In conversation with an 8 year old curly girl
I explain to my kids that we are all made different. That external beauty is not an achievement, it is neither here nor there. I impress upon them to know that their worlds are small and in these small worlds of theirs they are treasured. That they need not be concerned what the big wide world thinks of them because it has absolutely no bearing on their lives. That our control begins and ends with ourselves. That their vision of themselves should not be dependent on what anyone else thinks about them. Still, as much as I do the drill I often find them trying to change the way they look. And being concerned about what the external feedback is. Still, I am reminded that beauty is a ‘thing’ with little girls.
Over the last week I surveyed a few little girls and all of them expressed the desire for what they call ‘long hair’. Every favourite hair style description contained the word ‘long’. Every child I spoke to chose someone else’s hair as their ideal. Followed by the word ‘long’.
My eight year old can reason well beyond her age, she’s truly gifted in many ways and still the idea of beauty bothers her. I persistently try to redirect her toward a higher self-realisation, to excellence and achievements in the various aspects of her life. It is astounding just how much is expected of the modern child. In my day there was school, a regular smack and a more regular smack. Now we have conscientious parenting and my young adult kids look at me with disdain as I threaten them within an inch of their lives. Just kidding- They are a gifts from God.
The standard response from my kids are: ‘can you make my hair long?’ I reply with: Your hair is long. To which she says: not with these curls. Her curls fall on her shoulders even though her hair is actually down to her waist. To which she says: people think i have short hair. My response: but you know that you have long hair. And so we circle. Once a year she gets a choice of hairstyle for her birthday and true as the sun rises in the East she wants it ‘long’. on this one day I allow her to do it with a smile. The rest of the 364 days, she’s fresh out of luck. I can’t impose my will on her forever, but I can fro now and I will not allow my child to feel like she has to change what she looks like to be accepted. I tell her: waterpower does not work. So cry if you want to it will help your curls into shape.
In short little people have little people concerns. In their world of little things are big things. As parents we need to continually reinforce the ideas we hope will stick and discourage the ones we deem useless. Why is beauty a ‘thing’ for little people. Is it TV shows? Is it the still dominant social discourse that ‘girls are made of sugar and spice and all things nice’ and do fairy tales and stories inevitably lead to the idea that it is beauty that wins? Why aren't there more stories about the smart girl? the strong girl? the achiever? How is it that Barbie is eternally etched into the ideal?
I for one embraced monster dolls. Scary as they may seem, they are different. They have blue and pink skin. They dress up in crazy outfits. They are different and I like the idea that a child can like something out of the norm. Its been a week and Miss thing makes sure she wears her silk helmet to make sure the hair stays straight. Come Friday its back to our curly selves.