That seems to be the majority opinion after a mommy blog went viral, the woman admitting she let her 4 year old go out in full adult makeup, eye shadow, blush lipstick; what she wasn’t expecting was the harsh backlash, the comparisons to Suri Cruse and her bright red lipstick, people clamoring she’s too young, advising her not to let her daughter fall into the beauty trap too early. Also not expected, for those following the story, experts linking beauty products and addiction, stating it can lead to an obsessive pursuit of perfection, and addiction to perfection. But, as in all cases where parenting goes viral over trivial things like what is the right age to do something, the question comes back are the parents putting something on the child, are they skewed in their perception, or are we as a society putting something on these children that was never the intent of the parent and would never enter the child’s head if we, the culture, hadn’t put it there? This issue with makeup parallels the children’s dance contest that came under scrutiny when a video of 7-8 year olds performing supposedly suggestive dance moves to Beyoncé’s “Single Ladies” was broadcast over the internet; public and parental outcry was palpable through television screens as parents couldn’t believe someone would let that age of child dance to that song, perform those moves at their age, wear what they were wearing, never mind put it on the internet. Even though the parents did not authorize their children be filmed nor did they know who posted it online. Yet it was a case of hooray for cool heads and sound minds Whoopi Goldberg of The Vew saying the line between outfits is going to a contest like that and going to school like that, asking the question is it the contest putting sex on those girls or is it us? And could it be the same in this case?
It’s as if when moms heard, read the words I let my 4 year old wear makeup they immediately assumed it was child beauty pageant style makeup, a JonBonet Ramsey repeat and Toddlers and Tiaras on remix; however when ABC news interviewed the girl and her mother, it became clear just how over reactive the public had become. The young girl is just that all girl and typically 4 with mommy’s lipstick smeared on her, happily playing dress up like any other child. Further her mother comments that most people don’t even notice she’s wearing makeup when they are out in public and she happens to be. Neither is this a toddler trying to imitate things seen in magazines, on television, or displayed by her peers in daycare or preschool; she doesn’t engage in alarming comparisons between herself and her friends at the aforementioned places, wishing she looked like so and so, calling herself ugly. Nor is she exhibiting any of the ritualistic behaviors indicating the possibility of OCD or other compulsive disorders. Instead she’s emulating mommy who was getting dressed up for events, presumably for work, perhaps recreation. In fact that’s where it all started her wanting to be just like mommy, look like mommy; again typical age appropriate behavior. And that’s also when mom saw an opportunity to create a bonding experience similarly dressing, dolling up her child along with herself for special occasions. The key here being special occasion, no one is going out like this on a daily basis including the mom; unlike one commenter who wrote a response about being the child of a mother who couldn’t leave the house without makeup, it’s clear this mom certainly can and does. Something else our “evil” mom is not doing, looking for perfection from her child, saying her daughter looks better in makeup, saying she looks plain, boring or ugly without it. Continuing exposing the child to makeup the way her mother has, teaches moderation by example; mommy doesn’t wear too much makeup, doesn’t wear it all the time, doesn’t make statements that she feels incomplete or naked without her makeup, modeling how to wear makeup in a healthy way. Next our pariah of a parent readily acknowledges the conversations and limits regarding makeup will change as her daughter gets older, but for now it’s simply a fun activity they enjoy.
Still there are those who radiate shock and outrage Good Morning America’s Robin Roberts commenting she was right with the parent, right with the idea this was just an extended version of a girl playing dress up, though slightly more expensive using mommy’s real makeup, until the girl said she needed it to feel pretty, which visibly gave her the creeps, in her mind appeared to epitomize the problem. But hold on, remember this is a young child; kids around her age will say they need something partly as a way to get what they want, said age group may still carry a security blanket, stuffed animal or pacifier. Those who have moved beyond those particular displays of development have no doubt moved up to a favorite outfit, a favorite color, unwilling to go anywhere without their red boots, only bush their teeth with Barbie toothpaste; it’s a phase they go through that is a perfectly normal part of growing up. Parents usually humor most of the behavior because they are aware it is just a phase and it makes life easier in getting them to dress themselves, put on their shoes, brush their teeth and get out the door in the morning. And I myself have seen scores of children over the years in stores wearing snow boots not in line with the weather, girls wearing a clearly dress up princess outfit over long pants in order to be decent in public, wearing a tiara or happily swinging an imitation feather boa as they walk beside their parents, even some still sporting the evidence of playing dress up, fake makeup evident on their face walking through stores; why, because it was more important to go to the store, run errands than what type of shoes they wore, their clothing as long as they were wearing enough of it, were wearing coats/jackets to accommodate the weather, or whether they had evidence of play on their face, a classic example of parents picking their battles.
However despite that, returning to our makeup allowing parent, other people want to bring in the modern saying on parenting, you are your child’s parent not their friend and I say 4 is too young. The preceding nearly a direct quote from World News Now guest anchor Sunny Hostin who went on to elaborate she didn’t understand where these young children were getting makeup since they don’t have jobs, don’t have money emphasizing that parents have control. Putting aside the controversy, conundrum raised here was never about control, rather a parent who freely admits to sometimes letting her child wear makeup, let’s follow Ms. Hostins logic for a moment; yes parents have control but it doesn’t preclude them routinely getting into your makeup, like a child that age has never gotten into things they weren’t supposed to, ha, ha. What are we supposed to do constantly change its hiding place so the child can’t find it, are we supposed to lock it in a safe so they can’t get to it, better by all accounts, considering Ms. Hotstin’s tone, because you are a mom now, wear no makeup for any reason thus eliminating the problem. Yes parents have control, but going back to the scenarios in the paragraph above, you are also left with a reality of how to get out the door when you need to translating into practical parenting like letting them wear their princess outfit to Wal-Mart instead of changing taking the time to change their clothes, having to go through time out, spanking some form of discipline to get them to change their clothes. Positives of that practical parenting are evident when you let your stubborn child who insists on wearing pants on a hot day as opposed to shorts, shorts on a cool day rather than pants, their costume cowboy boots, not their regular shoes and then they say they’re hot, cold or their feet hurt, you can look at them and state simply I told you to wear the opposite, I told you not to wear those shoes and the child learns by experience thus being more willing to listen to what mom and dad say. Obviously this type of parenting has its limits you can’t get a kid go out in freezing temps in shorts, or minus a coat, they must wear shoes in public, but it is astonishingly effective in areas where sickness is not an immediate threat, where they won’t injure their feet exc., leaving onlookers wondering if we practice too much control. Relating that to our beauty product wielding mom, she is not being a permissive parent, attempting to be her child’s friend, she’s not putting an emphasis on makeup, beauty, conforming to a specific ideal, like pageant moms, she’s not trying to give her a negative self-image; in fact, it’s the opposite she’s trying to bond with her child, take small steps in making sure she has a confident human being as an adult. Plus you don’t have to be endeavoring to be your child’s friend to expose them to something too early and be wrong; motivations behind it may be to toughen them up, increase their maturity level, an attempt to be supportive of their interests or because you did the same thing at their age.
Ironically we vilify one parent for being open and honest about how they parent their child on a benign issue like this, for trying to forge a connection with their child, but we turn a blind eye to, often congratulate parents who flagrantly describe, admit and champion spanking their children relentlessly, who admit to using belts, wooden spoons even one parent who said on an experience website they had never thought about using a hairbrush to discipline their child until they came to the site, parents who possess a weak bond with their child, parents who are cold aloof and straining that bond with their concept of discipline. Another eye popping instance was a teen’s description of his mother buying a larger paddle to spank him with, detailing at least one comment she allegedly made about never finding spanking him unpleasant, the story leaving some readers disturbed, concerned about a possible sexual component to what was happening, but most were telling the young man how wrong he was, how good his mother was, how she was doing right by him even with the added information that he found the internet business that sold her the paddle and it was an adult site showcasing S&M products. Why, because we believe there is no discipline without spanking, we believe all kids who are not spanked are brats and those brats are the downgrade in society, in values and the only way to bring it back is to spank. Meanwhile no one makes the correlation between this allowance and the cases of abuse, the psychological damage spanking can have that drains society in drug rehabilitation and prison sentences stemming from that strained, negative relationship of parent and child. We celebrate the 4 year old girl who went viral on YouTube because of an impromptu department store toy section rant against industry tricks and stereotypes asking why all the girl toys were pink, why only boys could be super heroes, declaring emphatically not only that girls could be superheroes, play with traditionally boy toys, but likewise that boys could like pink or play with dolls. Though the latter is much less accepted by the majority of people, particularly parents, there is a movement started by one activist parent to increase our tolerance for the “princess boy,” the boy who likes dresses, pink, butterflies, who may show signs of being the next great fashion designer, who displays a love of art and all things beautiful, independent of hitting him with labels identifying him as gay or transgender.
Expanding once again on Ms. Hostin’s point of view regarding parents and their role, parents and the control she believes they should have, what about letting them experiment with play makeup, play dress up at an optimum age to both enjoy the activity and prompt full use of their imagination; is that out too based on the idea it will give them a complex later in life, lead to aspirations of being a too skinny model, eating disorders, body image issues? As a society we are so scared of the negative influences out there we can’t even let our kids play in a reasonable way they want to; then we wonder why they fall prey to the things they see in magazines, see this as their image of perfection beauty. Perhaps it’s because parents didn’t find ways to communicate the beauty in their personality, their pride in who their child was, what they had to offer the world; others were likely always fascinated by beauty products, modeling, fashion and never allowed to play with those kinds of things, never allowed to explore it, so easily fell to a cruel and unforgiving industry. Similarly letting your child play in this way is not an automatic guarantee your child will be headed for trouble, destined to struggle with questions of their appearance, their worth in a physical sense. Personally I remember getting my ears pierced at 4 or 5; many parents will pierce a babies ears and little is said. I remember times as a child my mother would paint my fingernails with real nail polish; it made me feel like a big girl, was something special. And I am far from getting caught in the beauty trap, I’ve never wanted to be a fashion model, was never really interested in the teen magazines, looking like a celebrity, never thought of myself as either ugly or a perfect 10; I tried things for a while, admired certain styles, clothing types, went through phases like everyone else. I was just me, I had too strong a sense of self to conform to every trend out there, proving that is the most powerful gift you can give your child boy or girl.
Bringing me to my final point, we have to ask ourselves as people how much we are contributing to the negative self-image of children, adolescents, young girls, boys, transgender, gay, straight, whatever by how we react to situations like the one presented. No one should be discussing potential addiction, to perfection, to a specific body image in relation to this story, in reaction to a parent who lets their child play with mommy’s makeup. Additionally what impact are we having on a young girl’s life dragging cameras before her, asking pointed questions, accusing her mom of being a bad parent over her playing with makeup; what impact are the news episodes going to have in 8-10 years when she finds them online, will that and not the makeup be the catalyst of a downward spiral? At least the Nightline special on transgender children, the appearance by the young man who calls himself a princess boy on talk shows beside his mom, the children’s book she wrote, are all endeavors at awareness and acceptance for kids already receiving negative responses to who they are, the core of their being. Translation, they are likely going to be less negatively impacted by the media attention because, for once, they get to tell their side of the story to people who will for a moment listen that they might understand. Outcry prompting the probe into this child is not the same; people did it for the most part to shame a parent who is doing nothing wrong, to wag our fingers and claim we are better than them to Monday morning quarterback the raising of another person’s child over a minor issue. If only we could get people as mobilized about abuse, neglect, spanking, hot saucing, humiliation as discipline, various foreigner books on child rearing al-la Amy Chua and Pamela Druckerman, the world, our country might be a better place.