Yesterday I had the need to go to that kiddies hell hole that is Claire's Accessories. My wedding ring is a little on the large side and rather than paying someone £30 to chop off a chunk (which they then keep) I decided I'd get a ring snuggie to fill the gap for the moment. Whilst in Claire's I encountered two situations in which I found myself dismayed at the parenting decisions made by the parents of two children.
First, whilst queuing to pay, I happened to notice the woman and little girl in front of me paying for a pair of false nails for the little girl. Nothing unusual for a shop like Claire's, but what was was the age of the child. The little girl could not have been much more than about 5 or 6 and was pushing a doll's pram with a doll in it. I couldn't help but think this was a very wrong thing for the girl's mum to be doing. The girl is still interested in dollies. She's probably at the age where dressing up like mummy (who thankfully wasn't dressed like a hooker) is something fun to do with no intentions other than the basic innocent mimicry that can be expected from children. I think getting stick-on false nails for someone this young is a step too far towards adulthood and just the start of the slippery slope leading to the premature sexualisation and objectification of this girl. False nails at 6; thick plastered on make-up at 7; high-heels at 8; skimpy clothing at 9; unemployed, uneducated, pregnant and demanding a council house at 14. What a future this young girl has to look forward to.
I'm not for one moment saying introducing your daughter to the charms of false nails and make-up would lead to such a future, but I think it can't help but contribute to such a path when the girl is so young. The girl should be allowed to be a child for as long as possible, and if that means saying no once in a while, or diverting the girl's attention to something else, then so be it.
Just as I finished paying, I encountered the second situation. A man and woman walked in asking about getting ears pierced. The shop assistant responded with something along the lines of "Sure, right this way. Who's it for?" and this is when you could have blown me over with a feather - the "dad" pointed to the little boy in a pushchair sucking a dummy. The kid couldn't be much more than about 3. My judgement of the child's age could be wrong, but given his size, the fact he was in a pushchair and still sucking a dummy leads me to believe there's no way he was even anywhere near the age he could actually articulate the words to say he wanted an earring and actually have any idea of why he wanted one other than "because dad has one". And that's probably the decision the parents made for the little boy over dinner the night before: "well, dad's got one so he'll want one eventually, so lets get it done now whilst he's just a tot - it won't hurt much".
Why? Why would these two adults think it would be a good idea to get their toddler's ear pierced? To me this decision instantly limits this boy's prospects. Having the piercing isn't going to do this, but the attitude and image that goes with it at this age certainly will. I've yet to see or meet a little boy with a piercing that isn't a little sh*t. As with the little girl, this is a case of prematurely sexualising the child and taking just a little bit of their innocence away and potentially sending them down a certain life path.
Maybe I'm being a snob or a prude but these two parenting decisions make me cringe and amaze me. You see kids like this strewn all over council estates and it's the parents of these same kids who then complain that the kids in poorer areas don't get the chances and opportunities the kids from better-off families do. This has nothing to do with money or opportunities and everything to do with their decisions and attitudes as parents. Claire and I don't have the privilege of being parents at the moment, but I'm pretty certain we won't be making decisions like this in the future.