Like many little girls her age, my four year old is completely enthralled by the Disney princesses. Her current favorite is Rapunzel. After watching the movie, she came to me and asked “why don’t I have hair like Rapunzel? I want hair like hers.” I took this as an opportunity to remind her that she is a princess (something I’ve been telling her since she was a baby) and that her own hair was absolutely beautiful. I told her that her hair, her skin, everything from her cute nose down to her little toes were just perfect for her (something I’ve also said to her since she was little). I’ve seen her walk around the house with a towel hanging from her head a few times since then – many of you will know just what I’m talking about- but for the most part, she loves her hair.
This conversation made me think about how often I tell my daughter that she is beautiful, that she is smart and that I love her exactly the way she is. Sometimes my patience is short and sometimes she makes me a little crazy but honestly, I absolutely love and wouldn’t change anything about her.
As I’ve said before, kids are very perceptive. This isn’t new information. Still, we have to be vigilant about what they hear and more importantly what they feel from us regarding them. It absolutely saddens and angers me to hear a parent call their child stupid, retarded, ugly or even bad. Busy, disrespectful- and then instruct them how to be respectful- but not bad. Sadly, some parents don’t realize that as a child’s first teacher and their natural protector, they soak up every word and their intent -spoken and unspoken. Protection isn’t limited to their physical wellbeing. We are also responsible for protecting them from self-hate and low self-esteem.
Recently, Ryan Nicole’s teacher spoke to me after class. She mentioned that Ryan was very upset earlier that day. “One of the other kids had the insane idea to tell her that she was not a real princess,” her teacher said, shaking her head. “Ryan was adamant in her refusal to even entertain what they were saying. After her final declaration, ‘I am my mom’s, my daddy’s and my pop-pop’s princess’ she was done, back to her old, fun loving little self.” In her teacher’s words, “her self-confidence is off the charts, even telling the other little girls in the class that they were princesses too!”
My baby J. Yes, I believe that a day will come when what her friends think will appear to have more value than anything that I say. I’m sure my own mother will say that she knows the feeling. What I also believe is that when this day comes, somewhere deep inside, she will hear echoes of my encouragement, praises and love cutting through the noise. She will be reminded that she is a princess and that she is beautiful just the way she is.
By Danee Riggs