On our most recent snowy day, Miss Abigail started to make out her birthday list. Eight items, because she will be turning eight. (As if that’s not hard for me to believe!) I was presented with a perfectly organized list, with not too many crazy demands; she did not really ask for anything unreasonable. However, I was shocked that she had undertaken such a writing exercise…because her birthday is in AUGUST! However, she already has her eyes on the prize(s), so to speak and I have to wonder why.
Perhaps it is because, in our daily society, every single thing is marketable and marketed. Young girls, still wearing bows in their hair, are the “target” audience for lip gloss, bath bombs, makeup sets, cell phones…the list can go on and on. What happened to baby dolls and paper dolls, and Barbie? I did not even own a cherry Chapstick when I was seven years old and if I asked for nail polish, I got clear only painted on by my mother! Times have changed and unfortunately, if we are not careful, the way young women think as they move toward adulthood will change as well.
It’s not a just a case of growing up too quickly. It could become a case of raising a generation that sees the gift, whatever form it takes, as more important than the giver. And that is a real hazard in this world; the idea that things count more, are valued more, are more important than people. And that mindset is seemingly starting at a younger and younger age, and, even worse, it is emulated by older women in the spotlight; via social media, television and of course, the internet. When children as young as seven or eight see all the fuss that is made over a celebrity’s engagement ring or an actress’s multi million dollar wedding or an actor’s sprawling mansion complete with every accessory on the earth…then perhaps they start to want more “things” too. After all, if they see that “splurge” taking place all around them, then why wouldn’t they expect to be constantly splurged on as well?
This is dangerous, murky water for impressionable girls. ( Boys too…but as I have a girl, my concern lies deeply there!) For, while we want young women to feel confident, sure of themselves and empowered, what we don’t want is for them to feel as if they deserve everything, regardless of sticker price because, as commercials are so apt to say “you’re worth it!”. There’s a catch phrase that makes me cringe every time I hear it and one I think we should be wary of all of our daughters hearing. Because, what message does it send, really? That if I don’t buy all 8 items on that birthday list, than I don’t think she’s “worth it”? That if you don’t buy the thousand dollar prom dress for your senior in high school, she’s not “worth it”? And it goes on and on, the older we get…if someone does not get down on one knee with a 3 carat ring…do you see how this mindset grows more and more harming as girls grow into women?
We all show the girls we love how much they are worth to us, how much they mean to us. We do it with bedtime stories and kisses on the forehead and early morning hugs, and small gestures of affection…some of which are probably unnoticed on a day to day basis. We stay up late baking cupcakes for birthdays, fathers bring home flowers for dance recitals, cards are slipped into tiny lunch boxes…the little things we do for those we love are what truly show the people we love how much we value and appreciate them. Grand gestures are beautiful at times, but only if we don’t feel we are entitled to them.
What should we be raising this generation of girls to do? We should be raising them to be thankful, to be appreciative of the special people in their lives. We should be sending forth the message that when love is given…love is enough…material things are not needed or necessary in order for a person to show how much another means to them. We should be daily reinforcing the message that “when you love what you have, you have everything you need.”
And, as February comes to an end, a month bathed in celebrations of love, we should remind our daughters that it is love that truly makes the world go round and makes the world a better place. Let us all, young and older, remember that things are secondary to the gifts that come from the heart.