My daughter Izzy stands on her purple plastic stool peering at her reflection in her bathroom mirror. Her knitted brows are angry and a tear runs down one ruddy cheek.
“What’s wrong?” I ask, tucking some hair behind her ear.
“Mommy, I hate my hair. Why can’t it be straight like Abby’s? Why is it always so curly and frizzy?” Frizzy? Where did she even learn that word? Because I’ve certainly never said it to her…
“Oh, Izzy, your hair is beautiful,” I say, kneeling down next to her, taking her little hands in mine. Her turquoise nail polish is peeling off. My heart sinks. She’s only 5 1/2 years old. It’s entirely too early for her to have such self-defeating thoughts. Right?
Her face crumples then, and she starts yanking on clumps of hair as if to coax them into submission or pull them out of her head altogether. Her tears now run freely and she’s in meltdown mode.
I’m frozen. I don’t know what to do. I constantly tell my twin daughters how beautiful they are, because I’ve never felt very good about myself and somehow I thought doing so would help them avoid the same collision course.
I’m torn between trying to convince her that she’s perfect the way she is and offering to do some things to help her hair “cooperate.” Quickly I decide it’s best to do whatever I can to improve her mood and her perception of herself/her hair.
“You know what?” I say with a big smile.
Izzy sniffles and swipes her hand underneath her runny nose. “What?” she asks, looking at the floor now.
“I forgot I have some magic stuff. It’s called Moroccan Oil. Want me to show it to you?”
She perks up at the mention of the word “magic” and follows me down the hall to my bathroom, where I pull out the brown bottle and show it to her.
“Wanna try it?” I ask. “We put a little bit in your wet hair after you get out of the shower. We brush it in and then use the hair dryer. It will help make it smooth and shiny,” I explain. She agrees and within about 15 minutes she’s getting her first beauty treatment.
When I’m done, there is very little frizz left. And while her hair isn’t stick straight like her sister’s, it’s pretty darn close. But all that matters is that she’s no longer crying and she’s actually grinning at herself in the mirror now. She tosses her hair around and runs her hands through it.
“Mommy, I love it! Thank you!” she shrieks, and wraps me in a tight hug.
She flies downstairs to show Daddy and her sister her lovely locks. As I wrap the cord back around the hair dryer, I sigh to myself and think, crisis averted.
But not really.
I have to change, we ALL have to change, the way we talk to little girls. After reading this eye-opening article by Lisa Bloom in the Huffington Post, I’ve realized the trouble has been brewing for a long time. We must stop the cycle. Let’s quit emphasizing girls’ beauty and instead acknowledge the other, more imporant parts of them, i.e. their strengths, talents, accomplishments and brains.
What do you think? I know I have a lot of work to do. But I have to start somewhere, especially with a third daughter on the way. Thank you, Lisa Bloom, for giving me some good food for thought.