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Why I Let My Daughter Wear Makeup To School

Sep 10, 2018

The year is 1981. I emerge from my elementary school bathroom — robin’s egg blue eye shadow dusted all the way to my never-been-tweezed brows. My lips, frosted with petal pink shimmer are, in a word, perfection. The hair on my not-yet-permed head is feathered and sprayed so it won’t budge as I glide down the hall at recess. I am Farrah Fawcett’s twin. And my parents have no idea I’ve smuggled a boatload of my mom’s makeup to school.

In other words, yeah, I get the allure of wearing makeup as a kid.


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But I wasn’t going to allow my daughter to wear it until she was older. Maybe not even until high school. I don’t want her to be in a hurry to grow up, and luckily for me she wasn’t interested in it anyway.

Then she had a birthday — double digits.

While it will always be my job to protect her and guide her, I’m learning to loosen my grip on some things.

It started innocently enough with a casual question about wearing clear mascara to school next year. And because she’s clever, she dropped this on me just before bedtime when my defences were down. But I’m smart too, so I recited the gold standard of mom deflection — let’s talk about it later.

Blame Youtube, blame the Kardashians, or blame me because I wear makeup, but these days my kid is obsessed with all things concerning cosmetics. But I have come to a decision: This is not a battle that I’m going to take on.

Around the age of 10 seems to be a fundamental turning point for kids, especially for girls. They have one foot still in childhood, while the other is striding towards the teen years. I’ve noticed that as my daughter has matured physically, intellectually, socially and emotionally, her need to make independent choices has grown. And as hard as it is, sometimes I have to just step back.

While it will always be my job to protect her and guide her, I’m learning to loosen my grip on some things. Letting her have more input on how she presents herself to the world has been a strong first step in relinquishing some control. Purple hair, green eye shadow, fuchsia lips — bring it on.


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It started without me realizing it when she came downstairs one morning before school with her hair chalked in five different colours and a homemade tin foil horn pinned at the front of her hair. She called this style the “unicorn,” and was determined to wear it to school. I asked if she worried people would make fun of it. She said she wasn’t. Who was I to stand in her way? And off she went to school.

Secretly I was proud. I remember so clearly the desire to not stand out in school — my goal was to work as hard as possible to fit in and look like everyone else. I admire the diversity of looks and styles I see the girls rocking today.

Instead of battling it out with her about every coat of lip gloss or brush of shimmer, I am spending my mom energy on asking her why she wants to wear makeup. It’s important for her to understand the message she is sending to the world. But I won’t stand in her way of self-expression — there are too many challenges ahead that are bigger than blush.

Article Author Laura Mullin
Laura Mullin

Read more from Laura here.

Laura Mullin is a published playwright and writer and the Co-Artistic Director of the award-winning company, Expect Theatre. She is also the Co-Host and Producer of PlayME, a podcast that transforms plays into audio dramas now on CBC. She has worked in theatre, film, and television and lives in Toronto with her writer/producer husband and pre-teen daughter. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram @expectlaura.

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