Because life is a series of edits

Playing Dress Up

In Humanity, Thought on July 31, 2006 at 2:00 am

Megan and the girls get back into town today after their long weekend hiatus on the farm (I went up with them last Wednesday and came back to St. Louis on Saturday). In talking to them on the phone this morning, it sounds like much physical healing has taken place, and all (for the most part) are back to normal (or as "normal" as ones who share my genes can be).

Over the weekend, I've fumigated the apartment, cleaned the bathrooms, washed all the bed linens, vacuumed the carpets, and Lysol-ed the whole place in hopes of getting rid of whatever bug might have invaded our space. Tune in in a week to see if my efforts were successful.

In picking up the girls' room (all four of them share the master bedroom – it's tight, but they love it), I thought to myself that it must be interesting being a girl. Not that I would know personally, of course, but as I do happen to live with five females, I have more of an idea than some (I like to think of myself as the minority in the sorority).

The reason I say that being a girl must be interesting is I am almost daily reminded of how pervasive our American culture gets between me and my daughters’ perspective of my love for them. For instance, each of my daughters loves to play “dress up,” but it’s amazing how they’ve believed the cultural lie that what they wear makes them beautiful.

Whether with a princess costume (which I’m trying to ban in our apartment) or a dab of lipstick that they find in the bathroom, I don’t know how many times they’ve walked up to me, shown off what they were wearing, and said, “Daddy, don’t I look beautiful?”

I tell them, of course, that, indeed, they are beautiful, but it’s not because of the dress they’re wearing or the color of their lips; they’re beautiful because they’re mine, and they’ll always be beautiful because they’re mine.

And then a funny thing happens: they remember that they’re mine and they feel a little bit silly that they’ve gone through all the work of playing dress up so Daddy will think they’re beautiful, when Daddy already thinks they’re beautiful. They smile, they laugh, and then they give me a big hug, not because they’ve succeeded in convincing me that they’re beautiful, but because I’ve succeeded in convincing them that they are.

My daughters – like my wife, like me, and like the rest of us – all deal to some degree with the struggle of feeling pressure from our culture and what it says about who we are – that we are not beautiful until someone else says we are beautiful; that we are not perfect until someone else says we are perfect; that we are not worthy until someone else says we are worthy.

As a result, we play “dress up,” trying to become something we already are, trying to give off the appearance we’re something we’re not, and trying to do something else – just one more thing – in order to be worthy in God’s eyes, as well as the world’s. I do it, too…just not with princess costumes and lipstick.

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  1. Beautiful post.

  2. Craig, I appreciated this post. I read it several days ago and have really been challenged by what you said. With two little girls of my own now, I realize that I have said things like – let’s comb your hair so it is pretty. Ouch. Thank you for the timely reminder…now, I will trust God to finish the work in me that He has started.

  3. So often in raising my kids, I find myself saying things that have been far too accepted in the parental vernacular for far too long. Something can sound so innocent (especially when repeated often), but I wonder what it does/will do to our girls (I also often wonder what our parents’ similar comments have done to us). By design, language has such profound effect, both positively and otherwise. Anyone else have any examples of what parents tell their kids that may not always be helpful?

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