Can I restore my kid to her factory settings?


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In need of new OS.

In need of new OS.

We were in the car, driving home from a weekend getaway, when my son got bored. He took a phone pic of his 11-year-old sister and sent it to a girl he was texting. The girl instantly messaged back:

Why is your sister so pretty?

As if prettiness is puzzling. As if nothing else is noticeable. As if you can evaluate a person based on an iPhoto snapshot.

This is our botched brave new world of self-imposed electronic surveillance… where every byte of personal data is identified, classified, photographed, recorded, and digitally announced to an audience of fans, friends and followers.

When adult women are declaring their value via butt pics… how are young girls supposed to find their North Star?

Swinging naked on construction equipment looks like a whole lot of useless motion, if you ask me. All that back and forth and never getting anywhere. Plus, wouldn’t it bring on dizzy spells?

Not that there’s anything wrong with a little dizziness… now and then. I’m just suggesting it’s not an ideal default setting. And I’m fairly certain it’s not the way female newborns come off the little girl assembly line.

If a lazy fixation on svelte superficiality had been our gender’s de facto preference across time, we’d have suffered extinction.

Or else evolved into house cats.

That’s why I think it’s time to restore my daughter to her factory settings… the unadulterated, biological and intellectual markers that I know she’s hiding beneath the incessantly brushed, Marcia Brady hair that’s temporarily displaced everything else of import in her thrilling, pre-teen world.

These guidelines are designed to repair the damage before she becomes an actual teen at risk of pairing up with Charlie Sheen or Doug Hutchison.

Don’t scream when you see a bug. Yes, they’re unattractive. But your inability to maintain sufficient emotional equilibrium to simply stomp on them is a real problem. You’re approximately one thousand times larger than an insect. Do you really want to be the girl who needs a dude’s help to squash it? Not to mention the myriad reasons for not being the girl who’s actually unafraid of bugs… but screeches simply to seem more fragile, feminine, and in need of male protection. Just… don’t.

You are not bad at math. Look, I don’t know how many other ways to say this. Boys aren’t better at math, they just have the confidence to try out solutions, ask questions, and offer answers in class without fear of failure. This is because they don’t care about being judged. Got the wrong solution? Move on. It’s one of the perks attached to being a boy. They just keep trying. Kind of a “Go west, young man,” philosophy of life. Adopt this approach. Getting anything wrong isn’t a failure… it’s the first step to success. This is your new mantra.

Don’t brag about any body part. Seriously, we are so much more than the sum of our parts. Yes, men people of both genders will notice your breasts, legs, butt, hands, neck, shoulders… the list goes on. This is why it’s unnecessary and redundant to showcase any particular piece of anatomy in photos posted online. In fact, those photos often look like Sunday circulars for grocery stores that run sales on especially cheap cuts of meat. Avoid, avoid, avoid.

Don’t feel compelled to go plastic. Remember how girls used to bind their feet in China to appear more sensual to men? That was painful, caused life-threatening complications, resulted in permanent deformities, and was fundamentally a bad idea. I know this isn’t a popular stance in today’s world, but I just can’t escape the feeling that inserting synthetic bags into our chests is also not completely fabulous. Small breasts are fine. Clothes fit better. Also, you can curl up and hide in small spaces without wondering where to squish your boobs.

Don’t help the world infantilize you. Tiny voices are associated with preschoolers. When you engage in conversation, your vocal range should reflect your thoughtfulness and intelligence… not evoke mental images of chipmunks. Sounding like you’ve just awoken after falling asleep while watching Sesame Street, and have toddled downstairs in footie pajamas to ask for a glass of water, is not the way to impress a potential friend, employer or partner. You’ll even annoy dogs.

Compliment other girls every day. Recognizing what’s wonderful about other people will never diminish you.

That’s the thing about this irony-crazed, media-mad reality we now inhabit. The whole methodology has it backwards, in my opinion.

Because in the final analysis, the way you walk through this world can’t be evaluated by counting how many likes you got or if you lost a follower last Tuesday.

There are no metrics to measure the art of being real.

Lincoln said it best in the Gettysburg Address: The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here.

What we do… who we are… is more important than what we post.

And although my daughter is destined to go through many changes, malfunctions, and operating system upgrades… I think that’s a simple restore point that’s well worth keeping.


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