Monday, March 10, 2014
On a beach walk one morning, two groups of children caught my eye. The first was a group of boys, with a fairly large age range, maybe 6-16. They were little surfers, hitting the morning Pacific waves with spirited tries.
Next I came across a smaller group of tween girls participating in a makeshift photo shoot. Clad in cute tops and short shorts, hair and make-up done, they jumped in the air and splashed in the surf, flirting with the photographer, while the sand-mounted camera flickered away.
Encountering these two groups of kids cemented for me how differently we socialize our children to be in this world. We tell our sons to be active and have fun, our daughters to look flirty and be cute. Boys are taught to do; girls are taught to be. And it's not surprising that so many girls grow up to have body image and self-esteem concerns, as we all but coach them to equate their identity with their appearance.
But each one of us can do something about this now. If you have a daughter or niece or favorite little girl in your life, teach her to surf. Teach her to climb trees, sing loud, ride bikes, chase the moon, and get dirty on a Sunday afternoon. Teach her that she's capable of doing and learning and being a presence, rather than just an image, in this world. She might cast a glance at a camera every once in a while, but she'll be too busy to look for long.