She's More Than Meets the Eye

I have a baby.  She is cute.  Like heart-stoppingly, perfectly, adorably cute.  

Exhibit A: (she got it from her daddy, obviously)  

I tend to put her in her newer, less-worn clothes when we go out, so I'm bound to elicit comments about how cute she is.  Because she is, as objectively as I can judge, pretty darn cute.  When we post photos of her on social media, there are usually a few people who say that she's cute.

I don't mind the comments from strangers, and I don't really mind them from people we know who see photos of her.  The purpose of photos is to show what you look like, so I can deal with that, for the most part.

Here's the thing:  if you have spent more than 10 minutes with or around my adorably cute 18-month-old, you can say something different.  You literally have the opportunity to change the conversation from: "what you look like is important" to "who you are is important".   Maybe this sounds kind of ranting and ungrateful, but trust me, I'm not.  Just give me a moment to explain.

I've observed lots of little boys in my time and lots of little girls.  Strangers comment on appearance because that's all they know about you, but family, friends, and acquaintances change the conversation when talking to a young boy.  They change it from:  "Aren't you a cutie pie?" to "Look how fast you are running." or "You must like trucks." Girls deserve to be told that they are fast runners, lovers of trucks or dolls, good, rambunctious, naughty, loud, strong and most of all, important.

Our world loves to tell boys that their worth (and most of their privileges) are based on being male, being physically strong, being competitive and winning.  This is just as wrong as telling girls that their worth is based on being pretty, ornamental princesses who are satisfying to look at.  I know that sounds crass, but it's true.

You don't often hear of boys having acid thrown on their faces as they walk to school in Pakistan.  Because the real reason for this is not to keep them from physically being able to attend school but to disable young women forever by making them ugly.

There seems to be an innate thing in us that wants to tell little girls how pretty they are, how cute they are, and what a "girly girl" they are.  I hate the phrase "girly girl".  If a female person has female genitalia, they are, by definition, a "girly girl".  So, yes, Ella is a girly girl.

But you know what else she is?

She is funny.  She likes to contort her tiny face in all sorts of ways, just to make us laugh.  Her sense of comic timing is often pretty impressive.

She is stubborn.  She loves to be praised for doing something well, but she won't stand for doing something wrong, so if she can't do the puzzle, she throws it across the room.

She is inquisitive.  She wants to know how stuff works and understand why things and people do what they do.

She is talented.  She watched Snow White, and when they clean the house, she hunted for a sponge to clean our house with, humming the whole time.

She is strong.  Take her to the playground, and you will see that she has enough upper body strength to pull herself bodily up climbing frames that are meant for much bigger children.

She is all of those things and more, even though her vocabulary is about the same as a signing gorilla.  She, and every little girl you know, deserve to be known by who they are and what they do.  Just like the boys.

How can you do this when your ovaries are exploding from the cuteness of a tiny person wearing a lacy hat and Sunday dress and pushing a baby pram?  There are lots of ways.  I will suggest one particularly easy one.

Ask her what she likes, even if she's teeny-tiny.  You may think you are going to hear "dolls", "Princess Jasmine" and "baking cakes" but you will probably be wrong.  If you ask our baby, she will say "woof-woof", "bike", and "fish".  Don't be afraid of using the word passion.  I asked a 10-year-old what her passion was a few months ago, and she said "I really want to go to Africa one day and help in an orphanage."  I was blown away.

However, the sad thing is, I once wanted to do wild, passionate things like that.  When I became a teenager, my whole world and everyone and everything around me began to tell me that what I look like on the outside was really important, and little by little, those passions started to get pushed down. Even now, in the last week of my 20's, all people can talk about is ageing because our appearance is so dang crucial to our value.

But what if someone had changed the conversation?  What if someone had seen me, all dressed up in my Sunday best as a little girl, and said "You look amazing.  What amazing thing are you going to do today?"  Because, me, my baby and every girl deserve the world to know that we are more than meets the eye.


  1. Your post is the most amazing thing I have read in quite a while. Thank you -- not just for the "eye opener," but for practical and intelligent ways to improve the way we interact with girls and young women. I have a feeling your passions are re-emerging!

  2. Can I pin this and/or share to my Facebook? This needs to be heard... And yes, Ella is down-right, abso-stinking-lutely adorable and I'm sad that I can't hang out with her.


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