I knew immediately when I picked my daughter Maddy up from school that day that something was wrong. The happy-go-lucky, funny, and vibrant little girl who normally greets me at the end of the day was replaced by a more reserved, shy, quiet statue. Instead of running to the car with glee as she normally would, she walked quietly by my side as if we were taking our last steps off the plank.
We got in the car, buckled up, and pulled away from school. As I normally do, I asked how her day was. “Fine,” she answered in a short, clipped voice. We rode in silence for a few minutes until she piped up from the backseat in a sad, confused tone.
“Mommy, am I pretty?”
“Of course, baby. On the inside and out. Why do you ask?”
“Well, Ethan told me today that he wouldn’t play with me because I’m not pretty enough.”
And then, for the first time as a mom, my heart broke into a million pieces for my daughter—not because a boy told her that she wasn’t pretty enough, I don’t put value in such superficial things. My heart broke because for the first time, at the young age of 4 ½, she questioned her self-worth and value to others. In her mind, she had been told that she wasn’t good enough to play with simply because of the way she looked—and she believed it. To make matters worse, these comments have been going on for a while now in many different shapes and forms. He’s apparently picked on her for quite some time, and up until this point, Maddy has kept it all to herself.
If I’m being fair, I know that kids can be mean—not always in an intentional way, but it happens. I know that in their innocence, they say and do things that they don’t realize are hurtful and damaging to others. I know that small children at this age are just beginning to soak up all they see and hear in the world, and in their own way, they begin to use said knowledge as they feel it applies. On the flip side, I also know that there are mean kids. Whether it has to do with a lack of parenting or whatever the case may be, the fact remains that there are children in this world who are just plain mean, and as a result, their hatefulness rubs off on others.
Knowing and accepting all of this, I’m still pissed. I’m upset for many reasons. I’m upset that a boy at the age of 4 (!) has this mentality—a mentality that he picked up from someone, somewhere in his life—and was never corrected and is allowed to behave this way. I’m pissed that my daughter was the recipient of his callous words. At this young age, she shouldn’t have a care in the world, let alone being forced to worry about such trivial issues like how she looks and, by way of said comment, question her self-worth.
I’m pissed mostly with myself that I hadn’t prepared my daughter to be strong and resilient for something like this, but how could I have known? They are both children. This shouldn’t even be an issue! To even entertain this way of thinking or accept that this is the new “normal” for kids in this day and age is simply unacceptable. And we wonder why there are so many grown women in the world with body image issues and so many men who don’t know how to treat women. It’s the very basic principals of respect, kindness, and thoughtfulness that are sorely lacking in our world today, regardless of age.
To you Ethan, I say this: Fuck your little shitty attitude and comments. You may only be 4, but you’re a little shit and you’re old enough to know exactly what you’re doing. At the end of the day, I’ll try to remember that I should be more upset with your parents for not doing their job in raising you, but it’s hard. I feel sorry for you that you will miss out on experiencing what so many other kids and friends of Maddy already know: that she’s a beautiful person, with a kind heart and thoughtful demeanor. You will never know that despite all of the mean things you’ve said to her, she talks fondly of you at home and still calls you a friend and that, Ethan, is a beautiful little lady.
For you, my dearest Maddy, I leave you with this: You are your own divine person. God made you in His image so you are beautiful in every way. Love and forgive those who taunt and make fun of you—they need it the most. Weak people lash out at those who are strong and able. Live not to please others, but live to make a difference in the world; every day you live you will be leaving your mark on the world and the people you come in contact with, so make your impression positive and make it count. Use the gifts and talents you have been blessed with to be an inspiration and a tool for teaching others.
If I could protect you from every bad thing in the world, I would gladly take on all the pain and sadness you are currently facing and one day will be forced to endure. Unfortunately most of it will come from the hands of others, but know this: No one else’s feelings or words can have power over you, and at the end of the day, they are not your eternal destiny.