Daughter is 11, and she is far more fashion-aware and fashion-enthusiastic than I ever was at any age. She also loves to sew clothes for her webkinz, and consistently picks out Brides magazine at the library. We have a subscription to Kiki Magazine, which she devours for the crafts and design ideas. She has always raided my closet for dress-up, and could easily walk in my scant collection of heels from the time she was three. She is a great shopper, and can find just the right gift for someone.
Often it is a hard balance between supporting her interests and creativity, when much of her interests dwell in an expanding consumerist culture. You know what I mean? I happen to be one of those mommas who tend to consider, protect and shield the kids from things that I don't consider necessary for them to know about yet. (I am "Cavemomma", after all) I think that developing a sense of who one is from the inside is very difficult, when one is bathed in a culture where "outside packaging" is valued as so very important.
This isn't new of course. I surely remember the need to have the right clothes, things, to be "pretty and popular" and have a boyfriend, to feel like I was a success in life. Even as adults, we still do this. For me, it most often happens when I am in a new group of people, and I anticipate having to talk about myself. I find myself automatically sizing up my family's "package". (the kids' activities, "academics", mine and my husbands' activities, our lifestyle, the condition of our home, etc) I could really do without this making myself and family into an "object"- myself looking at myself and family from the outside, as how someone might perceive us. That isn't authentic. I want us to know ourselves from the inside, and have that be the main focus of each of us. I believe it is from this inside authentic place that we grow our own interests and happiness.
If kids concentrate so much on how they are "packaged" at ever-earlier ages, when will they develop their authentic interests and senses of themselves? Perhaps most kids aren't bathed in celebrity role models and aggressive media consumerism to the exclusion of all else, but it does seem like some kids are more influenced by these sources than other kids are.
So as Daughter's teen years approach, how will we handle all this? I guess we will just keep on talking together. We'll point out what we like and don't like about any movie, toy, celebrity, and notice how any certain advertising motivates people to buy it, how it motivates us to want to buy it. Setting limits is important of course. Continuing to be interested in what my kids find interesting, and being able to talk about these things. Continue encouraging them to follow their own unique interests is key, of course. Continuing to be involved in the community is important. Finding role models in our community- real people doing good, inspiring things is also important I feel, to inspire real human endeavors, and counteract what the media portrays. CAn you think of anything else?
So even though she won't be allowed to pierce her ears till she is 12, I have allowed nail polish in the house. She so much wants to share her fashion passion with me, and I want to be interested and involved. I really like my blue nails! They catch me off guard- they distract me and lure me into their beautiful color throughout the day. It's a pleasant phenomenon. Maybe there is something to a little bit of fashion and style, after all.....
Daughter's portrait of Kate Middleton, from her own memory.