By NICK CHILES
Am I a prude if I think fourth- and fifth-grade girls shouldn’t be in makeup and high heels? Clearly, my thinking is not in line with plenty of other parents out there, judging by the heels, eye shadow, blush and lipstick I saw a few weeks ago at the Daddy-Daughter Valentine’s Day Dance at my fourth-grade daughter’s elementary school here in Georgia.
To put it bluntly, the little girls looked ridiculous, stumbling and clacking around the gym floor in heels that they had no idea how to negotiate. And as for the make-up? I just shake my head. I don’t know about you, but I don’t think there’s anything quite as pure and lovely as the innocent beauty of a nine-year-old girl—complete with all the goofy grins, loud burps, occasional eye boogers and leftover food remnants dotting the chin and maybe even the forehead. Makeup and food remnants don’t go together at all. Fourth-grade girls are still blissfully unaware of their rapidly approaching entry into the world of makeup, body angst and ultra self-awareness.
We practically have to bribe our little one, bless her heart, not to fart at the table when we’re eating out at a restaurant. One of her proudest talents is the ability to conjure up massive burps on cue—she can give me a run for my money even after I’ve downed a bottle of beer. What can I say—my girl is talented.
So why the rush to the makeup and high heels? There will be plenty of time for her to fret over all of that. I want to keep the farting, burping, mischievous, devil-may-care little girl around as long as I possibly can. She has a sister who is three years older than her and, while the older one has always been more serious and intense, we were totally unprepared for how the approach of adolescence would change her personality. She’s not mean or rude, exactly, but she surely doesn’t give me the same bright smiles and infectious laughs that I used to get on a daily basis.
When I saw these little ones in the makeup and high heels, I couldn’t help but wonder—What were their moms thinking? Maybe they just hoped to add to their daughters’ excitement about the evening by giving them a splash of blush on the cheeks, a slather of lipstick on the mouth. But I found it all a bit alarming. I kept getting hit with images of Jodie Foster in “Taxi Driver”—a precious little girl, exposed to adult matters way too soon, and secretly mourning the childhood that she never had. When we rush these things, no good comes of it. We make girls grow up too fast, make them look older than they really are, and they start attracting the attention of males who shouldn’t even be glancing in their direction.
My little one does not go find a mirror when she gets dressed in the morning. This is not always a good thing, considering some of the clothing combinations she tries to get away with. But there’s something wonderful and free about her lack of concern—I can live with the sometimes eyebrow-raising consequences.
So this is my plea to the moms and dads out there. Let our little girls be little girls, for as long as they possibly can. Let them laugh and burp and fart and play with dirt and frogs and sticks and stones. Let them be little and silly and fun. Let them be girls. The womanly world can wait.
Mom. NY Times bestselling author. Pop culture ninja. Unapologetic lover of shoes, bacon and babies. Nice with the verbs. Founder of the top black parenting website, MyBrownBaby.