“Am I pretty Mommy?” How do you answer these words honestly, when faced with the searching eyes of your young daughter. Telling her that she’s pretty is an easy task. Of course she’s pretty!
She is actually a beautiful girl. But she had been told this constantly since she arrived into this world. I continuously reaffirmed this tidbit of knowledge in her head if not daily or weekly, at least twice a month.
She has beautiful skin, the placement of her eyes, nose, lips were all in the right spots and all of them complimented each other. But that was the technical aspect. She is a cute kid, even a bias blind man could see that. But this was not what her trembling voice was asking me tonight. This question was deeper than the basic ” do I look good in this dress” or ” is my ribbon pretty”. This was the beginning of self doubt and the moment when society’s opinions would start to seep into her beautiful and peaceful mind ( which to this point had laid dormant unaware of the attacks to come by society and its poison).
“Am I pretty mommy?”, I dreaded the day when this would happen. When instead of stating a fact that yes she was pretty. And reinforcing the unpopular fact that true beauty came from inside ( which even at her age, she had already mastered inner beauty) did not matter now. I pulled her closer trying to look more into her eyes, hoping to find some form of resemblance to what I had taught her, and the reality that stared her in any mirror. Instead I was greeted by crushed innocence. On enquiring why she was asking this question. She explained how the kids in her school had started to teasing her calling her ugly and some of the most ridiculous names. ( it took every cell in my body to keep me from going to that school after those kids).
This was not the first time she had faced teasing. Kids can be evil and many of us did not escape our childhood without the scars of school yard teasing. I can remember being teased for being too skinny, too tall, the lack of pigment in my skin, and even the fact that i had big eyes. Looking back all i can say is seriously guys, big eyes. These the same eyes most of you are now using makeup and surgery to imitate. But i digressed. This time the teasing had hit her at a weak moment and the waves of doubt had soaked into her emotional blanket.
Telling her that they were jealous would be a quick fix, but not long lasting. Another go around about we are all beautiful and who we are was more important, she was too smart and would despise the lack of effort. Showing her how beautiful she was in the mirror, effective, but would take years without a real effect. By that time, the class idiots would have her believing their version of reality. Which was just to cover their own self issues ( I am bias, I admit it, but I have seen the kids). I \had to find something a 7 year old could accept and run with. Then i thought of it I would be honest.
She didn’t need some deep psychological theory. She didn’t need me to recite some parable or Shakespeare poem of how beautiful she was. She already had that foundation. This needed something at school yard level. Something she could wrap her seven years around. I sat her on my lap and began what was to be my best attempt at mothering ( at least for the next 30 minutes as we know shit happens at the speed of light for parents).
I told my daughter about the horrors i had as a kid. I showed her pictures of how I looked as a kid. Told her about the countless times i had gone home crying because of being the joke of the day ( kids can be so mean). I am not quite sure what shocked her more. My honesty, the teasing i got or my childhood pictures- I think the latter got a lot more attention. I showed her class pictures, pointing out the popular girls and the “pretty kids”. Then I pulled out the big guns. I pulled up Facebook on my computer. Facebook can be used as a great way of keeping in contact with friends, finding lost loves. But that night Facebook was used to show a little kid how beautiful mother nature and bad karma could work together. While pointing to kids in my class photos, i would pull up the present picture of that person. She couldn’t believe it. She kept asking if they were my age or grandmas. The cute little hair was replaced with strong need for Rogaine. Tiny athletic bodies had disappeared. Instead pretty faces became the shadows to bitter expressions. Her wide expressions were priceless. She asked if that happened to all bullies. I told her no, but many of them did end up old, bitter and alone ( disclaimer. As a parent I am allowed to tell little white lies. You may tell lies about Santa Clause and Tooth Fairy. I told her that negative energy affects everyone” looks. Not perfectly true. But sometimes it is. Please also remember that my approach was combined with years of me telling her that I love her, that she is beautiful and that everyone is. But sometimes you have to think out the box in parenting). This was all it took. The wheel started turning in her brain faster than any hamster wheel. She didn’t need me to say anything else. With a gentle smile. She kissed me. Jumped down and went skipping to her bedroom.
Did my approach perform a shield her from future teasing. Of course not. I don’t hold a magical wand in my purse. Will it remove all doubt that may creep into her mind. Nope I don’t fart rainbows either. What it did and would do is give her a glimpse into reality. The reality that the super cool kids in her class are a few years away from needing major surgery and whatever other process they will have in the future. She now knows that today, isn’t tomorrow and that the “ugly” duckling can have her day to shine. That combined with more “pretty girl” talks, may just get her into high school unscarred. That will be another game plan. Hopefully by then she will see more people who look like her in magazines and TV, and her self worth may be high enough to take on that battle. But until that day arrives, Facebook will remain a click away.P.S: my method works for my kids. Its not perfect. Everyone has there own bag of tricks.