After school today, my almost-five-year-old daughter informed me that two of her friends (very close to her in age) have “make-up kits.” One of them, she said, brought the kit to school. Soon after she got home, my daughter drew all over her own face, “putting on makeup” with her washable markers. I didn’t tell her not to draw on her face. I decided to focus on natural consequences–let her see how hard it is to wash even washable markers off her face. (After her bath, there was still a rainbow on her forehead. This made her happy.)
I know the markers will fade. But it’s impossible for me to overstate how much I object to children her age having anything called a “makeup kit.” These friends of hers are sweet and wonderful, and are dear to her. Their parents are dear to me! Still, I’m feeling angry and truly nauseated at the thought of girly makeup kits for children.
Let me be clear: I’m working under an assumption that the makeup kits in question are not the harmless face painting kits that children use for dress up and Halloween. I am assuming they are the Princess or wanna-be-a-woman-too-soon type. I could be wrong. I told my daughter I’ll get her a face painting kit so she can pretend to be a cat, and so on. She was thrilled. She loves fantasy play, and loves to dress up, choosing not just princesses and fairies but many other creative beings. I feel a whirl of victory that, despite her being in the midst of a “Princess” phase, and being named Merida, she has chosen to be a dragon for Halloween. I’m working on a homespun dragon costume. We’ll see how it goes. I studied theatre. I completely support the budding actor/director/playwright that my daughter is. Storytelling and imaginative play are crucial to her psyche, as they are to any child’s development. Storytelling and imaginative play are crucial to all humanity, actually! Theatrical makeup and play is not the kind of makeup about which I rant.
What’s making me feel sick is how “we” undermine and curtail childhood in ways that might seem harmless, but are not. I’ve worked hard to keep Disney Princess as gone from my daughter’s frame of reference as possible. Those pink frilly whispers slip in, sure. After all, we live in the commercial world that is the U.S., and plenty of her friends are allowed to access commercial media. But my daughter doesn’t watch TV, and isn’t allowed piles of plastic, soul-killing merchandise. This afternoon as we hiked in the woods across the road, my daughter carried her beloved baby doll, and told me there are two kinds of Barbies: the kind one of her friends has, and the kind she was carrying. Another small victory willowed through me.
I’ve sometimes written about these issues on my blog. My daughter’s name is Merida, named well before the recent princess in Brave. I know I will continue to face these challenges, in waves, as she grows up. Right now, these chippings away of the important things of childhood make me want to cry.
Yes, I have a sense of humor. No, I won’t release my power of choice when it comes to how I raise this future-woman.
Tomorrow I’ll buy her face paint. I hope it will satisfy her need to play.