Every once in awhile, I think, "I wish I was a better parent."
I think it's a pretty natural feeling. None of us is perfect. We all do things from time to time that we regret---or we wish we could rewind time and do that over again and improve our performance second time around. For example, I wish I hadn't yelled at William this morning for spilling his milk; I'm pretty sure he did it on purpose, but hello, it was just spilled milk, and we all know what they say about spilled milk.
But you know, I felt much better about myself this past week after catching an episode of this horrifying television show that airs on TLC. It's called "Toddlers and Tiaras." The title alone should give you a pretty clear idea of what the show's about. Seeing it reminds me of driving past a wreck on the highway; it's awful, but you can't help but slow down and gawk.
I'm not going to link to it because I don't want to be responsible for any more viewers. Just suffice it to say it's a show about parents who put their toddlers and kindergarteners in full-on makeup and sequined gowns and ask them to shimmy their hips in a dead-on imitation of a stripper in front of a tacky hotel ballroom full of other people wearing t-shirts with their children's names emblazoned on them.
And it's not just makeup and hairspray. Some little girls even wear these weird retainer-like devices called "flippers" that make their teeth appear to be perfect and blindingly white and straight in a way that a six-year-old's teeth never, ever naturally look. (I'm sort of twitching, just remembering it.) Think dentures.
I have no problem with a teenager who wants to enter a Junior Miss pageant; ostensibly a teenager is old enough to make her own decisions. But a preschooler? Ick. And NO. Lots of the little tykes interviewed on the show talk, in lisping voices, about how they want to win, how they want to be the best, and all I can think is, "That's your mom talking. She's trying to live through you, and you're barely out of diapers." These kids aren't old enough to understand what this is all about. They're trying to make Mommy happy. Or they just like dressing up. But from what I saw on the show, it doesn't just start and stop with one or two pageants. It becomes an all-encompassing lifestyle. And an expensive one, to boot.
And most egregiously, it sexualizes young children. I'm sure that many so-called pageant moms would disagree with me, but you watch those little girls strut their stuff and tell me what you see. It's Jon-Benet Ramsay-esque. That may not be the intention, but that's definitely the effect. I hear moms bemoan the "hoochie mama" clothes that are marketed toward tweens; eight-year-olds in belly-baring t-shirts and low-rise jeans are bad enough. But a four-year-old winking and shaking her hips and getting a score for it? Oh my. Can we please put a smocked bishop dress on her and give her a Madeline book to read instead? If she really needs a crown--and from what I can tell, that's a big deal for the little girls--they sell some perfectly nice little tiaras in toy stores these days.
Granted, I have a little boy, so it's easy for me to say, "I'd never do that to my child." But you know what? I'd never do that to my child. And I'll try to stop yelling at him when he spills milk, too.