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Mother-Daughter Spa Time

Mom and daughter spa bonding? Hmmm. The idea doesn't really appeal to me. But then, I'm not -- and never was -- a particularly girly girl. Plus, I'm not sure my boys will want to be caught dead with me at a day spa when they are teenagers.

The simple mom-daughter manicure and pedicure have morphed, according to ABC News, into bikini waxes, facials, hair highlights and more for tweens and teens.

Moms look at the practice of these special extras for their daughters as teaching them to care for themselves... much like brushing and flossing. Girls report wanting to look more like Miley Cyrus with her now-trimmed eyebrows and the peer pressure around boys rating them on their looks.

Troubling, of course, is how early girls' self-esteem is based on their appearances. A birthday party at a spa when a girl loves to get her hair or nails done? You're just following what she likes. Six-year-olds emulating the "Bratz" club or wanting to be princesses -- all normal and healthy. But when do you say to a girl: "That's great, honey, but you really are wonderful no matter what."

Moms of girls, how do you deal with issues of appearance? Has anyone taken their daughter to a day spa around Washington -- or elsewhere in the country? Was it a great bonding experience or a call for more from your daughter? What local spas do a particularly good job of catering to tweens and teens?

By Stacey Garfinkle |  May 28, 2008; 7:00 AM ET  | Category:  Teens , Tweens
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So far, my teen and I have stuck with bonding over mani/pedi's. In recent years, I scheduled her for a massage at three different places, but each time there was a mess-up with the appointment (therapist no-show, overbooking, etc.) and she didn't get the massage. I now figure the snafus were the universe's way of telling me that my daughter shouldn't have a massage yet. If she/we have an all-out spa day now, what will we have to look forward to in 10-20 years?

Posted by: Elaine | May 28, 2008 7:17 AM | Report abuse

"Six-year-olds emulating the "Bratz" club or wanting to be princesses -- all normal and healthy."


Posted by: Anonymous | May 28, 2008 7:49 AM | Report abuse

My feelings about spa days are more economic. It's an expensive habit and I would think it's a better lesson to spend $20 on supplies at the store and do it yourself at home.

Posted by: Em | May 28, 2008 7:58 AM | Report abuse

Mother-daughter spa outings? How precious. No thank you. On my very infrequent visits to a spa, I want to leave my children behind!

As for how we deal with my daughters' personal appearance, I follow in my parents' footsteps, reiterating how pretty they are, "you don't need to wear makeup" (to my 20-y.o. stepdaughter, anyway), and emphasizing that looks don't matter as much as being a kind, smart, hardworking woman. It seemed to work well for my sisters and me. Fingers crossed, it will work on my two girls.

Posted by: WorkingMomX | May 28, 2008 8:11 AM | Report abuse

I have two boys, but I don't think it's appropriate for teens. It's getting more into the appearance, at a time when girls should be learning who they are and that they are precious no matter what - perhaps the bonding should come when the kids are a little older. It just seems to be sending the wrong message to them.

I felt incredibly grown up when my mom would take me to her hairdresser - and really really grown up when I could go myself to the salon (in high school, when I walked there).

I did get a manicure for my sweet sixteen (nothing fancy, at the house) - and i felt REALLY grown up cause it was a very busy saturday - and they messed up appointments, so I was getting my hair cut and my nails done at the same time. So, maybe, for special occasions, it seems like a good idea - to sort of show the girls what is out there, but as a matter of course? I think we are showing kids way too much - and realistically, while in college, those kids wouldn't be able to afford that (at least, I would suspect that) - and we're already raising many children who feel entitled to so many things, it wouldn't seem to me to make sense to add to that.

Posted by: atlmom | May 28, 2008 8:57 AM | Report abuse

I think it depends on the kid. Something like this wouldn't have done it for me; I've had a few massages when I was really sore from something (like, say, pregnancy), but never got into the "pretty" aspect of things -- never even had a pedicure until I was 40. But my daughter, well, since she was about 4 yrs old, seems like every week she's asking me if she can go outside and paint her toenails. So I can see taking her to a spa for a birthday present, because she'd get a huge kick out of it (wish this post had come out last month -- I could have used the idea!).

I guess, if I were more into the spa thing (and, umm, less cheap), a regular mother-daughter visit could be a good bonding thing. But knowing me, I'd worry about the messages. Our girls are already under so much social pressure to be pretty and thin and popular and all that; I wouldn't want to reinforce the importance of appearance, or send some unintended signal that pretty = mommy loves you. So the regular spa trip isn't my thing. But if it works for someone else, I'm not going to criticize them for it.

Posted by: Laura | May 28, 2008 9:20 AM | Report abuse

I don't think it is all about appearances, though there is that element. I go to spa days because they make me feel good. I feel refreshed and relaxed, whether it is just a pedi or a full "day" (which are treats more than anything; once a year). And, I often go with girlfriends to catch up and bond and have fun. Why wouldn't I then go with my daughter (when she is a bit older)?? I'm not seeing any harm here.

I just read an article (a few months back, actually) in the New Yorker about aging and the gerontology field. Some (not all) of the "spa" treatments are recommended as you get older: particularly certain types of massages and, yes, pedicures (feet are often a neglected part of the body that cause tremendous problems if left unattended). So, there are are therapeutic benefits here. And, I can honestly say that I feel those benefits after after a pedi, massage and/or facial. The whole sending the wrong message thing . . . I guess I just disagree with that.

Posted by: Jen | May 28, 2008 9:31 AM | Report abuse

As the father of three daughters, that ABC article is just plain scary.

Disclaimer: yes, I have given DW spa days as presents before, and she absolutely loved them. But they're special treats; it's not something she needs to do regularly.

Additional disclaimer: yes, my daughters do like to get dressed up and made up on special occasions - homecoming, prom, etc. - and I've paid for my share of hairstylings, dresses, shoes and matching purses, etc. But again, those are understood by all to be special occasions, not something that's an everyday part of life.

But sheesh! We've always emphasized to our daughters (and our son) that what's important is being successful and happy in your life. Play sports, be in the chorus and/or band, get involved with service organizations, succeed in academics, be active in church - those kinds of things. Frankly, it doesn't matter if some pimply-faced juvenile delinquent says you're a "2" or a "10" - you need to be happy with who you are and you can laugh at that loser later on.

(I try to do the same with the teams I coach. The softball team's motto is "play like a girl - if you're good enough.")

I understand the culture - to somewhat tie in to today's On Balance topic, when I was a Visiting Prof at the Air Force Academy, the male cadets used to have fun by telling all the female cadets they were fat. I can assure you that given the physical and athletic requirements, not a single cadet of either gender was "fat". But this just seemed to be something the men could do that they knew would really bother some of the women, so they did it.

Yeah, it's a battle and sometimes a losing one, but sheesh - mothers like the one in that article infuriate me.

Posted by: ArmyBrat | May 28, 2008 9:41 AM | Report abuse

what planet are you on? Every other family in America is trying figure out how to afford four dollar a gallon gas and four dollar a gallon milk for their kids! Sheesh. Spa days? Are you out of your mind? If that's all you have to worry about, then clearly you are overpaid and underworked. Why don't you go out and volunteer and help with the many charitable organizations that are having a tough go in our current economic climate. Our papers are full of stories of senior citizens who no longer get Meals on Wheels because there aren't enough volunteers who can afford to deliver them, abandoned pets about to be euthanized at the shelters, and food pantries running out of supplies. And you're worried about your TOENAILS! Grow up already.

Posted by: Anonymous | May 28, 2008 10:12 AM | Report abuse

The two are not mutually exclusive. How do you know the folks posting here don't give to charity? Get off your high horse.

Posted by: To 10:12 | May 28, 2008 10:20 AM | Report abuse

The two are not mutually exclusive. How do you know the folks posting here don't give to charity? Our family DOES. I am neither undereworked or overpaid, despite your generalizations otherwise. So, get off your high horse.

Posted by: To 10:12 | May 28, 2008 10:21 AM | Report abuse

Jen, don't get me wrong -- I really enjoy the spa stuff myself. Ever since I got pregnant with my first 8 yrs ago, I've discovered the joy of massages and the like. Like you, I really enjoy the relaxation and stress-reduction aspect.

I absolutely would do a mom-daughter day as a present for a special occasion, because my girl would get a kick out of it. But I have a really negative reaction to the type of spa stuff discussed in the attached article. Chemical treatments for 7-yr-olds? Girls feeling pressured to look good, so they go out and buy confidence from having their hair done in a salon? Moms who say the spa is necessary to teach basic hygiene? It strikes me as both overindulgent (teaching kids that spas are a need, not an occasional treat) and damaging (reinforcing message girls are already receiving from elsewhere that looking perfect is, in fact, important -- OMG, Miley Cyrus just had her eyebrows done, so now I need to, too).

The mom quoted at the end -- spa treatments "will teach them to take care of themselves and have pride" -- pretty much epitomizes the thinking that bugs me. I don't want to teach my daughter that peels and waxes and chemical treatments are a mandatory part of "taking care of herself." And I want to teach her to have pride in who she is and what she does, not in the fact that she has the best eyebrows in the 5th grade.

Posted by: Laura | May 28, 2008 10:23 AM | Report abuse

Yeah, I was looking at some actresses pix the other day and all I could think was how deathly skinny they looked so their heads looked really large.

I think this might be part of a message we are sending to our kids re: you have to be beautiful, and thin, etc. I'm not completely comfortable with that.

Posted by: atlmom | May 28, 2008 10:24 AM | Report abuse

Play like a girl - if you're good enough.

AB, I love this. I'll bet you're a great dad.

Posted by: WorkingMomX | May 28, 2008 10:25 AM | Report abuse

I'm coming from a different perspective, but by some fluke in genetics my average-looking husband and average-looking I produced a beautiful 7-year-old daughter. Literally, the kind that stops people on the street.

She's not a girly-girl, and seems interest in fashion only as a way of communicating with her peers. She is more likely to wear one of her brother's cast-offs than not.

The thing is, she hears constantly how beautiful she is. We have done the whole "it's what's inside that matters" thing, which I heard growing up. But hearing it in context of a "have" versus a "have-not" is different. I wish I could make other people keep their mouths shut!

Posted by: DC | May 28, 2008 10:26 AM | Report abuse


Posted by: Anonymous | May 28, 2008 10:28 AM | Report abuse

DC -- I hear this about my son all the time. He seems unaware or uninterested when people tell him how gorgeous/stunning/beautiful he is or what amazing eyes he has. We have been stopped by "modeling" agents. Whatever. Not interested. I am concerned that hearing these things will make him conceited, and also concerned that his little sister will be impacted. She does not get such compliments from strangers but hears them given to her brother all the time.

FYI, my husband and I, too, are average looking. On a good day, I fall into the "cute" range. They probably think I'm his nanny.

Posted by: WorkingMomX | May 28, 2008 10:38 AM | Report abuse

"AB, I love this. I'll bet you're a great dad."

I always get the feeling that AB is a sleazy perv.

Oh, and a crashing bore.

Posted by: Anonymous | May 28, 2008 10:40 AM | Report abuse

"DC -- I hear this about my son all the time. He seems unaware or uninterested when people tell him how gorgeous/stunning/beautiful he is or what amazing eyes he has"

And people say this blog is shallow!!!!!

Posted by: Anonymous | May 28, 2008 10:43 AM | Report abuse

Great Post AB, and I concur WMX, emphasizing looks is the wrong way to go. Looks will only get you so far.

I much prefer teaching girls proper body imagine, eating habits, exercise, active lifestyle (in whatever chosen area) and using their common sense.

There are special occasions to be considered, but the emphasis on me, me, me is sending the wrong message. And it is expensive!

Posted by: Get Real | May 28, 2008 10:43 AM | Report abuse

I took my daughter with me once when I got a pedicure and they let her soak her feet too and painted her finger and toenails. It wasn't really a mani/pedi - just nail painting which I do for her at home (and her little brother too). She liked it but I haven't taken her again because I like to go myself or with girlfriends for some personal relaxation. Nail painting I see as pretty harmless but facials, waxing, highlighting hair for girls 9-12 is not necessary in my view. They all look wonderful naturally and don't need all that. Even older girls probably don't either although for girls with difficult skin, facials can help get it under control and might be worth doing if it's causing a lot of heartache.

I worry about too much emphasis on personal appearance for young girls. I remember how insecure I was about my appearance in middle school and high school and dread watching my daughter go through that. So, I'm trying to give her confidence in her appearance without really emphasizing it. I focus on hygiene -washing and brushing her hair regularly, cleaning under her nails, brushing her teeth, etc. -- rather than appearance. We've had a number of conversations about different body types because she has some friends who are a little big. I emphasize that being healthy is the most important thing. Two of these girls play on her soccer team and are pretty active so we've talked about how eating right and getting exercise are great things to do for your body.

It's a minefield and I'm really not sure if I'm striking the right balance. I know as parents we cannot prevent our children from going through tough times and questioning themselves and some of that is good to build character. But, I don't want her feeling unattractive or pressured into looking a certain way. I'd love to hear some advice from moms/dads of older girls that has worked!!

Posted by: Pt Fed Mof2 | May 28, 2008 11:12 AM | Report abuse

What would Jesus do?

Posted by: PTL | May 28, 2008 11:13 AM | Report abuse

Jesus only reads the FoxNews blogs.

Posted by: WorkingMomX | May 28, 2008 12:08 PM | Report abuse

Another bit of inconsequential fluff offered up by the Washington Compost. These really, really profound articles by such geniuses as Leslie Morgan, Stacey, Ruth Marcus, that woman that writes the Checkout blog. Woe is me -- they have to put these people to work doing SOMETHING, right? They worked sooooooo hard for that college degree that daddy paid for.

For what it's worth -- women have always -- ALWAYS -- been judged by their appearance. Men are visual creatures and the outward appearance draws them to women, not the intelligence, the thoughtfulness, the kindness, the ambition, the strength. (Actually, men are scared to death of strong women.) Back in the olden days when I was in high school, we strived for the Jackie Kennedy look. The most popular girls in school had bubble-head hair-dos and bubble-head brains to match. Slenderness was valued; the fat chicks didn't get dates to the prom. Drumming the value of appearance into their little heads at age 6, 7 or 8 can set them up for disappointment later in life.

ArmyBrat -- how would you like to adopt another daughter? I could use a day at the spa right now.

Posted by: Anonymous | May 28, 2008 12:11 PM | Report abuse

WaPost - can someone please delete the Misogynists 'R Us post at 12:11? Sheesh.

Posted by: DCD | May 28, 2008 12:26 PM | Report abuse

My daughters are both in their 20's as is my son. It wasn't until my daughters reached their late teens, prom time...that we had pedicure/manicures together for a very special occasion such as the prom, birthday, etc. Spending quality time reading on a big blanket at Burke Lake Park during the spring or window shopping for hours...just talking, hugging....going on school field trips...those were the things that I hold special. Sadly it's much easier to spend lots of money now to keep your children happy and some have lost touch with what is quality time...

Posted by: B | May 28, 2008 12:51 PM | Report abuse

My son is four and loves to get his nails painted-- red, pink, blue, whatever. I've been doing it for awhile, but I've been pointing out to him more and more that people are likely to point out to him that boys don't do this. He doesn't care. He loves it! and he is into boy stuff otherwise, so I don't think he is a girl trapped in a boys body-- just a boy that thinks it is cool to paint his nails. From what I've read this is pretty normal and that I should just not make a big deal out of it and it will resolve itself. What do you think? I think it's cool that he is willing to risk ridicule from his peers, but wish it were on a different matter like standing up for the taste of veggies or something!

Posted by: capitol hill mom | May 28, 2008 1:00 PM | Report abuse

This article reminded me of the reference in Tom Wolfe's novel "I am Charlotte simmons" where he describes the sorority girls with all of their various fashionable hair do's for their private parts. He wonders how it is that there are trends in this department and that the women all seem to know about the latest looks. He wonders if they actually sit around discussing things like bikini waxes. I believe he finds it alarming because the institution is supposedly Duke University and these young women are supposedly fairly intelligent.

Apparently he didn't realize that the reason all these women are obsessed with bikini waxes and up on the latest fashions is because their mothers have clued them in from an early age. The thing is, in I am Charlotte Simmons, he talks about how instead of studying, mostly the women are grooming themselves for sex, and he suggests that it's kind of sad in a world where supposedly women have been liberated, that mostly what they want to do is prepare themselves to have sex by grooming themselves. This article made me sad. the only thing sadder than the women who were oppressed and being treated like sex objects though they were unaware of it, was the idea that their mothers were complicit in making them into sex objects.

Posted by: Anonymous | May 28, 2008 1:23 PM | Report abuse

I did have a princess spa party for
my DD's 6th birthday. It is cute, girls
only, and I spent the same amount I would
have spent for a "regular party."

This year if we have a party it will be with boys and probably at a gym.

I have taught DD how to do my toenails (I have done hers also) and that is a big indulgence at home with cheap polish.

Posted by: shdd | May 28, 2008 1:25 PM | Report abuse

"the only thing sadder than the women who were oppressed and being treated like sex objects though they were unaware of it, was the idea that their mothers were complicit in making them into sex objects. "

What else is new?

Posted by: They learned it from their mothers | May 28, 2008 1:33 PM | Report abuse

"Six-year-olds emulating the "Bratz" club or wanting to be princesses -- all normal and healthy."



Spa days are dumb. Telling your kids that they won't be proud unless they're pretty is also dumb.

My SD is 5 and knows she rocks socks, because that's what kids at that age do. We did have to have a talk about why she couldn't be Jasmine for Halloween (we don't show our tummies), but aside from that, and teaching her to moisturize (she gets really ashy/bumpy), we don't pay attention to her looks, nor do we intend to. She gets it enough from strangers.

Posted by: Kat | May 28, 2008 1:37 PM | Report abuse

Does the term 'jail bait' ring a bell?

Posted by: Anonymous | May 28, 2008 1:56 PM | Report abuse

I actually agree with the 12:11 PM poster. What he (or she) is saying does have a lot of truth to it. (And this is coming from a female.)

Posted by: Soguns1 | May 28, 2008 2:15 PM | Report abuse

Two fuglies - Oprah & Rosie were "popular" in high school.

Posted by: Yuck! | May 28, 2008 2:27 PM | Report abuse

I'm all for "girls days" or "mom daughter days" but that hardly needs to be limited to spa time.

Personally I want to go to a spa to zone out- NOT chat. I have a hard enough time finding a spa attendant who doesn't want to become my best buddy in a half hour, and definitely feeling a need to socialize with family isn't my idea of a good time at a spa.

I also think that pre-puberty seems like a waste. You can do basic mani/pedi, masks and stuff at home for much cheaper and can be loud and fun without worrying.

Puberty seems like the right time to go clothes shopping and do real spa trips to help teach how to care and maintain their skin and hair- their bodies are changing and it's good to see how to deal with that and what mom finds appropriate.

Posted by: Liz D | May 28, 2008 3:19 PM | Report abuse

"Puberty seems like the right time to go clothes shopping and do real spa trips to help teach how to care and maintain their skin and hair- their bodies are changing and it's good to see how to deal with that and what mom finds appropriate."

When the focus is mainly on looks, there's a creepy "pimp" aspect to it.

Posted by: Joe Simpson | May 28, 2008 3:26 PM | Report abuse

Joe- that certainly could be a possibility. I see it more as the parents job to nurture their child's progression into adulthood, giving them options and educating them on how to maintain their bodies and explore their personal style while simultaneously sharing their own values and priorities.

There's no denying looks are important, the question to ask is WHY are they important and how to use that importance to your advantage. Definitely questions for a young adult to begin pondering.

Posted by: Liz D | May 28, 2008 3:40 PM | Report abuse

12:11 is a female who also agrees with 1:23 and 3:26.

Posted by: Anonymous | May 28, 2008 3:41 PM | Report abuse

"12:11 is a female who also agrees with 1:23 and 3:26."

What is your point?

Posted by: Anonymous | May 28, 2008 3:49 PM | Report abuse


Please replace the brain cells I frittered away on today's topic.

Posted by: Denise Richards | May 28, 2008 3:52 PM | Report abuse

I am 50 and have never been to a spa and had my first (and only) mani-pedi for my 50th birthday. I am well-groomed, just don't feel a need for the spas and salons.

The mother/daughter bonding in my family runs along the lines of hiking in the woods together.

Posted by: lurker | May 28, 2008 4:08 PM | Report abuse

Ugh, I saw that piece on ABC news & found it incredibly disturbing. I never had a professional pedicure until my 20s (on my own dime) & I think about the only time my parents paid for a hairdo (beyond the normal wash & cut) was for prom. Special occasion things, fine. But waxing?? Hair highlights?? Chemical peels??? For 10-12 year olds?? How many 10 year olds need bikini waxes to begin with? Highlights are ridiculously expensive, I don't even get them myself anymore. And the whole point of a chemical peel is to make your skin come out like a 12-year-old's. The mother in that piece was my worst nightmare. You can teach your kids (and it shouldn't be just the girls) to take care of themselves without spending beaucoup bucks at a spa. Soap & water are about all a pre-teen needs. C'mon. 'Hygiene'. That's the stupidest thing I've ever heard.

Posted by: liz | May 28, 2008 4:29 PM | Report abuse

Wow, I actually have only been to a spa once in my life. It was nice but not worth the cost (if you ask me). I did not feel all that great after wards.

I can't imagine bringing a child younger then HS to a spa. Spa parties at home seem harmless and relatively cheap. But a professional spa for 6-12 year olds seem over the top.

I also think this sends totally the wrong message. How could a 6 year old need a chemical treatment?

Posted by: foamgnome | May 29, 2008 7:33 AM | Report abuse

I have never been to the spa- gasp!

I think mother/daughter bonding should be whatever a particular mother/daughter pair enjoy doing together. My 9 year old and I camp, I take my 6 year old to the symphony, Bike ride with one 4 year old, swim with the other and take them each out to eat alone occacionally. We are not Spa people, but if you are I don't see the harm.

Posted by: Momof5 | May 29, 2008 9:09 AM | Report abuse

I think it's all a bit much, BUT

It would have been nice if my mom had taken me to get my lip waxed when I was in high school--a friend of hers one day brought me some bleach because she knew what it was like, but if I'd discovered waxing back then it would have helped me immensely. I think she just didn't get it because it wasn't something she had to deal with.

Posted by: Anonymous | May 29, 2008 9:40 AM | Report abuse

Took my mom (80), my just graduated from high school daughter (17), and me for pedis last weekend. It was the first for me and my mom, but my daughter has had several - with her own money. It was a blast. Great pampering then trundling out with our barely there flip-flops. Loved the calf massages.

Posted by: ABQ | May 29, 2008 10:44 AM | Report abuse

Oh Come On. All this blabber about "I don't want to encourage her to focus on her looks" is two faced. You people will pay OUT THE NOSE to see the latest star and her designer outfit, crane your necks to see the pictures in the tabloid detailing how fat a starlet has gotten and then you say you don't want to focus on your looks? C'mon! It is a scientifically proven fact that beautiful people get a leg up on EVERYTHING. Instant discounts, job offers, the list goes on and on.

My daughter gets compliments every day about how beautiful she is from perfect strangers. And yes, she is beautiful. I feel no need to purposefully dim her appearance b/c someone might take offense to her beauty.

She is attractive and always will be, so my challenge will be teaching her how to accept compliments graciously, not relying on her appearance to get by, to dress conservatively, and how to defend herself from unwanted sexual attention in the future. I wish my parents had taught me that last particular skill instead of sticking their heads in the sand.

Posted by: changingfaces | May 30, 2008 8:36 AM | Report abuse

I certainly don't think anything about the Bratz dolls is healthy. My daughter won't be collecting them!

Suzi is only one, but I plan to find free or cheap ways to spend time with her. I've had several manicures and even one pedicure, but spa day for a "tween?" Pushing it. When a mom feels she has to go out and spend $300 to bond with her daughter, she is probably compensating for something. Something like not spending enough quality time with her family. When my daughter looks back on her childhood and remembers the happy times, I want her to remember going on a hike, playing games, singing along with the radio--even painting each other's toenails in the living room. I don't want her to think of how much money we managed to blow when other people are suffering greatly for lack of it.

Posted by: Jenny | June 4, 2008 10:37 AM | Report abuse

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