By Tanima Banerjee:
It is indeed amazing when you see children of the age 5 or 6 actually playing heavy graphic games on latest high-tech gadgets or crying for an iPad on their birthday, and you immediately wonder, “I wasn’t like that when I was their age!” Even though I would love to hope this isn’t true, that childhood is not something which is lost, yet what we see happening around suggests a different, difficult to accept, dark, grim reality. Undeniably, times have changed.
There is something inherently wrong with the age where children of ages 5 or 6 are no longer seen playing cricket or football in the grounds in fresh, free air, or running behind ice cream carts, or playing dolls. In fact the irony is that children play ‘virtual games’ now. They don’t touch ice creams because they think they might get fat (yes, a 5 year old says that). Instead of playing with dolls, tiny little young girls are actually busy becoming dolls themselves.
The fact that children seem to be growing up in jet speed, becoming ‘little adults’, is not something for which children can be blamed for. Parents who guide their kids through their childhood and help them embrace it with all innocence and playfulness, are actually killing the experience for them. This is true for the show ‘Toddlers and Tiaras’ on TLC, which is (shockingly) 3 seasons old now. It’s a make-over child beauty pageant show running on TV where parents make their daughters of 3-5 year age group compete with each other by dressing them up as 25 year old Miss USAs. What actually happens in this show is that each child prepares for her performance, attending hair and nail appointments, making finishing touches on gowns and suits, attending numerous coaching sessions or rehearsals. The girls are dressed up as Barbie dolls or Hollywood heroines, and made to wear makeup, false eyelashes, spray tans and fake hair. Then these little girls, who probably don’t even know what is being done to them and why, are judged on traits of beauty, personality and costumes. The idea comes across as terribly insane! It is ridiculous to transform these children into miniatures of grown up people for the sake of fame and money, and also boosting the self-esteem of not so much of the children, but the parents themselves. These innocent beings are unknowingly becoming pawns in the games their parents seem to play with them.
Recently there was news about a woman in USA actually getting Botox operation done on her 8 year old daughter to keep her skin young and fresh for long. It’s almost ridiculous to hear such things! Since when did 8 years old need Botox to look young? Aren’t they young in real? It’s absurd to the point of dark humor when parents actually sexualize their little children with plucking eyebrows and even adding fake sexual organs to make them look glamorous. We are surrounded by machines and plastics all the time now. Does that apply to living beings too, whose minds have not even fully developed? Is it even logical that the modern age would turn children into plastic dolls? What right does anyone, even if they are the parents, have to dehumanize these children for some beauty crown. At a tender age of 4 or 5, beauty in a child is his or her innocence. Though children always have a fascination to grow up like their parents or any role model they follow, but applying artificial methods to achieve that, is not only harmful to their bodies but also shameful on the name of humanity.
Though performing on stage does boost a child’s confidence in a competitive world. But the way the “pageant moms” dress up their kids in fake nails, fake tans, fake teeth and fake smiles is deeply disturbing. The reason children are used in such competitions is because they have no agency or say in such matters, and become merely puppets in their parents’ own hideous ambitions. A child on one of these pageants once said “All I want is to go eat a pizza”. It clearly demonstrates how the imposition of being beauty queens, standing in front of the mirror and think about your face, what make-up you should wear, what dresses you should wear to emulate the heroines in films, takes away the very experience of childhood. Making children strut on the stage in adult costumes and hard make-up is not funny as the show claims. It’s ruthlessly ravaging innocence, which once lost, can’t be retrieved. Also it tends to make the children value beauty above anything else, and believe in the superficialities of life instead of its real essence. It causes the children tremendous confusion, wondering why they are not okay without those things.
This is not the proper way for parents to show their love for children, and definitely not a lesson they would want them to learn. They are only inflicting their ambitions on these kids who are made to compete with each other on grounds which require no talent. In fact if it is doing anything, it is killing the inner talent of a naÃ¯ve child. They restrict children from eating food with calories. They bind them to do things that a child actually does for their own victory in dressing the child as a beauty queen. There is a need for adults to value childhood before anything else. Children need to live life to the fullest. Parents need to allow these toddlers to dream, not chase an unreal fantasy world. It is probably the greatest social duty of a parent to build a happy present and future for their kids, and not push them into a meaningless world of superficialities.