Parent, Teacher, Author
Amy B. is a mother of three children, two boys aged 15 & 17 and a daughter aged 10. I asked her to share her thoughts about how sexualized media impacts her family. This is what she had to say.
My daughter loves make-believe! She will spend hours with her cousins inventing stories while wearing elaborate costumes. She and a friend used a bent coat hanger and a small flag stick to make a bow and arrow so they could have weapons as they played Indian Warrior Princess. She loves to read. She has never met an animal she didn’t adore… including snakes. She sleeps with at least 57 stuffed animals. She loves the movie Tangled and plays the soundtrack in her room while she sings and dances. Sounds like a pretty neat little girl, huh?
What if I told you this “little girl” is almost 5 feet tall, wears size 6 women’s shoes, has braces and has several noticeable… ahem… body changes? But then, what if I told you she is only 10 years old?
I have found myself entering the uncharted waters (for me!) of having a daughter who is still 100% “little girl” yet looks years older. The current culture doesn’t seem to understand this population. At first glance, she might seem too old for Legos, dress-up clothes (she has outgrown most of them by now), dancing to a Disney soundtrack or playing Star Wars in the backyard. Popular culture screams at her to wear clothes that seem more appropriate for a nightclub. It bombards her with messages that she should be romantically interested in boys and acting in ways to attract them. The TV shows aimed at her age group portray sassy girls who disobey, flirt or act unintelligent – and are often times rewarded for that behavior. She sees t-shirts with objectifying messages that are just her size. She notices that some things she wants to play with are marketed just to certain genders or age groups.
What’s a mom to do?
I can’t be with her 24/7 to shield her from damaging messages, nor would it be healthy for me to do so. However, I can try my very hardest to surround her with adults, experiences, friends, activities, media, books, clothing, etc. which not only accept, but celebrate the fact that she is a child – NOT a mini-adult!
So, when a significant adult in her life admires her creative costume she’s put together, you better believe I’ll make sure that adult speaks into her life frequently. When I find an activity she loves to do and everything about it is age-appropriate, I will encourage that activity. When she plays with a friend who is willing to speak in a British accent while pouring a pretend beverage from a pitcher as she looks at a newly created make-believe menu, I will find ways to nurture that friendship. When I hear of books, movies or TV shows which portray children as children, I will steer her towards them. When I come across a t-shirt that celebrates childhood, I will be more likely to buy it. And when she wants me to walk the dog with her or listen to a funny line from a book or movie or fix her hair in a certain way to go with a costume or take her to the park or the zoo, I’m going to try my best to make time to do it.
So, to all the toymakers and movie producers and TV executives and clothing manufacturers and even adults and peers who want to push my daughter towards adulthood faster than necessary, I say, “Chill!” She will grow up soon enough.