In the back of my mind there has always lurked the thought that having daughters means that one day we will have to contend with the multitude of ‘body image’ issues which will bombard and threaten to overwhelm them. But I thought I had plenty of time to arm myself with clichés and ready myself for the onslaught. Seems not. Seems that 5 years old is old enough for the ridiculous to begin. Simply because our oldest has started school means that she is immediately exposed to comments and ideas that are not only in opposition to our’s, but are destructive and devastating. It is a rude shock.
This is only the beginning of a long slog of reassurance and realignment. Right now it is easy, compared to what I know is coming. I can still gently manoeuver her in another direction, still I am still the loudest voice she hears. And while I still can, I will kiss and cuddle and declare her perfection to all that can hear, her included.
While it has been rather shocking it has also been a warning that it is never to early to have those conversations that acknowledge and celebrate uniqueness. And I am more determined than I have ever been to fight tooth and nail to drag my girls through adolescence to adulthood with as little damage to their self esteems as possible. And where there is damage, we will sit and cry and comfort and speak words of truth. We will speak of what it means to be human and that kindness and creativity will always outweigh shallowness and superficiality. J.K. Rowling says it beautifully here:
‘Maybe all this seems funny, or trivial, but it’s really not. It’s about what girls want to be, what they’re told they should be, and how they feel about who they are. I’ve got two daughters who will have to make their way in this skinny-obsessed world, and it worries me, because I don’t want them to be empty-headed, self-obsessed, emaciated clones; I’d rather they were independent, interesting, idealistic, kind, opinionated, original, funny – a thousand things, before ‘thin’. And frankly, I’d rather they didn’t give a gust of stinking chihuahua flatulence whether the woman standing next to them has fleshier knees than they do. Let my girls be Hermiones, rather than Pansy Parkinsons. Let them never be stupid girls’.