Making a Case For Raising Vain Babies

little-girl-dress-up Image via Shutterstock

“Mirror, Mirror, on the wall… who’s the fairest of them all?”

My childhood obsession with Snow White goes deeper than I thought. Now before you slap me for being another pathetic ex-pageant queen stereotype, let me say that raising vain babies is nothing to scoff at, mamas. I’m neither ashamed nor tentative about this. Given our social pressures and imposed insecurities (just by being a part of the female species), I’m now more convinced than ever that raising vain babies and toddlers is a good thing. A fabulous thing.

Judge away, but to get where I’m coming from on this, let’s back it up to when my now almost-four year old was just a wee babe. It all started so innocently: When she was a newborn, I’d stand in front of the mirror holding her over my shoulder (upright, to burp her) and watch her reflection to see if she was spitting up, crying, smiling, still alive or just plain awake. That simple act of practical mothering through a mirror (eyes behind the head, ya know?) quickly turned into me catching her gaze and making her giggle by singing, bouncing or making funny faces and noises (as we both stared into the mirror at each other). The more I’d play, dance and goof off with her though our reflections, the more she laughed and loved it. We’d lock eyes and it was an instant party. We had our own secret joke while I’d hold her and sing and choreograph entire musical numbers off the top of my head in front of the mirror. It passed the long days of newborn life and made both of us equally happy. I was proudly a rock star of a sideshow act (still am, actually).

I soon noticed (when she was about six months old,) that our mirror playtime became more than just playtime. She’d catch herself in any mirror we passed, whether at home, at the mall, in a restaurant… and get dramatic if I didn’t stop and let her gaze at herself for a little while. Two seconds in front of any mirror and she’d get a big smile on her face and coo at herself. If I turned her back towards her reflection, she’d struggle to crane her neck all the way around in order to see herself. She’d find the mirror in her jungle-gym, roll over to it and babble at reflection. It seemed that finding her perfectly-chunky little self in a mirror made her feel secure. The only thing that would calm her down as she screamed bloody-murder during her baptism was the mirror in our church’s choir room. (I wish I was kidding.) Great. I was raising a vain girl and she wasn’t even one year old yet.

Out of habit, the same pattern evolved with my second girl (now two years old)… we’d lock eyes in the mirror, stare widely at each other, giggle and gleefully go for it again and again. Pure happiness. To this day, my one of my girls’ most favorite activities is to stand in front of their mirror and either talk, dance, sing or playfully yell at themselves. Just what the world needs: Self-obsessed little women.

Just as I considered taking down all mirrors in our home, something clicked: Maybe this is one way we can learn to love ourselves… as women… as kids… as people. Too many incredible, smart, motivated and amazing people that I know (young, mid-life and old) struggle with happiness because they don’t feel secure within themselves. I think I speak for a lot of moms when I say that one of the major things we want to do right is to raise our kids to feel and be confident from the inside out. Looking in the mirror – and liking yourself – is something that all of us struggle with at one point or another. (Yes, me included. More times than I care to admit) Where did those wrinkles come from?!? Why is that bulge there?!? Does my hair always look this stringy?!? Can I slap a filter on my driver’s license photo?!? Stupid. Yet we are all guilty.

At this exact point in time, my girls are happy when they look in the mirror. They find security from themselves… their own smile, their own movement, their own voice. That’s a big win. They don’t care if they look tired, silly, dirty or round. I can only pray that it stays that way throughout their entire lives, no matter what possible future experiences they may have involving mean classmates or social media influence.

It’s a increasingly-hot pressure-cooker of a world when it comes to self-image folks (thanks in part to Instagram… sorry, it’s the truth). Life coaches have longtime encouraged us to stand in front of our mirrors – every day – and say what we like about ourselves out loud. Positive affirmations are credited to reverse and purge negative thoughts and energy and lead to a more fulfilled life. Loving yourself, including an appreciation of the way you look and present yourself, is not shallow… it’s the foundation for happiness, contentment, confidence, motivation and success.

Of course, there is a line of humility in all of this that cannot be crossed… we all know that crossing that line is just plain dangerous (not to mention, arrogant, rude and destructive). But that’s what moms are here for: to spy on our little people as they grow and keep them in check from the inside-out.

With any luck (and heavily-moderated mirror-time) we can all grow up to live happily ever after.

Related post: Why I Stopped Trying To Make My Daughter Pretty


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  1. It's me says

    I don’t think what you described here is vanity at all. To be vain means a certain shallowness or excessive self-absorption. Your kids are just playing and learning social cues through observation of their own reactions. Don’t sweat it….

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  2. kari says

    As long as the kid isn’t being negative about themselves or mean to other people, I think it’s fine. My daughter is obsessed with looking “fancy” right now. She’ll say “how do I look?” I just tell her she looks like a 3 year old so I don’t make it worse.

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  3. Coco says

    My girls love looking in the mirror and dancing or singing or just to talk to themselves. We too bonded through the mirror. Sometimes the only way I could get them to calm down during those colicky months was to take them to the mirror and make funny faces. I worry at times about it but it’s so innocent right now that I’ve come to the same conclusion……maybe it’ll make them accept themselves as they are when they’re older. I’m very aware of how I conduct myself in front of the mirror too. I always give myself a smile even if I don’t like what I see, so that they don’t pick up the negativity I feel when I look in the mirror.

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  4. says

    I really liked this. I catch my 15 month old kissing herself in the mirror time to time and it makes me laugh. I always make funny faces with her and my son through the mirror. I never frown in the mirror or criticize myself. I don’t want them to be afraid to see who they really are – beautiful inside and out

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    • Kristine says

      I agree. It’s just kids being kids, in my opinion. I think almost all little girls like to dress up and look at themselves in the mirror. It’s not vanity at all. Vanity is (according to google) – excessive pride in or admiration of one’s own appearance or achievements.

      I have a 5-year old girl who likes to dress up, choose her own outfits, shoes, etc. She just likes to look presentable, which is normal, especially since she goes to school and interacts with other kids. I think it’s good practice as well, because she will carry those values with her when she grows up. It’s important to her as well, because she can express herself (within reason, of course. I don’t allow her to go to school in mismatching clothes!) and learn to be independent.

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  5. says

    Babies do not get security from seeing themselves in the mirror. Children do not develop a sense of self until around 18 months old. They do not recognize themselves in the mirror. If they are cooing or kissing the mirror, it is not the self, but a perceived other baby that they are interacting with.

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