It’s happening already. My daughter, who isn’t even 4 yet, already hates the way she looks. She already hates her hair, and that it is “different” from everyone else’s.
As I got her ready for preschool the other day I gave her a shower, and took a long time combing out each and every tiny ringlet that crowns her head. I painstakingly untangled every knot, and when I was finished her hair was glistening, bouncy and healthy. Rather than pull it up in her signature style (pigtails), I thought she should wear it down. Before I was even finished with her hair she started melting down.
“I want to wear my hair up Mommy”, she wailed.
“No Dani, I think we should wear it down today and give your scalp a rest. Okay?”, I coaxed.
Then the water works started in earnest, “No Mommy, everyone will stare at me because my hair looks silly. I don’t want people to see it.”
Now I wanted to cry! She is 3!! How can she already be feeling like her appearance isn’t good enough, that somehow people will laugh at her because of her hair? Why is this happening so young?
My daughter is probably going to have a life filled with explaining why she looks different from her parents and her brothers. She is never going to have a curtain of satiny hair that she can toss over her shoulder. She might never feel like she fits in, at home or at school. I guess it’s good, in a way, that this is starting early, so that by the time she is in middle school, and girls get cliquey and mean, she might already be armed with a self-esteem that is impenetrable.
I sat her in front of a mirror and told her how beautiful she is. I told her that her hair makes her special, it might be different than her classmates, and that is a good thing. I told her if people stare, it is because her hair is so different, they are going to want to know what if feels like, why is curls the way it does, and they are going to wish they had her hair too.
My daughter is beautiful there is no denying this. Her hair is a billion little black corkscrews, her eyes are so black you can almost not see a pupil, her skin is like silky chocolate, her eyes are enormous and beautiful, framed by perfectly curled eyelashes that you normally only see on a doe. She has a smile that lights up a room, she has the kind of empathy that can’t be taught, she is a natural nurturer, she is the kind of girl who find a bug inside the house and she gently scoops it up and returns it to it’s home in the outdoors. When her younger brother hurts her and he is crying after I reprimand him, it is Dani that goes and comforts him and makes him laugh again. No one taught her these things, they are instinctual, I can only hope that she will learn that these are what matter, and not her hair or the color of her skin, or whether she has X or Y chromosomes.
She has everything else she needs to be successful this will be the only thing I will need to teach her for her to make it in this world, and it is the biggest lesson of them all. Pray for me.