Why I Stopped Trying To Make My Daughter Pretty



My ten year old daughter Clare only likes to wear clothes from the boy’s section. Preferably a boxy, shapeless t-shirt with pictures of Spiderman or any other superhero on them. She always wears two braids. Always. Even to bed. Her hair is thick, blonde and gorgeous. Clare has beautiful, wide-set blue eyes, high cheek bones and long, slender limbs that remind me of a baby colt. I think she’s beautiful. She doesn’t care. She’s not interested in being beautiful.

Last year, I made her take her braids down for her class picture. It was an epic battle and I played dirty. I used psychoanalysis, telling her I was afraid her braids were like a security blanket (which I am) and that I wanted her to be comfortable in every Hair Iteration and that I didn’t want her to fall prey to bullies who might socially ostracize her (which is true), and to that end I was willing to bribe her with an Obi Wan Kenobe FX lightsaber that could have paid for a month’s worth of groceries.

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But underlying my bid for her emotional well-being, was the down-and-dirty truth: I wanted her to look pretty in her school pictures, her cascading hair framing her face, so I could show her off to friends and relatives.

On picture day, she wouldn’t actually wear her hair down. She wore it in ponytails, then took it down just for the picture. Apparently the entire 4th grade female student body had to witness this anomaly. Shrieking and cooing and telling Clare how gorgeous she looked. After the picture mission was complete, one of the little girls carefully, respectfully braided Clare’s hair for her.

When I got Clare’s school picture a month later, my mission was achieved. She did indeed look very pretty with her flowing locks. But she also looked, well, not quite like Clare.

I’m over it. I’m letting it go. My daughter doesn’t need to fulfill my vision of how she would look most beautiful. She doesn’t need to care about being beautiful. She DOES have to wash her hair at least once a week. There I will not budge. But my girl won’t define herself by her appearance the way I did. The way I still do.

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What defines her now are her passions: making weapons out of paper, learning to sketch manga characters by following tutorials online, playing a version of Dungeons and Dragons with her dad all night, reading The Hunger Games with me, playing the piano and taking up Judo. And so many more things she’s passionately interested in.

These kids man, they teach you how to live.


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  1. sammie says

    These kids man, they teach you how to live. ———–> YES. Exactly this.

    Such a beautifully written post. Your daughter sounds like one amazing kid. She’s lucky to have you for a mom.

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  2. Gemma says

    You are not alone in having a lovely child to whom practicality rules. My youngest daughter once asked the stylist to cut her some bangs “so my hair doesn’t get in my gum”. Her best friend was the boy down the street. Without any interference on my part in late gradeschool she did an about face, and suddenly started to girly her look up. I am glad she had those days to be thoroughly herself, whatever that was. It is the essence of childhood.

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  3. says

    This was great, because I have a similar and yet totally opposite problem. My four-year-old is obsessed with pretty–not just for herself, but all the pretty things. Pink things. Pink to me is not pretty. I strongly dislike the color. But while I think she looks best in blue, she thinks it has to be pink. Like you, I will let her be herself. Even if herself is pink. (Maybe it is a phase, but I also realize I shouldn’t hope for that, because it really shouldn’t matter.)

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  4. Ellen says

    I’m in the same boat, and trying desperately to accept it. My 12 year old is gorgeous – long, lean legs with an adorable figure, which she insists on covering from head to toe, even in summer, flawless skin, and the thickest, most beautiful head of hair which she refuses to brush unless it’s to put in a pony tail. I always thought I had a pretty healthy self-image – I take care of myself but I don’t obsess. But I always wonder, what if I did this to her? Maybe my vanity is putting her off?? I need to be more accepting…

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  5. Kbjiara says

    I don’t have daughters (yet, I do hope to have one someday) but I remember when I was a kid, I was the girl that went to the birthday parties with a ponytail or braids or whatever except hair down. No dresses for me either, and I loved it then and love it more now that my mom didn’t force me into being girlie. I have a “masculine” career (safety, specialized in hazardous operations and materials) and wear very very short hair… and I’m happily married with a great man that loves the fact that I am myself, and that’s the best gift anyone can give to their children.

    Thanks for the article, I had not thought of that… and in my dreams my daughter would be girlie and dressy and pretty and all, so I do appreciate this article so, beginning now, I can learn to love my children as they are and not as I want them to be.

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  6. Rachel says

    This goes the same with boys too. There is such an emphasis on boys to be boys. If my son wants a la la loopsy doll for Christmas then dammit, Santa is bringing him one! It’s a hard enough world out there for kids without mom and dad trying to change them, too.

    I love the sentiment in this story, I wish more people had the same insight and would lay off their kids… Just let them be the wonderful little people that they are!

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    • tara M4B says

      Bc boys who play with dolls might grow up to be …. DADS *GASP* who would have thought …. Lol.
      I have 4 boys and u get bugged relentlessly about the amount of dolls in my house. . That line usually shuts ppl up quick.

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    • says

      Agreed! My son is only 10 months old, but he loves his sister’s MLP toys and seems to really like pink. He’s a baby now, but if he still likes those things when he is older that will be fine with me.

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    • Katherine says

      I’m totally with you! My son’s favorite color has been pink for more than a year (age 2-3), and we bought him a few pairs of pink shoes during this time period because of it. But recently he just said pink was for girls. He didn’t want to drink out of a pink cup in the house until his dad said, “well then I’ll drink out of it,” in order to model a man doing it. I’m so sad that society “got” to my boy, even though I knew it was inevitable. It’s time to get him another pair of shoes and now he said he wants green. I’ll continue to encourage/foster his girliness just because if he does like certain things I know no one else (society) will. Though most of the time he is very stereotypically “boy.” I just think he’s sort of a renaissance man and is into girl things sometimes as well.

      As for the OP and her daughter, I’m so glad she was able to learn something from her.

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    • Sharon says

      I have a 6 year old boy who loves rainbows and glitter, always has. And that is fine with me. I also have a niece who wears all her brothers hand-me-downs. I would not even try to change them. It’s who they are and I love them just the way they are.

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