“That [teeth whitening] stuff is kept next to this book: The 7 Worst Things Parents Do!” jokes pageant Mom Lori.
Despite the whimpering and excessive complaints from her children, each week, Lori hauls out of the teeth-whitening kits and bleaches the teeth of 5-year-old Braxton and 8-year-old Alaska. She tells the camera that there’s no harm in bleaching their teeth and she prefers it to the infamous “flippers” (fake teeth to perfect children’s smiles) because flippers are altering what God gave you. This is interesting, isn’t it, because what exactly does bleaching do?
Each week I watch Toddlers and Tiaras on TLC and I continue to be both shocked and surprised at the lengths some pageant parents will go for a Grand Supreme title and a crown. Mothers will pump their children full of Pixie Stix and Coca-Cola (commonly referred to as “special juice”) and Red Bull and Mountain Dew, and then wonder why they can’t get their children to sit still to put on their costumes. Mothers will take their girls to get spray-tanned and to get their eyebrows waxed. Mothers will spend thousands of dollars on glitz dresses and on fake hair and updos and thick, caked-on makeup and false eyelashes. They will hire pageant coaches for their toddlers.
I worry, often, about the physical scarring all of the sugar and bleaching and dyeing and makeup and tanning and waxing is causing these young girls.
But mostly, I worry about the emotional scarring.
When I watch the show, the only people who seem to be enjoying themselves are the parents. Many of these children begin “competing” in pageants before they can even walk or talk. I use the term competing very loosely because when Sami Jo Grace gets up on that stage and drools and cries and is completely oblivious to the creepy man in the tux actually scoring that performance, I am certain that it’s Sami Jo’s mother who is actually doing the competing. She, along with many other pageant moms, is there for her. She probably has some deep-seated emotional need for her kid to be on the stage. Maybe she wasn’t popular in high school, maybe she always wanted to be famous, maybe she wanted a life-size Barbie doll to dress up and play with. I couldn’t even begin to venture a guess as to why these parents put their children through this.
Because, really, in the end, what are these children actually getting out of this, besides a room full of crowns and tiaras?
They are learning the following lessons:
1. If you whine, you will get treats.
2. If you are not the most beautiful person in the room, people will not like you.
3. If you do not smile on that stage and get your routine down perfectly, you will disappoint your parents.
4. If you do not alter who you are, you cannot possibly win.
5. You must win at all costs and it doesn’t really matter if you don’t want to be there and you’d rather be playing dress-up at home and having fun and bouncing on the trampoline and riding your bike and collecting snails and swimming.
As a parent of two young girls, I find it so difficult to understand these mothers and the choices they are making for their girls. They vomit canned phrases like, “She absolutely loves it!” and “This is her dream!” and “It’s so good for her self-esteem and she’s learning important life lessons about losing graciously and always trying to be your best but it’s okay to lose sometimes!” and “Isn’t it so wonderful that my child isn’t shy and can stand in front of a crowd with poise and with ease?”
And it would be one thing if I actually believed that this was what was happening with these children. I see absolutely none of this. None. All I see is that this should truly be included in pageant mom Lori’s 7 Worst Things Parents Do book.
Have you ever watched Toddlers & Tiaras? What do you think about the show? Would you even put your child in a pageant?
-Ali, Senior Associate Editor of CF.ca