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Stop Marketing Super Skinny Jeans to Girls

The "perfect fit" for girls on OldNavy.com

A couple of years ago, I wouldn't have thought twice about the semi-ridiculous names given to children's denim. But now I have an 8-year-old girl on my hands.

She's funny and spunky, strong and kind. She's a dancer, an artist, a writer and a mathematician all rolled into one little tie-dyed sneaker wearing ball of non-stop conversation. And we love her for it.

But 8 means learning new things about the world around her — which means curiosity and questions galore. Eight means questioning questionable billboards and wondering what things really mean. Eight means conversations like this one:

"Mommy, am I skinny or super skinny?"

"Well, you're strong from dance, you're healthy from eating good foods and you're happy from lots of playing. Why do you ask?"

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I followed her gaze to the rack of jeans at Old Navy. We were there for her brother, but she's a shopper by nature and, like her mom, she loves her denim. Ah, yes, of course. The endless shelves of adult-themed jeans for kids. Skinny jeans. Super skinny jeans. The boyfriend skinny. And let's not forget the "rock star jeggings." (Please don't get me started on the "Shorty Mini Shorts" for girls.) For the first time ever, the names of the jeans meant something to her, and she didn't know what to make of it.

We had a long talk about strength vs. size and good health vs. inactivity. We discussed the fact that narrow is a better description than "skinny," because it tells you what the legs of the jeans will actually feel like when you put them on. We discussed advertising and money, and the fact that 8-year-old girls have a lot of boys who are friends, but that they wouldn't necessarily want to wear jeans cut for boys.

Really, Old Navy? Can't we just let kids be kids? Do I really have to launch into a conversation about healthy body image in the middle of your store, when all I really want is a purple T-shirt?

In pushing down the styles created for women, brands take a little bit of the "child" out of childhood.

In a statement to ABC News, an Old Navy spokesperson said that the product names are "intended to describe only the fit, cut and style" of the popular pants. While I believe this to be true, I think Old Navy, among other brands, is missing the point.

We talk a lot about the pushing down of academics these days. Preschool is the new kindergarten and first grader around the country are crying over their homework. Outraged parents are boycotting this, that and the other thing and trying to fight back, because childhood is slipping away.

But very few people are fighting back against companies doing the very same thing. In using adult descriptions for children's styles, we continue the trend of creating a generation of mini-me kids.

In pushing down the styles created for women, brands take a little bit of the "child" out of childhood. They fast-track childhood, even if they don't intend to.

Call them popsicle jeans, call them monkey bar jeans, call them any number of child-friendly adjective jeans.

These style names, intended to be cute, set our kids up to consider things beyond their developmental level. Skinny vs. super skinny? I don't even like it when adult jeans carry these labels. I certainly don't want to find my 8-year-old daughter staring at her reflection wondering if she's skinny enough. Boyfriend jeans for little girls? This terminology should not even be on their radar. Kids should be concerned about things like hanging from monkey bars and laughing with friends. Giving them adult language at such a young age sets them up to consider the meaning of a "boyfriend" and whether or not they should want one.

Kids internalize the messages that surround them. Yes, we can and should have honest conversations about what it means to have a healthy body image with our children. But we should also be able to buy them jeans made just for kids.

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Call them popsicle jeans, call them monkey bar jeans, call them any number of child-friendly adjective jeans. Or just call them what they are — narrow leg, wide leg or jeggings. But please, for the love of childhood, stop trying to make our children into mini adults. They have their whole lives ahead of them. Let them live with innocence in their hearts just a little bit longer.

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Image via Old Navy

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