Saturday, July 30, 2016

Life Lessons at Summer Camp: Being Pretty

For those of you who don’t know, my day job consists of working with young children. During the school year, I teach pre-K. During this summer, I supervise the Lord of the Flies at summer camp. Basically the kids run amok and I help make sure no one dies or gets hurt too badly.

This summer camp is at the same preschool I completed my assistantship at during grad school, so a lot of the children attending already know me. Especially since I requested the younger group, I know many of them from my two years as a GA when they were in kindergarten at the school, and the rest from their kindergarten and preschool years. These children are fairly comfortable with me, and in this casual environment I feel like there’s a lot of opportunity to just hang out with the kids. I don’t have an ulterior motivation to push an academic agenda on them, there’s no lesson plans that I need to try to gear our interactions toward, I can just hang out with them and get to know them.

The other day, one of our youngest girls was talking with me. Our youngest group just finished kindergarten, so they are around 5-6 years old depending on their birthday. I don’t remember how it came up but she asked me if I ever wore makeup. I said that I did sometimes, but usually not.

As the conversation progressed, this little girl asked me if I had any pictures of me “Pretty.”

“Show me a picture of you pretty.”

Due to the conversation progression prior to this, I knew I had to clarify what exactly she meant.  I asked, “A picture of me where I feel pretty or a picture of me with makeup on?”

“Yeah, with makeup,” she said. “A picture of you pretty.”

I had to take a deep breath and process this. A six year old girl was associating being pretty with wearing makeup. In her young mind, one could not be pretty and not be wearing makeup. And it really bothered me.

In fact, recently I wore makeup to church. No big deal, I wear makeup to church. But the past few months I haven’t been feeling well enough to bother (more on this later). Putting on makeup for church was kind of a big deal. As we waited for services to begin my husband asked me a question.

“What’s on your face?”

“Ummm, it’s called makeup.”

“That’s makeup?”


He didn’t comment on it looking good, or bad. I think it just was out of the norm enough for him to wonder what was going on. Please note, that my husband has never commented on my makeup, or lack of makeup, before this. In almost three years together, the man has never noticed enough to say anything about it. As far as I can tell, my husband (and brothers and dad and grandpa) does not equate makeup with being”pretty”.

Back to this little girl. As she waited for me to show her a picture of me “pretty”, I didn’t take my phone out to show her a picture of me with makeup on. Instead, I told her this.

“Well, I have a lot of pictures of me where I think I look pretty and where I feel pretty. And most of them are of me without makeup on.” ( I tried to emphasize that the most important part of this was what I feel .)

I wish I could tell you that she learned a great life lesson at this point, but in all honesty I don’t think she did. She continued on to tell me about using her mom’s makeup to be pretty when she dresses up.

The best I can hope for is that one day this little girl will remember a teacher she had who tried her best to teach her that being pretty does not depend on whether or not a woman is wearing makeup. 

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