Like most four-year-olds, Flea rarely stops moving. She resists anything approaching a cuddle during daytime hours, submitting to a moment or two of stillness before wriggling free to get on with her current project.
So one of my favourite times of day is bedtime. Flea has eczema, and each night she lies on my bed while I rub cream into her skin. While she lies there, we tend to make up stories together, or chat quietly.
Tonight, as we finished the story of Steve the Monkey (his favourite food is bolognese), I looked at my little pink girl in her Thomas the Tank Engine pyjamas and said, “You’re gorgeous.”
Flea sighed contentedly. “Yes. I know.”
“Oh, you do? What’s most gorgeous about you, then?”
Flea didn’t skip a beat. “I have a gorgeous smile and I like the way I look in my clothes,” she said.
I really love that Flea likes herself. But almost immediately, I start to wonder: how long does that last? How long before she starts to wonder if she really is gorgeous, if she’s tall enough, thin enough, pretty enough?
God forbid, will she end up thinking she’s ugly? I once knew a woman who put on her make-up each day without looking in the mirror. How does that happen to otherwise smart, rational women?
How can we, raising our gorgeous girls, help them to keep that confidence a little longer?
I don’t have any brilliant plans. I think limiting TV helps. I think not having glossy magazines helps. I think regularly telling Flea that judging people on their appearance is utterly stupid might help. I think single-sex schools can protect girls from some of these issues, for a little while.
But what do you do? I’d love to know how other parents of girls protect that precious self-belief.