When I asked Sarah yesterday whether she wanted a pony tail, braids, or pig tails for school I wasn’t expecting to have a moment that would alter my parenting. With a gleam in her big brown eyes, my daughter excited replied: “One pigtail. One braid.”
It took me a second to swallow my immediate reaction- a desire to correct and control. Really? One of each? In my head I quickly ran through the various scenarios. Two stuck out in particular: One in which Sarah is sitting on the playground crying after being teased. In the other scenario she is pushing some dirty-blond haired kid to the ground because he teased her about her hair. Neither are settling thoughts. And then the teacher, what is she going to think of me? No, I’m not lazy or lack care. This is what Sarah asked for.
Like I said, it took a second to check myself and bite my tongue. “Ok sweetie, go get two hairbands.” With great care, I quickly put half of lil’ miss’s golden brown hair into a pigtail, allowing myself a few seconds to admire her natural curls. I then do my best to get her whisps of hair into a somewhat decent looking braid.
Upon finishing, Sarah immediately ran her hand admiringly over the braid and then the pigtail. I snapped her picture and posted it on Facebook, the caption reading: “Sarah wanted one braid and one pony tail today. No, it’s not crazy hair day. She’s just weird.” A little later, a friend replied: “She’s got her own style going on and doesn’t care what anyone else thinks. She’s off to a great start, building that self confidence. Good job mama.”
My friend’s comment really resonated with me. That, combined with the huge smile across my daughter’s face as she looked at herself in the mirror, quelshed any remaining hesitations I had. In its place was an overwhelming desire to raise a strong, confident, quirky kid.
One pigtail. One braid. Why not? If it makes her happy and confident, then I’m all for it.
Our world today is hyper focused on appearance and fitting in. You need to look like X and speak like Y. Do our children really need to be exposed to these false ideas at an early age? Sadly, many of us do just that when we correct the way our child dresses or wears his/her own hair. We are teaching them the cultural norms supersede their wants and desires regarding their own thoughts, opinions and bodies without even realizing it.
I don’t want my four year old worrying about what kids at school think about her outside appearance. She’ll have plenty of time in the future to deal with such foolish and incorrect cultural idealogies.
I say let them be kids. Let them dress like Punky Bruster. Let them lavish in their displays of unique personality. But don’t stop there. Praise them for their confidence and their willingness to be different. Acknowledge their ability to represent who they are and who they want to be. Enjoy them.
Gandhi said “Be the change you want to see in the world.” If you are like me and tired of the ever increasing poor ideas regarding how we should look, dress, and act; particularly, those placed on young girls and women, then do something about it.
Defy the false standards placed upon us and our kids. Encourage them to think on their own and be proud of who they are. Teach the correct values of integrity and self-worth.
Sarah is her own person. She is a goof, a loving sister, intelligent, stubborn, feisty and more. I probably have it easier than others when it comes to cultivating her individuality and confidence because of who Sarah is. She is pretty set on being true to herself. Sarah does what she wants (sometimes to the dismay of her parents). She thinks on her own and asserts her individuality and independence daily. My goal is to not destroy that self-confidence.
Your goal may be to coax Annie or Johnny to leave their shell. Or it may be to recognize the differences between your children and treat them as such, being careful not to create mini versions of their older siblings.
Whatever your goal is my advice is to love them the way they are. Plain and simple. And if I may add… love yourself. You may not realize the full effect you have on your children and their friends, or that young child sitting in the church pew across the aisle. Your children are silently watching you throughout the day. They see the good, the bad and the ugly. If we want them to stand on their own, to form their own conclusions and be true to themselves, then we need to start with ourselves.
Love yourself and be true to who you are and hope to be.
Love those crazy midgets.
And change the world.