanent?” referring to Isabelle’s hair. Seriously? I thought. She’s two. Do you think, if I were crazy enough to get my toddler’s hair permed that she’d sit still for it? However, instead of saying what I was thinking, I smiled and said something about it being natural. Then the same woman went on to comment on Isabelle’s looks to which I responded “thank you” for the compliment. By the time she asked Isabelle “Did Santa bring you what you wanted for Christmas?” I decided it was time to ignore her.
Quite frankly, I care less about someone assuming we celebrate Christmas (I don’t live in New York anymore!) and care more about all of these comments about my daughter’s appearance. Sure, I want her to be happy with her appearance. Sure, I want her to look put together. And sure, I want her to have a strong self-concept. However, I don’t want her to be limited to conversations with people that focus solely on her looks! When everyone focuses on what you look like and not what’s on the inside, it sends a message that appearances are all that matter. I want my daughter to be have substance and not to obsess over her looks. However, it’s kinda hard to do that when all anyone ever says to initiate a conversation with her is focused on her appearance!
My daughter and I are not alone here. I’ve noticed articles popping up online in the past week about this very topic. Just today Toward the Stars published “11 Awesome Conversation Starters with Little Girls.” As much as I’d like to hand this out to anyone who comments on a little girl’s appearance, I’m not going to do that. However, I hope these conversation starters will circulate around the internet. If just a handful of people change their interactions with the little girls in their lives (or who they meet online at the grocery store), then perhaps a lot more girls will see they have something to offer people besides being just another pretty face.
Nothing stops a conversation before it starts with a two-year old like complimenting her on her hair! In an effort to add-on to the list Towards the Stars posted, I’m adding a few more conversation starters for toddler girls:
- Who’s your favorite (book) character?
- What’s your favorite bedtime story?
- What has mommy/daddy/caregiver done that was funny today?
- What do you like to do at school/daycare?
- What do you enjoy playing with when you’re outside?
After asking the questions, be sure to add on a why if the little girl (or boy, for that matter!) to further engage the child. Then, attempt to have a little back and forth. NOTE: if the child doesn’t answer, don’t assume she doesn’t want to talk to you. The child may have a speech delay and may not be able to answer you with words. (Or, if you’re a complete stranger, she might have some stranger anxiety.) Therefore, you can redirect the question to the little girl’s caregiver in an effort to make a connection with her.