Earlier this week, once again in the very early hours of the morning, sleeping Ben in one arm, Emma lying on lap and cell phone in hand, I came across this video. It’s the Reality of Perfection and takes a look at Toddlers & Tiaras, the show about beauty pageants for kids.

I have to admit that I watch it occasionally. With a grimace on my face. I stare, mouth slightly ajar at these pageant moms, who insist their toddlers LOVE doing it, whilst aforementioned toddler is screaming and crying. Um, mom, I think YOU might LOVE it a whole lot more.

I posted this link on Twitter and Facebook and the reactions from intelligent moms were all the same. They were disgusted with what these shows stand for, the messages they teach our children and the very sad idea of what beautiful is.

The behaviour of these stage mommies leaves a lot to be desired and is pretty damn close to abuse, but because it’s in the name of beauty it seems to be allowed. It must be if they’ve made a reality show out of it.

I remember, somewhere in the cobwebs of my mind, entering a ‘beauty competition’ once. It was at the local shopping centre and we were walking past while the registration process was happening. I thought it would be a good idea and my mom, thinking I was the most beautiful girl in the world, or at least at this particular mall, agreed to it.

It wasn’t anywhere near the scale of a Toddlers & Tiaras pageant. We wore whatever we were traipsing around the shopping centre in and there were no major categories. I was fairly ‘cute’ in those days and still had the confidence of youth and so I lined up with all the other girls. We walked onto the stage, twirled around, posed, smiled, twirled around again, smiled and walked off the stage. My name got called out as part of the top 10 and I remember thinking “Wow, I must be pretty!”

For the next round we had to walk, twirl, pose, answer a few questions and then walk off the stage. They called out the top five girls and I wasn’t one of them. And my first thought was “I’m not good enough. There isn’t value in being well spoken, witty or smart. It’s what you look like.” And even though that was the only ‘pageant’ I ever participated in, the feeling stayed with me for a very long time. In fact I still have those moments.Thirty years on.

Like most mothers, I think my child is the most beautiful little creation walking the earth. And I tell her often BUT I also always tell her that she is smart and kind and funny. I tell her that she is a good friend and great big sister. I tell her how clever she is and how well she dances. When she ‘reads’ to me I encourage it and we often sit together making up weird, wonderful, fantastical stories.

Emma will never be told how pretty she is in isolation. Compared to what? My idea of beauty? Society’s? I’m hoping to pass onto Emma that true beauty is a package that includes a whole of things. Without one, the other isn’t possible.

I’ve been asked why I haven’t braided her hair or pierced her ears and my response always is that Emma is at her most beautiful naturally. The one time I took her to get her hair done, she cried and screamed. And I mean screamed. I called Mark in tears to ask him what I should do but when the crying and screaming got louder, I asked the woman doing her hair to stop but she told me that ‘it’s supposed to hurt. To look beautiful is painful’.

At night, just before bedtime, I hug and love Emma, to the point of irritating her, but before she pushes me away and wipes her cheeks and lips, I always manage to whisper “You are kind. You are important. You matter. You are smart and you are loved.”

Cath, a mom and a would-be-BFF-if-only-she-lived-in-JHB, posted a piece which is definitely worth reading

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