I don’t watch much prime time television. That is when I am reading books, brushing teeth and kissing cheeks. After Simone and Nadia go night-night, I hang around on the channels that help you improve your home, cook a gourmet meal, or otherwise be creative. Lately, I have found myself tuning into the reality shows about the mamas and the little girls they enlist into pageants. There are at least two such shows on cable — Little Miss Perfect and Toddlers and Tiaras.
For the most part, these shows have advanced the stereotype of the stage mother who craves all of the trophies and tiaras she can collect for her little girl. I am amazed parents spend hundreds — even thousands — on dresses, makeup, hair, nails and pageant fees for a chance to win money and receive a little fame. I watch the shows to see if pageants are as bad as I think. I watch to see what kinds of girls Simone and Nadia may encounter as they grow up, and I have to admit I watch to shake my head at how much time and money parents spend preparing for and participating in them. Pageants can be fine, I guess, as long as the child wants to compete and parents allow them to drop out at any time. Some people bond with their children by giving them this kind of attention. As Mom would say, “To each her own.”
We were at a restaurant this week, using a coupon for free cookies Simone and Nadia had received at a children’s event. Of course, I decided to sample the fare and ordered takeout. I mean, that’s why they give free cookies to children, right? While Simone and Nadia charmed us while we waited, I struck up a conversation with an older woman. She wanted to know their ages. Simone loved telling her she used to be 4 and was now 5, while Nadia held up two fingers. We draw attention when we are out and about, and this time was no different. The girls talked about their sugar cookies, how they couldn’t eat them until after dinner, and spelled the name of the restaurant over and over again.
The woman watched as the two of them played and talked with each other. When her order was ready, she stopped in front of me and lowered her head like she needed to tell me a secret. “You should enter your babies in contests, because they are beautiful.” I smiled and thanked her for the compliment. I wanted to say, I think my girls are beautiful, too. Beauty aside, I would not subject them to that kind of pressure and scrutiny at such a young age.
So, what do you say? Would you allow your little girl to participate in a pageant?