Thursday, December 18, 2008

The Beautiful

In The Mayor's pre-K class, there is a girl that he loves.

All the boys lover her, in fact.

[And all the grown ups love her, too.]

She was the new kid this fall, breaking into a classroom full of children almost all of whom have been in daycare together since infancy.

Instantly, the new girl was the most popular child in the class.

She has an enormous smile and an even bigger heart.

She's the cutest little sweet-pea you ever did see and, what's more, she's truly a beautiful person.

She's pretty, yes, but that's not what I mean.

She radiates an inner beauty that draws everyone to her.

She seems to be spun from magical threads of kindness, patience and warmth.

When I read this post about how she doesn't believe she's beautiful because she has brown skin, my heart felt as heavy as could be.

I looked for her after-school today.

I wanted to pull her aside and tell her that I thought she was the lovliest young girl I knew.

I scanned the playground for her, ahead of my own children, but she was already gone when I arrived.

Surely, there must be a thousand ways to help make sure she knows that she is beautiful.

Surely, there must be an infinite number of ways for everyone everywhere to teach all of our children that beauty comes in every size, shape and shade.


What would you do?

What should I do?

What will we all do?


ms. changes pants while driving said...

we all want to fit in. maybe she still feels new? maybe she'll feel better when she gets used to her class?

she sounds adorable.

ms. changes pants while driving said...

and thank you for your comment in my neck of the woods =) i agree.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your thoughtful and quite beautiful post, J. (And thanks for making me cry on my bday, lol.)

I think she's fine and that there's nothing to do but keep doing what we've been doing: teaching our kids how to have healthy and respectful (and fun!) relationships with others and themselves.

Maybe we all want to be like our friends and it just so happens that a majority of hers look different right now; and appearances are simply what kids notice more than anything else.

I'm certain that when she's older, she'll still want to be like her friends (and/or want friends who are like her), and by that time, I'm confident that it'll be similarly groovy, positive, and loving energy that she looks for instead of appearances.

Karen said...

She sounds like an adorable child. don;t have a clue though about what to tell you to do.

Sayre said...

It sounds like she's carrying someone else's baggage (parents?). One of the wonderful things I've noticed about my son and his friends is that they don't think of skin color as a difference. It's just skin color. It doesn't say anything about who's wearing that skin.

I hope whoever is telling her that her skin keeps her from being beautiful will stop. She is obviously a lovely child inside and out.

Anu said...

I had a similar experience with my son (who is also brown, or black as he calls himself as he can't distinguish colours very well). He said to me with a straight face that he didn't like himself because he was black. I contained my mental anguish at this (he was not even 3 then) and told him that I liked him very much even though he was black, especially because he was black. Thank god that kids are impressionable because he listened to me and said, ok then, I like me too.

I cannot cast a bubble around him nor can I change the fact that he is brown, I just hope I can teach him soon and often enough that appearances are just that, and that the real value of a person lies within.

Incidentally, the person who told him that he didn't like him because he was black was a fireman visiting his daycare! It's a good thing I can't trace him down, or else...

kittenpie said...

Oh, poor muffin. That made me a bit sad - but I think I would make a point of telling her how much your son adores her, or telling her how nice her hair looks one morning or something about her that is specific like that. And if you have occasion to get her a gift some time, I'd get her one of the Groovy Girls in a colouring similar to her own. I think it helps for them to see others like them that are seen as cute, hip, smart, etc. too.

TRS said...

How sad. How frustrating.
The effects of self image are mind-boggling.

On my first day of college, I was in line at the bookstore with a poundage of books to be purchased... I overheard a loud girl talking to a guy - bemoaning the fact that when she walks into a room - everyone stares. She had some choice words...
She continued... as the two got closer to where I was standing... that people must be judgemental... she made it clear that people stared at her because she was black (midwestern predominately white college).
I was thinking at the time, that people probably stared because she was LOUD!
Finally, she was close enough for me to catch a glimpse of her without being obvious... she was STUNNING!
And I thought, you idiot. People stare at you because you're beautiful!
And she took it as racism.
What a shame.

Penny said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Penny said...

I am heart-broken. I read the link, too. It is horrible that it is possible for such a young soul to perceive, internalize and feel such an untruth, something like that. It's awful. It's unfair. It's untrue. It's in need of correctly, certainly. How? I haven't any idea. Her Mom seems to be handling it well. I'll put that wee one in my prayers, tonight.

Anonymous said...

There is a beautiful book called 'All the Colors of the Earth' by Sheila Hamanaka and it may be helpful for her to see this celebration of people and colors.

Your blog has touched me so many times. You're a tremendous writer, and from the stories you tell, wife, mother, friend, and person as well.

Thank you for your Joys.

Shannon said...

I really do hope you're sincere and tell her that she's beautiful. That will definitely stick with her and make up for the ugly she might come against in the future.

Kyla said...

Awwww, my heart hurts!

I have no idea what to say to help, but I hope she starts to see the beauty that everyone else sees in her.

Miss Ash said...

Oh, sad!!!

Love. That's what can fix it. Love her yourself, teach your children to love (which I know you already do) and teach your childrens' friends to love.

Cheesy, yes, but all we need is love.

When we exude love, the youth around us learn love.

That reminds me, I need to practice more loving behaviors with my kids.

Little Monkies said...

I wonder if you can go straight at it and say "you know one of the reasons why I think you are so pretty and beautiful is because you have the most beautiful skin color! I love it, it's so gorgeous! and your eyes are so pretty and bright..." Sometimes we just need to hear what makes us different makes us special and beautiful in the eyes of others. Of course, I don't know how that flies in communities of color, but I really *do* think that skin color of all shades is yummy and gorgeous. Would that sound weird coming from a white woman, or would it sound real and honest? Maybe check with her mom? There is a girl in Monkey's class that has this zany, gorgeous curly hair from her Puerto Rican mom and I always tell her how much I love it. It has nothing to do with her being Puerto Rican, but everything to do with the fact that I want to run my hands through its gorgeousness. Sometimes the things we hate most about ourselves are the things that others find most delicious.

Our girls are a little young for this, but Dove Campaign For Beauty is doing some good mom mentor stuff:

Jennifer said...

I agree with the others. Tell her in creative ways what exactly you find lovely about her.
I had two best friends when I was in junior high in Miami. Claudia was African-American and Suzanna was Jamaican. I was/am a short, red-headed, freckle-faced, super-fair-skinned person.
I thought Suzanna and Claudia were two of the most beautiful girls ever and I envied their lovely, dark skin.
Girls are hard. Society makes it hard for them. Little Monkies, I don't think girls are ever too young for that Dove campaign. It's good stuff.

John Ross said...

Um, great post, as usual. All I know to say about the beautiful little girl has pretty much been said by earlier commentors. Good on you though, for being the kind of person who notices and cares.

Virtualsprite said...

I'd do everything mentioned above, and also encourage the Mayor to tell her how nice she is, etc. Maybe if she hears it from her friends, it will have a greater impact, because (when you're little) adults are kinda crazy.

I hope you can help. It's awful that she feels so bad about herself.

Mary G said...

My daughter got picked on at school because her hair was red -- actually a bright copper and totally beautiful - but she took lumps for it.
I wonder sometimes if mammals aren't wired to distrust colour differences; ie, the black chicken getting pecked, the black wolf getting ejected from the pack.
If we were truly to be civilized, we could overcome this. In the meantime, I live on hope and tell brown kids how much nicer their skin colour is than mine. Which happens to be true.

Stacey said...

It's sad how something like this affects children so young.

If everyone loves her at school, I wonder where she's getting the negativity from.

Trannyhead said...

How awful!

I always think the best way to combat something like that is to emphasize how important OTHER attributes are. Intellect. Charisma. Character. Unfortunately, you just can't convince somebody that they're pretty who can't be convinced. But I hope she realizes what a doll she is, soon. How sad!

Anonymous said...

It's not necessarily because anyone has ever said anything negative to her. But most images of prettiness are white ones. Not all but most. It's in the air--in commercials, in Disney princesses, in fairy tales, in who is the major character in a book, in ads. We can change that by looking at the images in our own life, in our house, and getting a better balance: books, photos, artists, magazines--who is represented? As the mom of Asian daughters, I notice that there is even less to find in terms of images and role models. But if there is a will, then we can do it.

Chookooloonks said...

Bless her. I completely feel for her.

But it will pass.

It did for me. :-/