The Beautiful Ladies of Costco are Cramping My Parenting Style

Here are three brief encounters involving toddler concepts of beauty…

Story #1

This time last year I sang Costco’s praises for their exit door employees who routinely assist my daughter’s breastfeeding efforts. They still do.

Now those same employees are raising parenting issues we had blissfully avoided with our 3.5-year-old daughter.

This past weekend she was busy tracing letters and words in her tracing book at home when her mother noticed something. My Little Miss had used her pen to color her fingernails pink.

In our home that’s a no-no for reasons we’ll discuss a little later. The ensuing conversation went like this…

“Ohhh, why did you draw on your fingernails?

“I wanted my nails to be pretty.”

“Do you know anyone who paints their nails?”



“The beautiful ladies at Costco.”

Damn you Cossssssstco! *shakes fist in air*

In many households, this would just be a case of a daughter emulating her mother. But my wife doesn’t wear nail polish or any makeup, and the practice is rare in our circle of friends. There’s no religious or medical reason. I can’t speak for my wife, but I’m a believer that “the natural look” is beautiful. That may sound strange, but in our neck of the woods it’s normal and accepted.

Accordingly, I’m in no rush to encourage my daughter’s inevitable experimentation with makeup, earrings, nail polish and so forth.

Story #2

Our friend recently took her 3-year-old daughter across the country to visit family. When mom left for a few hours with a family member, she returned to find her daughter decked out in eye shadow, blush, lipstick, fake eyelashes, and, of course, a new hairdo—all achieved at the hands of her cousins, ages 5 to 10.

This was normal activity for the kids, viewing a 3-year-old as a fun, almost doll-like object to spruce up. As you might have surmised, the mother doesn’t wear makeup. She took the adults aside to explain that this form of dress-up isn’t practiced in her home.

The cousins also gave the girl two gifts—a Barbie doll and a toy purse filled with fake makeup. You can bet those toys will be disappearing as the 3-year-old’s memory fades over the next few weeks.

Story #3:

On Monday, we were at an elementary school benefit dinner honoring Martin Luther King, Jr. At our table, my wife was talking with a friend who had her nose pierced a few days earlier. My daughter interrupted.

“What is nose piercing?”

“It’s like ear piercing, but in your nose.” [leaning down to provide a better view]

“Why would you want your nose pierced?”

“It’s just something I really wanted to do for a while. You can touch it if you’re really careful. It’s just jewelry.”

The friend explained that you don’t get your nose pierced until you’re 30-years-old. (Ummm, okay.) And then the friend showed my daughter her bellybutton stud and said she also has a spider stud that makes her look like she has a spider in her bellybutton. Little Miss thought that was funny.

Meanwhile, a front-row performer in an interfaith gospel choir was sporting blue hair.
The dialogue between my daughter and her mother went like this:

“Mama, that lady has blue hair.”

“Okay, she has blue hair.”

“Why does she have blue hair?”

“I don’t know. She just wants her hair blue.”

“Why does she want blue hair?”

“I don’t know.”

[a couple minutes pass]

“Mama, why does she have blue hair?” [and so on]

She was quite bothered. She also pointed out a woman who had an eye patch and a bald black man she thought looked like Martin Luther King, Jr.

So, what’s my point?

I’m not sure I have a point. Developmentally, Little Miss is in a phase of noticing how people differ.

Yesterday morning, when she was supposed to be getting dressed for preschool, she was instead watching her mom get dressed…

“Go get dressed.”

“No, I want to be in here with you.”

“Well, could you at least go get your clothes and come back?”

“No, I want to stay here.”

“Why do you want to stay here? You’re not being a good listener. You need to get dressed.”

[shrug] “Well, you’re just so beautiful. I want to stay and look at you.”

My wife was dumbfounded, particularly at this point in time when she feels fat, bloated and swollen at almost 8 months into her pregnancy.

So, I guess my point is, my daughter’s concept of beauty is influenced by mom and dad, but at her young age she’s still able to form independent opinions. Nail polish good. Piercings weird. Blue hair bad. Mom beautiful.

I agree with most of those.


13 Responses to “The Beautiful Ladies of Costco are Cramping My Parenting Style”

  1. thordora says:

    I wish mine would like the blue hair over the nail polish…. :)

    that’s so sweet though. Mine make those random “you’re pretty” comments, and it just makes the day that much better.

    January 23rd, 2008 at 3:43 am

  2. Armine Abrahamyan says:

    This was a good story. Thank you for all the points raised!


    January 23rd, 2008 at 4:59 am

  3. Carrie says:

    Amazing what a 3 year old comes up with…the other day my hubby made a comment to our 3 yo son, “Look at the snow; isn’t it beautiful?”. He promptly replies, “Daddy, snow is just snow. Mommy is beautiful!” I wish I could have heard this myself, but second hand was just as good this time!

    January 23rd, 2008 at 5:39 am

  4. Jessica G. says:

    Aaaaw. Mommies are beautiful makeup or not.

    Our 3.5 yo daughter is doing the same. Noticing differences in everything. She started chewing her nails … something that mommy does (shame! shame!) and I convinced her that we were going to have a nail painting day as a right of passage when actually I was just painting on the no-bite formula.

    I hope my daughter grows up thinking makeup is fun and not a necessary. I am admittedly a slave to my concealer and mascara but I don’t make a fuss out of it. Sometimes she likes to sit and watch me go through my routine.

    I have a tattoo and that took some explaining. Why mommy drew on herself … I also have moles on my face and she pointed to them and asked why I have “nipples” on my cheek. That just about sent me to a plastic surgeon.

    Her grandfather is missing a leg and she thinks that is just about the coolest thing ever.

    This is a fun time to discover beauty through a preschooler. I am trying to keep away from the Barbies for as long as I can. She asked for a Jeep for Christmas. That’s my girl!!

    January 23rd, 2008 at 11:15 am

  5. Summer says:

    That is hilarious! I read this post to my husband and he got a kick out of it!

    January 24th, 2008 at 7:38 am

  6. OnMon says:

    Hey AJ – I’ve been a longtime (not-yet-a-parent) lurker, and while I appreciate your efforts to keep your daughter recognizing her natural beauty, I’m not sure of the value of keeping her away from makeup or nail painting for too much longer. Mostly at her age, it’s probably more about play and self-decorating than any sort of “feeling bad” about her looks, or the way other people look. I have a distinct memory of being fascinated by makeup as a little girl, and begging my mom for makeup for months on end the year I was five. She kept insisting I was “naturally beautiful” and didn’t “need” it – not realizing that I already knew that, all I wanted was another toy! When she & my dad did get me a toy makeup kit for Christmas, it was the biggest disapointment ever. The whole thing was entirely plastic and couldn’t be physically applied to my face – to my mind, what was the point? Then, for the next two years I would put on layers of slightly tinged Chapstick before kissing my parents goodnight, because I desperately wanted to leave that cool “lipstick kiss” mark. It never happened (sigh!)

    Basically, all I’m saying here is makeup at Little Miss’s age is just another element in dress-up play, and has little to do with how she sees her own or other people’s beauty. I grew up to like makeup (after learning how to put on the real stuff in late high school/early college) but I rarely wear it more than once a month for a fancy date, and usually just a little mascara or lipstick when I do. I grew up thinking of myself as attractive and don’t “need” makeup on a day-to-day basis, so it’s still just “dress-up” to me. But I wish it hadn’t been portrayed to me as being separate from the other dress-up play I engaged in – I still remember how confusing and frustrating that was when I was five!

    January 24th, 2008 at 10:43 pm

  7. OnMon says:

    Whew that was longer than I meant it to be! And also, “mom=beautiful” is always the sweetest & truest thing to a 3 year old. Don’t fret: if mama’s beautiful, then you guys are doing everything right as parents!

    January 24th, 2008 at 10:49 pm

  8. AJ says:

    OnMon, on the other side of the coin, is there any harm in shielding a toddler from makeup as a plaything? I don’t think so. Our daughter has a ton of play clothes on hand, from a princess outfit (that I despise) to a fire fighter’s uniform, and a range of clothing pieces that can be used for anything she imagines. I don’t feel like she’s missing out by not putting chemicals on her face.

    Oops, there I did it, raised another issue I have with makeup.

    At the very least, she hasn’t asked for a makeup kit. She also made half her face black once with a marker for no apparent reason, so I’m not going to read too much into her drawing on herself, yet. As long as her friends don’t have makeup kits, I think she won’t feel the need.

    January 24th, 2008 at 10:56 pm

  9. OnMon says:

    Oh wow – I’d love to see what that face looked like!

    Hmm, the chemical issue is a very good one, and one that I feel like is ignored by far too many parents in kid’s toys, let alone makeup-using adults! I am moderately sensitive to chemicals myself (and don’t like the thought of animal testing for cosmetics, etc.) so since I use makeup so rarely, I only use stuff made with natural ingredients – largely Burt’s Bees for eyeshadows and Dr. Hauschka’s for mascara. Sure, my mascara costs $22, but with the amount I use, I only need to buy it once a year, if that. On the other hand, when you’re talking about a kid and the way they’d use a dress-up toy, you’d probably be better off getting Halloween-special face paint and trying to pass it off as makeup…as long as you know the face paint isn’t toxic (and who knows, with all these lead recalls?!). However, I will note that Burt’s Bees products are reasonably priced and they do have really good eyeshadow powders in fun colors, and I think they have eyeliner pencils as well (which are probably better for her face if she’s going to draw on it than a marker, even a non-toxic marker).

    Well, since she’s not begging for makeup, it’s certainly nothing to worry about right now. My only advice is, don’t shelter her from it for the sake of her own self-image – from what I’ve read, it sounds like she knows how pretty (and smart, and caring, and what a good person) she is, and that’s wonderful. Sadly, I’m not sure of a good non-toxic nail polish if Little Miss ever did press you on that. I can’t paint my nails or apply fake nails myself at all – nail polish (& nail polish remover) give me headaches that last for days!

    January 24th, 2008 at 11:34 pm

  10. STL Mom says:

    My seven-year-old daughter went through a seriously girly phase from about age 3-6. Everything in her life had to be pink or purple, and she was fascinated by Barbie, makeup, nail polish, frilly dresses, etc. Now she usually wears jeans or sweatpants (in a variety of colors) and one of her favorite Christmas gifts was an electronic circuit kit. I think the girly phase is a common one that many girls grow out of on their own. In fact, I did so myself.

    January 25th, 2008 at 2:08 pm

  11. Mary says:

    My nine-year-old went through the same extremely girly phase from three to six. Everything had to be pink and sparkly, she loved nail polish, etc. Like STL’s daughter, she now lives in jeans and never wears nailpolish. My toddler may be even more girly, if possible, and she loves playing with her sister’s discarded Barbies. Which are usually naked.

    I really think it’s the age, I’ve seen a lot, though not all, little girls go through this. I don’t think they develop any kind of weird ideas about their bodies or how they should look. I don’t think it’s nearly that deep. My older kid never let the dresses and nail polish hinder her rambunctious play, and she was usually a very empowered princess.

    January 28th, 2008 at 12:37 pm

  12. Sb says:

    Hi AJ,

    I loved reading this post and the comments.

    I don’t have a daughter, but have a son who imitates his father and tries to use face & hair creams, perfumes, in general anything his father uses. I guess it is mostly to be like his role model rather than trying to look smarter.

    But of late, he has gone back to ‘mirror staring’, this time I am sure it is the looks and not the curiosity of the image that draws him to it. Not yet worried though, but I try to distract him when he is at it.


    January 30th, 2008 at 10:49 pm

  13. Vani Raja says:

    For those of you concerned with the chemicals in makeup, there’s the Skin Deep Cosmetics Database:

    February 2nd, 2008 at 12:14 pm