Monday, October 17, 2011

You're Just Fine The Way You Are

The other day, I had a conversation with Little Miss and my mom. My mom brought up how rarely Little Miss wears a dress to school, to which I countered that considering she used the last dress she wore as a parachute while jumping off a rock - forget the monkey bars, etc - that's probably a good thing!

Little Miss piped in that she didn't like to wear dresses to school because Paul (not his name) makes fun of her when she does. I gulped and struggled to retain an impassive face. "Oh?" I asked her as calmly as I could. "Why does Paul make fun of you when you wear dresses?"

"Well, it isn't just dresses when he makes fun of me," she slowly replied. "He tells me that I don't look good. That's why I try to wear Toy Story and Star Wars shirts most of the time because I know he likes those."

My heart sunk.

My beautiful little girl with her very unique sense of style has already had it quashed by a little boy, someone who isn't happy himself (there's a lot of back story to this, but suffice it to say he's struggling in a lot of facets) who just wants someone else to be unhappy, too.

And it worked.

I pulled her close to me and gave her a hug. As angry as I was that someone would try to hurt my child and as sad that she was susceptible to someone telling her how she should feel, I didn't want to share this with her or make it a bigger deal in her mind.

"Sweetie," I smiled at her. "You are a beautiful and sweet little girl. Do you like the clothes that you wear when you choose them?"

She nodded carefully.

"If you like the way you look, then that's what matters. If the way you dress makes you happy, dress that way. If you do your hair in a way that makes you smile, do it like that. You don't want to give one person power over you to make you feel good or bad about yourself. What matters is what you think about what you've done and who you are. When someone is unhappy, they want other people to be unhappy with them. Don't let them do that to you. You wear what makes you happy. There are lots of other people who think you look just fine no matter what you wear."

I took a deep breath and thought about how to continue, how to make her understand that this is so very wrong, how to help her develop a stronger sense of self that can't be shaken by one insensitive person. I talked to her a bit more, and she seemed to feel better, but I know this is just the beginning. She's in first grade, and this was a boy. What's it going to be like once she hits middle school?

More importantly, what else can I do to help her?

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Not a Perfect Mom October 17, 2011 at 9:05 PM starts so young...
makes me cringe for the upcoming years...

tiarastantrums October 17, 2011 at 10:22 PM  

oh - this is so hard!! I get so sad when things like this happen to our kids!! Good for you and your little chat!

Lisa Noel October 18, 2011 at 2:12 PM  

As a mom of only boys I'm really not surehow I would handle this. But we have been trying to teach our boys this very same lesson is being who they are, dressing or doing their hair or enjoying the hobbies they want because its what they like and not caring what others think. But I know it takes a whole new level when its a girl, getting messages from a boy! I'd say just keeping talking to her about it and when you can get her brother to positively reinforce what you are telling her. And I'm sure he does but make sure her dad is expressing it regularly too!!!

Melisa Wells October 18, 2011 at 2:25 PM  

What you did is exactly right, and you just have to keep on doing it. It's definitely not the last time someone is going to make her feel like she needs to change her real self, so a good foundation at home will boost her up and make her more resistant to outside influences of every kind.

septembermom October 19, 2011 at 6:46 AM  

You said all the right things. I agree with Melisa that you just got to keep saying them. It is so tough for kids these days. I hear too many stories of kids' evaluating each other. It's tough to be a kid. She's a beauty and so smart like her Mom!

Sandra October 19, 2011 at 9:33 AM  

Michelle, I've been thinking about this to answer your question, but I think you already told your daughter the most appropriate response, one that is most helpful for HER. I really think it's as important to do help our kids feel good about themselves as it is to teach our kids NOT to be insensitive to others. I also fear for my daughter as she nears middle school age...

Pat October 19, 2011 at 5:11 PM  

Wow, Michelle, what you said to Little Miss was right on. It must be heart-breaking to hear that a kid at school was making fun of your little girl and telling her that she doesn't look good. Words like that can leave quite a wound in a little one (or a big one, for that matter. I agree with Lisa Noel about making sure that her dad expresses to her how much he loves her and how pretty she is and she should dress in a way that makes her happy (as long as it's appropriate). A girls needs her daddy's support, love, encouragement and approval SO much!

Kim/reluctant renovator October 23, 2011 at 10:11 PM  

Ugh. Already changing her ways to please a boy! I think you handled it quite well and calmly, too. Keep moving ahead with open dialogue and encouragement.

Michelle November 8, 2011 at 10:45 AM  

Holly - It DOES start so young, and at our last PTO meeting we had a presentation by the social worker and wow is it vicious sometimes, too. They showed how they're teaching our kids to be safe online AND how to use online tools, not issue they've had but yikes!

Teresa - I do, too. I wish I could just wipe all these things away, but ... they need to figure it out for themselves, I suppose.

Lisa - It's funny, too, because there are times I have the opposite conversations with Mister Man where he DOES need to look at what other kids are doing and find ways to not stick out so much - but that's due to social deficits on the flip side. And I hate having that conversation.

Melisa - Thanks for the support. Coming from the mom of two well adjusted boys, it means a lot.

Kelly - Thanks. It is all an evaluation, and the parents don't help. Nor do the tv shows so many watch. Life is just flat out too negative.

Sandra - Oh don't even bring up middle school! I'm going to pretend those years just don't exist.

Pat - You're right about Daddy getting involved, which is something I need to do more. He plays his teacher role at home too much sometimes.

Kim - Yep, already doing it. Although I don't think she thinks of him as a boy - he's just her friend. She's such a tomboy and still so sensitive to it.

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