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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