When I saw the Jozikids’ Facebook competition to “win a whimsical pamper party” with photos of little girls aged between about five and, at most, ten, lying there with facemasks and cucumber slices on their eyes, I felt incensed. So incensed, in fact, that it prompted me to write what has become my very first blog post.
The competition prize, a pamper party valued at R1300 which included manicures, pedicures, facials, massages and make-up lessons, left me reeling. Was I the only one out there who found this absurd and completely inappropriate? I voiced my opinion on the competition page and it turned out I wasn’t. But I also got some responses I found quite frightening, including how it “is mother and daughter time”, “teaches them to look after themselves”, “makes them feel special”, “is a treat” and, perhaps most disturbing of all, “is nice that our kids start pampering themselves from a young age”.
Don’t get me wrong; I think it’s great to do all those things (well, all except teaching them to pamper themselves at all of a tender pre-pubescent age), but with so many other age-appropriate alternatives to play “pretend-pretend” or spend time bonding with your daughters, is this really the healthiest, most suitable way to do it? Never mind how these pamper parties smack of creepy child beauty pageants, which have been blamed for adultifying and sexualising little girls – and the host of dangerous effects that go along with that (but that is for another blog all of its own). I could also go on about all the other ways we can teach our children to look after themselves, make them feel special and give them treats, but the real question for me is, are these parties really just whimsical, harmless fun and a nice opportunity to spend some quality time with mom? Or do they trivialise something that has potentially severely negative consequences and instils extremely harmful messages in our children about what they should be basing their self-esteem and value system on?
We see these consequences every day in the abundance of grown women all around us who are riddled with insecurities and mental health issues, like anorexia. The media, and women’s magazine’s in particular, come under fire all the time for perpetuating the negative self-images women have of themselves by promoting unrealistic air-brushed ideals for us to ‘aspire’ to (and obsess about). Shouldn’t we be doing everything we can to protect our children from these same pressures? Aren’t these pamper parties teaching our little girls that they are not naturally beautiful and therefore ‘need work’ – years before teenage spots and decades before wrinkles begin to take their toll on their complexion? Telling them that they are inadequate and not pretty enough if they don’t have perfectly manicured nails and made-up faces? Should we not rather be encouraging them to accept themselves just as they are with the natural beauty of childhood? Rather than having their nails done, shouldn’t they be getting them dirty making mud-pies?
And since when is being pampered a good thing anyway? Personally, I don’t want to teach my child that being spoilt, self-indulgent, superficial and vain are desirable attributes – or to grow up so fast. Childhood is all too short – so let them be children while they can. After all, they have their whole adult lives to worry about their skin, hair and nails!