Here’s the song reference.
Saturday morning generally brings a cartoon marathon at our house, partly because Manie and I always spent our Saturday mornings watching cartoons when we were children, partly because it’s the only day of the week Manie has a realistic chance to sleep in, and the tribe is generally willing to quietly watch their favorite animated series for a couple of hours. Bugaboo is generally the first to arise, and when she does, we check the program listings through 10:00 a.m. or so, set reminders for the cable box to change from one show to another at the appropriate times, and wait for her siblings to emerge. Everyone gets to watch at least one show he or she likes, and Mommy and Daddy get to rest for a bit.
If you’re curious, yesterday’s viewing pleasures included Strawberry Shortcake’s Berry Bitty Adventures, Tiny Toon Adventures, Animaniacs, The Spectacular Spider-Man, Justice League, and Super Why. While we are careful about what the tiny people watch, we do make room for programs that are just silly or entertaining, because not every moment has to be heavy with deeper meaning. Sometimes it’s just fun to watch one cartoon character whack another with a frying pan.
As usual, Bugaboo was the first one up, and, after handing her a cup of milk, I settled in next to her on the couch to read a few articles online while she soaked up some brain candy. Beanie followed towards the end of Strawberry Shortcake, and they giggled through Tiny Toon Adventures together. Shortly before Mr. Man and Baby Guy started making awakening noises downstairs, Beanie finished her cup of juice and decided she’d had enough screen time. As she rifled one of the bookcases looking for something to read, Bugaboo started bouncing up and down and proclaiming that a set of dolls in the commercial interrupting her program was SO COOL, and she’d really like to have some. Beanie spared the screen a glance, shrugged her shoulders, and resumed perusing the bookshelf.
I looked up and cringed a little. The toys in question had canine faces with exaggerated eyes and human female bodies, which, in the world of toys marketed to little girls, is a little unusual, but no big deal. The outfits, though, were ridiculous, with dolls purporting to be little girls dressed in outfits more appropriate to a nightclub fishing expedition than a play date. The clothing was, however, sparkly, ruffled, and brightly colored, which guaranteed an interested Bugaboo. The marketers who designed that particular commercial certainly understood their target audience well.
I put an arm around our oldest daughter and kissed her head. Bugaboo is, in her mother’s eyes, a thoroughly adorable six-year-old girl, and like many children her age, she is a bit of a magpie, drawn to things that are shiny. “Bugaboo, what is it that you like about those dolls?”
“Their clothes are so shiny and pretty!”
“They certainly do sparkle, don’t they? What else did you notice about them?”
“Some of the dresses were really short. You could almost see their heinies! Do you think maybe they were going swimming in those dresses?”
“Maybe. Did you notice anything else?”
“They were so sparkly! I’ll bet lots of people would want to play with them. They look like fun!”
“Is it fun to play with sparkly things?”
“What happens to the sparkles over time?”
“Well, they usually fall off and leave holes. Especially if one of the little kids gets ahold of them.”
“Hm. That sounds about right. So they could become something that isn’t pretty very quickly?”
“Yeah, I guess so. I’m guessing you don’t like those dolls.”
“I didn’t say that, but you’re right. I like sparkles, too, though. But I want you to think about something for a minute, about the way those dolls were dressed, and about the way the girls in the commercial were playing with them.”
“They looked like grown-up ladies who want men to pay attention to them look. And they were really pretty. And the girls were dressing them up in pretty outfits and the dolls were dancing and posing.”
“Very perceptive, Bugaboo. So what kind of attention do you think you would get if you were dressed like that, or dancing and posing like that? Do you think they would want to swap knock-knock jokes or talk about cool science or art projects with you?”
“Probably not. I think they’d just want to look at me. Because I’d be sparkly.”
“Would you like that?”
“Not if they were so busy looking they didn’t want to play tag or tell jokes.”
“Bingo. Do you think they would pay enough attention to you to see what a good and loving girl you are?”
“But it’s okay to wear sparkles. Now I want you to think about the boys in that other commercial, the ones who were dancing and looked like their pants were getting ready to fall off. What did you think about them?”
“I was worried their pants were going to fall off. I wanted to give them a belt.”
“Did you think that those boys might like to talk about books with you?”
“No, I was too worried about their pants.”
“Because some of our parts are private.”
“You’ve been listening, Bugaboo, and I’m proud of you for that. Now think about the dolls again.”
“Those dresses would probably show a lot of private stuff, too.”
“Yep. When we meet people, or talk to people, do we want them to think about our private parts, or do we want them to talk to us, so we can get to know who they are and they can get to know who we are?”
“I’d rather make friends than worry about someone’s private parts.”
“Right. So maybe it’s not such a good idea for anyone to wear clothes that call attention to them.”
“Probably. But I like sparkly dresses.”
“That’s fine. I do, too. But the way those dolls are dressed teaches little girls and little boys that girls should get attention by wearing clothes that show off their private parts. Those parts, just like your whole body, are your gift from God. We don’t want to dress in ways that call so much attention to how pretty our pieces parts are that people don’t see Jesus when they talk to us, they only see the sparkles. We want to be whole people made in the image and likeness of God, not just pretty things.”
“But I am pretty.”
“You absolutely are, and there’s nothing wrong with that – it’s fine to be pretty. But it is significantly more important that you are beautiful, which has nothing to do with your looks. Be beautiful, sweetheart, just like you are now.”
Today’s prayer: Lord, thank You for curious little blessings, who love laughter and things that sparkle. As Your blessings play, and learn, and grow, help us teach them the twin virtues of humility and modesty, and to carry themselves not in a manner that screams for attention, but that speaks of charity towards one’s neighbor. As we teach them, Lord, help us to choose our words carefully, so that in teaching humility, we do not humiliate, but raise up our children and all Your other children we are called to encourage and instruct, so that we communicate to them the beauty that is their birthright from being created in Your image and likeness. Let our actions be our most powerful form of speech as we teach. Grant us the grace of hearts that look past immediate sensory gratification and seek authentic love, love that is modest, self-sacrificing, and chaste.