Parentpost from anywhere

Published: Friday February 27, 2015 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Updated: Friday February 27, 2015 MYT 7:56:07 AM

Shift your focus from looks to truly connect with people

Find out about people’s interests instead of their skin-deep beauty.

The other day, we ran into a friend of my mum’s. After we exchanged pleasantries, she instantly commented on my daughter’s “solid” build, which is so much like mine. Talk about killing two birds with one stone.

No wonder women agonise over their alleged physical shortcomings.

Now instead of making judgements about how fat, thin, tall, short, dark, pale (sick ah?), I am going to suggest that we learn to see beyond a child’s (and any person’s) exterior.

Firstly, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. My daughter’s darker skin that Asians deplore is adored by the English half of our family. Katelin doesn’t get sunburn and as skin goes, hers is pretty tough and has served her well. She may be solid by Asian standards but in Britain she is normal. And her build is partially a result of all the very physical activities that she enjoys. She climbs like a monkey and can somersault with the best of them. She carries her little cousins with ease and confidence and helps me lug groceries grown women would struggle with.

My sons Bern and Cian, on the other hand, are always drowned with concern because they are skinny.

The comments the youngest gets drive me mad though. “Wah, so Chinese ah this one!” “Pity he looks more like you.” When did looking Chinese, or like your mother become a pitiable condition? If I wanted to take offence, I could ask if they were questioning his paternity.

Because I too have always been subjected to comments about my less than ideal figure (too heavy), skin tone (too dark) and hair (too black), I try not to comment on other people’s looks unless it’s positive. A good friend recently had a dramatic hairstyle change and I couldn’t help mentioning how elegant it looked. I was amazed at how tall a friend’s son had grown in the last six months.

Another thing I try to do is mention stuff that isn’t gender specific. I try to notice a lovely smile, new teeth, a cool bruise, how easily they ate their vegetables, nice manners or helpful behaviour. You will be surprised at how easy it becomes once you begin to shift your focus.

Judging a book by its cover yields conclusions of limited value.

My second sister is beautiful; I’ve seen men forget to get off escalators while gawking at her. So, the next assumption is that she cannot possibly be smart whereas she has a degree and Masters from a top university. Secondly, any judgement is a reflection of our own inner dialogue and insecurities. A few years ago, I was shopping for a dress for a formal event in a shopping mall on a Monday morning. The salesgirl commented on me being so lucky to be able to shop on a weekday.

I bristled at the alleged inference to my leisurely life. I complained to my mum about indirectly being called a tai tai and she promptly put me in my place and told me to accept it for what it is: an observation that I was lucky to not have to shop on weekends with the crowds. And finally, why judge at all? What is the value of physical beauty? Is fitting some preconceived notion of aesthetic ideal going to yield any meaningful benefit?

One would argue that beautiful people are famous and successful, but are they always happy and contented? Are they always healthy and do they have meaningful connections to people they love? Is a good life exclusively for those who are lovely?

Resoundingly, the answer is no. So let’s stop objectifying people, our children and specifically our daughters. I think at least some of the superficiality of our observations is that we simply cannot be bothered to truly connect to them on a deeper level; to remember their interests, to observe their preferences and to practise honesty.

When was the last time you asked your friend’s child what they had been up to and then truly listened?

So, go ahead and ask what they’ve been reading or listening to. Ask them what they think about issues that are important to them; friends, pets, their plans for the coming holidays.

Ask if they’ve discovered anything interesting lately or if there are things they’d like to learn.

Or ask what my youngest asks everyone he meets, “If you could have any superpower, what would it be?”

Tags / Keywords: Parentpost, Parenting, Family, Self Image, Self Esteem

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Beyond looks: (From left to right) Bern loves reading and boarding, Katelin can do a split on chairs and Cian with his beloved toys.

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