I was sitting upstairs with Lila tonight, and we were talking about tigers.
“They’re pretty cool, huh?” I said.
“Yep. They’re like cats, except bigger. So big they can fly,” she answered.
“Well, I’m not sure about that last part. But they are big. Are they one of your favorite things?”
“I don’t know what my favorite things is,” she replied as she shrugged her shoulders, “but I like tigers a-very much.”
At this point I decided to egg her on based on a conversation she’d had earlier today with Leah about which of the members in our family were cool. As it turns out, I am cool and Cole is cool, in her opinion. But none of the girls in the family are cool. They’re just pretty. I wanted to explore this some.
“What else is pretty cool? Am I pretty cool?” I asked.
“Yes, you are cool. And Cole is cool, too.”
“What about mommy?”
“No, mommy and Lila and Remy are pretty.”
“Well, the tiger is pretty and cool. Can’t you and Mommy and Remy be pretty and cool?”
“No, daddy, that’s silly. You’re silly. I’m pretty.”
I’m trying to figure out what that means.
I try to tell Lila all the time that she is pretty, just like I do with her mother. I think it’s important that she knows someone besides a God she can’t see thinks she is beautiful. This is a physical world, and the spiritual is so often unseen. The leap to an unseen God loving her and cherishing her will be infinitely harder if she doesn’t experience the dad she has right in front of her doing the same. Lots of people are going to express the opposite sentiment. She’ll need something constant.
And until she gets older, the only kind of pretty she will understand is the “to look at” kind. The Disney princess kind. I don’t view this as a problem, as long as I make sure I work to ingrain the concept of an “inner” kind even harder once she’s old enough to grasp what that means. Still, that doesn’t mean she’ll need to hear “You’re so pretty!” less often. There will just need to be a slight shift on which one holds (or should hold) the greatest importance in her heart.
And yet I still find myself wondering what she means by separating cool and pretty? She obviously understands what “cool” means, because she’s meaning to compliment Cole and me. The same goes for “pretty” with all the Bare ladies, in her mind. Maybe she recognizes already that “pretty” is its own form of cool as far as women are concerned. In which case, her statement subtly nutshells American adolescent social currency. (This point was brilliantly explored in one of my favorite anthropological documentaries, Mean Girls.)
However, I know it’s more likely that she’s simply given the words a gender exclusivity, for some strange reason, in which case I’ll have to work on that. The girls need to know their gender can be cool, if only so when their mother attempts to convince them that she is cool, they believe that’s actually possible (zing!).
Whatever the case, as long as my daughters don’t end up being Plastics, I think we’ll all be just fine.
Or I should say, that would be pretty cool.