Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Don't read this if you LUV Hannah Montana

Here I go, winning friends, influencing people, and probably stepping squarely on some toes with this highly inflammatory post. 

So the thing is, I have daughters. The older one is heading inexorably toward the tween years. And unless you've been living on an ice floe for the past three years, you've probably discovered that American girls of this age seem to live and die by what Hannah Montana is doing or selling at any given moment. You can wear her, blinged out, on your skimpy T-shirt, prevent the onset of preadolescent body odor with Hannah deodorant, fill in your insufficient crown with a Hannah wig, catch Hannah in 3D on the big screen ... the list goes on. 

And let's not forget High School Musical or any of the other teen sensations heavily marketed toward eight year olds these days. 

Call me judgmental, but here's the main value I see being pushed at younger and younger girls:
Your worth (a.k.a. coolness factor) lies in what you can buy, and how you can look. You must be HIP! Sensuality a plus! Singing/dancing ability a bonus!

If HM and the rest are your/your daughter's cup of tea, that's fine, and I don't condemn you. Honest. But the very nature of making decisions about what you want guiding and inspiring your children implies that you find some values and influences more to your liking than others. 

A fellow mom I know through one of our homeschool groups had a dilemma: Her eight year old was crazy about American Girl dolls and books, but felt frustrated at being unable to connect with many of her peers, who were more into the kind of pop culture stuff referenced above. This mom felt that her child deserved to be a child for as long as she wanted, not sacrificing a genuine and healthy interest just to fit in with her peers. 

So she and a few others of us started a club, which met for the first time yesterday. As I may have mentioned a time or two, Eliza's been really getting into the AG books, which we read aloud together and discuss, and the accompanying movies. I feel comfortable with this kind of mental diet, and even with a certain degree of AG-related consumerism, since the stories' themes dovetail with the same kind of values we're working to present to our daughters: the importance of family, of loyalty to friends, of unselfishness, of generosity with people in less fortunate circumstances, of following your heart and conscience when the going gets tough. 

We met with about eight or nine other moms and their daughters at a library meeting room (Ian was at camp). The girls introduced themselves and their dolls (some from American Girl, some from other sources such as Target), had a "tea party" with cookies and lemonade served in one mom's impressive teacup collection, and then made fabric-covered journals inspired by Kit Kittredge's reporter notebook. 

I suggested to Eliza that she use the first page of her book to collect signatures from the other girls present, and she overcame her shyness to do so, which started a flurry of autograph seeking among the girls. It's hard to describe the magic of the moment I saw unfolding before me. Girls from three (Caroline) to thirteen, connecting in their shared excitement over girls like them from the past, passing their dolls around, lending out books, trying their hands with a glue gun, creating an atmosphere in which every single girl felt accepted. 

"I felt like everyone there was my friend," remarked Eliza as we headed back to the car afterward. 

A mother cannot ask for more than that. 


Eclectic Mama said...

Aw, so sweet. I wish we'd had a group like this when S was into AG stuff. sniff

Deepa said...

Lovely blog!! Camille recommended it...

Tracee said...

Very nice. :)

Vanessa said...

What a brilliant idea! A book club of sorts on AG for the wee ones. By the way, my niece who is 12, still loves her AG dolls and books.

Anne said...

We've managed to steer clear of the Hannah Montana and High School Musical stuff, too. An AG club is a great idea!

Amy Tague said...

Thank you so much for posting this!! At my Hannah's kindergarten graduation, they asked all the kiddos what they want to be when they grow up. Every single girl in her class said they want to be a model (I didn't even know what a model was when I was 6!!) or a "pop star." You know what MY daughter said?? She said "When I grow up, I want to be a teacher." Made my heart sing!!