This post was originally published on February 1, 2017 on stylefam.com.
This is M.
I know I've mentioned before that I have a daughter, but I've never really said much about her. Here are the pertinent facts, I am the single mom of one fabulous 7 year old girl. She is my travel buddy, my spa partner, my cuddle bug, my biggest headache and my most amazing joy.
I take her with me everywhere I can, just as my parents took me with them almost everywhere. I believe that she needs to experience a variety of things so that she won't grow up with a narrow view of the people and the world around her, so we don't skip restaurants because they don't have a kids menu and we attend events where she is sometimes the only child. She's one of the only people I know that had their first cocktail dress at 18 months old.
The result of this approach to parenting is a little person that, I think, is pretty cool. She's still a 7 year old, but she can hold a conversation with an adult or another little kid and be comfortable. She's got passport stamps and has traveled around the country. She's got dreams and goals that are bigger than just what toy she might be able to have next (she has those dreams, too).
So, all that being said, you can imagine my horror when my baby girl started crying in the car yesterday after school because some little knuckleheads had teased her because of her Spotlight Student answers*. I was crushed. She had worked so hard to print the answers neatly on the papers and she had been so excited to take them back. Then I was angry, how dare these little troglodytes belittle my child? They probably eat paste! Then rage, where in the world was your teacher when these two mini-jerks were teasing you?!? I'll see y'all on the playground you little.... Then I had to reign it in. The thing about being a mom is, you have to learn to have those feelings in 10 seconds (not hard for me, I'm a bit of a roller coaster) without letting the expression on your face change (so hard for me, my eyebrows have a mind of their own). Your job is to comfort and up build your child, not get them more worked up.
I took a deep breath and asked what answers they made fun of and she told me they teased her about her favorite food and what she wanted to do when she grew up. My heart hurt for her, these were probably the most difficult ones to answer for her. Her most favorite food is a Korean dish: Chicken Bulgogi with steamed white rice. She gets nervous about others making fun of it because they might not know what it is and I've told her that it's okay because it's a great opportunity to show others about different cultures. She decided to make her answer for the poster just chicken and the little jerk, I mean boy, made fun of it anyway. The other answer, to the question of what she wanted to do when she grew up, was make clothes. When I saw that answer, I was so excited! She has never really been able to say what she might like to do as a grown up, which is fine because she's only 7, but she's developed an interest over the last year or so in designing and making clothes and jewelry. Bonus, she's actually pretty good at it and since my mother is a seamstress and we both make jewelry, this is something that can be encouraged and taught to her.
Now I'm driving down the street with a teary eyed 7 year old wondering how to make this better. I think the thing that saddened me the most about this is that they had created doubt in her little heart and mind. She was worried that she wasn't good enough and hadn't made the right decisions. This same crushing feeling darkens the lives of countless adults and children and I am so happy that she feels close enough to me to share it with me so I can try and help her beat back that doubt and remember that she's amazing. I decided the best thing I could do was to give her back what they stole, her confidence.
First the food, (almost) everyone loves chicken so it's utterly ridiculous that they would make fun of that. I reminded her how many delicious ways chicken can be prepared like fried, baked or wrapped in bacon and made sure she remembered what an awesome choice she had made as her favorite. Second, who are these boys that they're suddenly experts on what's cool? Insert tearful reasons why they might know what's cool and why they could be qualified to judge followed by me debunking all of those reasons. I reminded her that she has traveled and seen things that many children have not, and while this doesn't make her better than anyone, this does give her a little more perspective on what's out there. I asked how can they understand how cool it is to design and make clothing if they've never been to Seoul during Fashion Week or watched fashion shows on YouTube with their impossibly cool mother? They can't, so that's why they can't see how amazing her dream is. I told her about designers whose designs and fashion houses have endured long after they've died. I explained that other, smaller designers make a huge impact as well. Everyone needs clothes. We went online and marveled at the names and pictures of clothing and shoe designers until there were only smiles and ideas left.
Maybe you think I didn't handle it well, maybe you do. All I know is that the tears stopped, she was happy and the next time someone says something negative about her dream they're going to get an earful about G-dragon's peaceminusone line and Coco Chanel. I'm okay with that,
Maternally yours, -E
*At the school she attends, each week a Spotlight Student is chosen from each class in the school and has their picture posted on a bulletin board in the hallway and gets to invite their family to a pizza party on Friday. This year, her teacher also sent home a worksheet to be filled out and returned with questions about the students favorite things and dreams. They're shared on a poster with the class.