Only one word comes to mind whenever I see promotions or clips for TLC’s newest train wreck, Honey Boo Boo, starring Toddlers & Tiaras breakout star 6-year-old Alana Thompson: Gross.
Georgia native Thompson, nicknamed “Honey Boo Boo,” has about the same vocabulary and attention span as my 3-year-old. In a segment where she disclaims Justin Bieber, only to assert she likes him just a few minutes later, her mom, June, constantly tries to draw her back into the interview.
While viewers may be attracted to the little girl and her bizarre catchphrases – “You betta redneckognize!” – the show is on my long list of programs I will never let my daughter, Quinn, watch. The last thing I want is for her to try modeling herself after Honey Boo Boo, who often allows her mouth to hang slack and go “Aaaaaaaaagggghhhhh.” Thankfully, no one in my family is clamoring to change the channel back to see Honey Boo Boo.
My 78-year-old mom believes Honey Boo Boo may very well be the second coming of the drug-addled version of Anna Nicole Smith. “Ugh,” she said, turning immediately back to her morning newspaper after listening to just a minute of the grade-schooler and June on CNN.
And my husband is just plain turned off by the entire Toddlers & Tiaras franchise. “That’s the worst thing ever,” he said. “What is the point of having a child pageant? Any answer you give me will be wrong. Are you teaching these kids a skill? What skill is that?”
An attorney friend of mine perhaps said it best: “I think there are better ways to build up a child’s poise and self-confidence. Child pageants instill in children the importance of exterior, superficial ‘beauty’ and extravagant spending on flashy clothing, which will cause problems for those children as adults.”
I actually don’t mind pageants, as long as the contestants are vying for the titles of Miss America, Miss USA or Miss Universe. These women are often talented, smart adults who understand the competitions and their requirements.
Child pageants, unfortunately, always call to my mind snapshots of little JonBenet Ramsey, the young pageant queen who was killed in Colorado in 1996. During the search for Ramsey’s killer, who was never found, the news constantly questioned whether it was all right to dress a 6-year-old to resemble an attractive young woman, makeup and all.
Ramsey’s murder and now Honey Boo Boo seem to be bad as bad press could get when it comes to child pageantry.
And while it’s fine to dismiss Honey Boo Boo and all things Toddlers & Tiaras as kids playing dress-up, it’s disturbing to see parents invest such a huge chunk of their time teaching their children the value of curls, false eyelashes and strutting on stage just so.
Why are these moms and dads in such a hurry to produce little grown-ups?
My own toddler loves to watch me put on makeup before I head off to work. Once in a while she begs me to put some blush on her cheeks, insisting, “I want to wear makeup, too, Mommy!” I give in every now and then, taking out my makeup brush to softly pretend to place blush on her cheeks. At first I was slightly amused by her interest in looking like me, but I came to realize how much I really didn’t want to sully her pure skin.
After years of wearing makeup, my skin now requires cleanser and a moisturizer. The daily routine, when I actually get up in time, takes me at least 10 minutes.
I hate it.
So while I’ve been in Quinn’s shoes – wanting to emulate my mother and dress up like an adult – as a mom, I want her to enjoy all of the good things associated with childhood. Rather than foundation, concealer and blush, I’d prefer her to ride her tricycle around Lake Murray and chase bubbles with friends at Balboa Park.
As a parent, it is my job to guide Quinn through these early years and make sure she doesn’t miss out on making memories she will cherish as an adult. Because of this commitment to protecting these precious years, our family will gladly take field mouse-bopping Bunny Foo Foo over gum-popping Honey Boo Boo any day.