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Published August 09, 2011, 12:00 AM

Parenting Perspectives: ‘Toddlers & Tiaras’ real scary TV

During my summer staycation, I watched some scary television: aliens from outer space in “Falling Skies,” disturbing hoarders, a teen werewolf, and B- and C-list celebrities in rehab with Dr. Drew. But the most frightening program for me was TLC’s “Toddlers & Tiaras.”

By: Kathy Tofflemire, INFORUM

I took the ultimate staycation this summer. I never left Fargo. In fact, I rarely left my condo.

During my time at home, I watched some scary television: aliens from outer space in “Falling Skies,” disturbing hoarders, a teen werewolf, and B- and C-list celebrities in rehab with Dr. Drew. But the most frightening program for me was TLC’s “Toddlers & Tiaras.”

Seeing little girls painted up to look like china dolls or, more disturbing, to look like pint-size Vegas showgirls, creeped me out big time.

As a child, I took dance lessons for seven years. I learned to tap dance, twirl a baton and dance on my toes. And I think a little rouge and lipstick might have been applied for the annual recital.

But these beauty pageants featuring little girls, and sometimes boys, are a whole different world. Parents of youngsters on the “glitz circuit” spend thousands of dollars on formal wear, costumes, wigs, full makeup, spray tans and “flippers” (fake teeth) to cover up that 6-year-old’s missing tooth or the 7-year-old’s Letterman gap.

These kids spend hours practicing their “routines” to impress judges with their ability to shimmy, shake and blow kisses.

The whole thing gives me a case of the heebie-jeebies.

Pageant winners get ribbons and trophies and huge crowns. And, as far as I’m concerned, some rather unpleasant egos.

“Everybody looks at me because I’m beautiful and I’m cute,” said one little girl.

The parents claim these pageants teach the kids things like poise and confidence and commitment. OK, but does a 4-year-old need those on the playground?

The mothers appear to be living vicariously through their children. Many of the moms are the antithesis of beauty queens.

A recent episode (let me admit I watched a couple more just to get material) featured a little girl who was back in the “biz” after telling her mother that she “didn’t want to do pageants anymore.”

Was she no longer having fun? No, that wasn’t it.

Was she interested in some other activity like, say, soccer? No.

She quit, she says, “because I lost.”

Another child who won an armful of trophies and crowns still left a pageant in tears because she didn’t win the ultimate supreme title. (The prize was a pink, frilly canopy bed.)

Another shed copious tears because she didn’t win a crown, even a small one.

What kinds of lessons are those kids being taught? If you don’t win, you won’t play?

The parents always claim that their little darlings do this because they want to, yet the cameras in the hotel rooms often show cranky kids complaining about all the fuss over their appearance. But, I have to admit, when most of them hit the stage, they’re “on” and grinning from ear to ear – be it an ever-so-fake smile.

The mother and aunt of one contestant keep her “motivated” by giving her sugar cubes. (She’s really going to need that flipper.)

The same little girl’s dad built a stage in their driveway for her to practice on.

She’s 3 years old!

Unlike, Miss America, Miss Universe and other adult pageants, the pee-wee circuit doesn’t seem to be a spectator sport. The only people in these cavernous hotel conference rooms are the children, their families and the judges.

Oh, and the camera crews.

I recorded one more episode, but deleted it from my DVR; I couldn’t bring myself to watch. Give me aliens and werewolves.

And if I feel a need to roll my eyes in dismay, and disdain, in the near future, I’ll catch a couple of episodes of “Bridezillas.”


Kathy Tofflemire is a copy editor at The Forum. Readers can reach her at (701) 241-5514

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