As a five year old girl, you could spot me in a crowd of 200 hundred people in about 1.7 seconds flat. I mostly looked just like every other child in my community. Until you caught a glimpse of my hair.
Oh, my hair.
My hair was bright fiery red, and it was my nemesis. That bright fiery red hair caused me a lot of grief throughout my childhood. From a very early age I believed what made me unique did not–in fact–make me beautiful.
I believed it made me different than others.
I believed it made me stand out in a large crowd.
Worst of all, I believed it made me a target for bullying.
I remember the fear of getting on the bus to go to school each morning. I would gingerly step onto the bus and walk down the aisle as if I were tip-toeing on bed of broken Christmas tree ornaments.
Each day I waited for the catcalls from the back of the bus to soar to the front where I sat–terrified.
They would shout things like..
“Hey Red. Looks like your hair got a little brighter today.”
“Stay up front there Red. We don’t want you back here.”
It was mortifying.
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One day something different happened.
Standing outside on the street in the brisk fall air, the bus pulled up. I again gingerly stepped onto the bus, cringing and praying those mean kids wouldn’t be there. Or that they’d forget about me. Or at least that I’d appear invisible.
A boy from the back called to me and said, “Hey Lauren! Come sit back here with us today. We saved a spot for you!”
I was so excited. Those mean kids were finally going to stop picking on me and my hair. They even called me by my real name.
As I sat down in the seat, I noticed all the cigarette lighter burns in the seat. And just like that my exciting day turned into my worst day.
The boys started shouting at me again:
“Woah Red. What did you do to the seat?”
“BUS DRIVER! Look what this red-headed girl did to the seat”
My heart ached. I was different. I didn’t fit in and it was all because of my stupid. red. hair.
My daughter is a redhead too.
She is also a tall girl. People comment left and right about two things: her height and her hair color.
And every time people comment, my response is the same.
I say things like…
“I’m already worried about it.”
“I’m preparing myself for her emotional issues.”
“I know she will struggle with being a tall red head.”
Then a friend came over and gave me a wake-up call. She heard all the comments I was making about my daughter’s future “issues” and told me exactly what I needed to hear.
She said, “But what if she loves being tall? What is she loves her red hair? What if she embraces it? We’re all different.”
You see, this whole time I was giving my daughter a complex, and she isn’t even capable of maintaining a complex. Let alone feel things like insecurity or low self-esteem.
Your daughter’s self-esteem starts with you.
As mothers we all have one thing in common. One thing that unites us.
We were all little girls at one point in our lives. And we all have some defining moment from our childhood that wedges itself inside a small corner of our hearts.
Maybe it’s a moment when someone said you weren’t good enough.
Maybe it’s a moment when you didn’t fit in.
Maybe it’s a moment when you were shamed by other kids or even a family member.
Whatever the moment—we all have one that we are still carrying around with us 10, 15, 20+ years later. It sits deep in your heart, nestled all comfy and cozy, and it’s secretly sabotaging your relationship with your daughter.
It’s that little piece of shame from your childhood that you cannot seem to shake.
How do you break yourself free from a defining childhood moment? And how do you avoid laying your burden down onto the shoulders of your daughter?
Step 1: Lay the burden down elsewhere.
Share it with your spouse or a close friend. Tell the story. Lay that burden down somewhere else. Let it go and allow your daughter’s shoulders to raise high.
Step 2: Recognize.
Your daughter is watching you. She is looking to you to lead her. Whatever you project, she will receive.
Step 3: Discover.
There is beauty in the mess. What makes you and me and our daughters beautiful are the imperfections. Discover your imperfections—your vulnerabilities. Embrace them.
What happened to that little redheaded girl?
I think back to that little redheaded girl sitting on the school bus, as a group of grade-school boys taunted her. I think about how her heart ached and needed to mend.
And then I think about how glad I am that she mustered the courage to ask her dad if she could simply walk to school.
And how awesome it was that her dad believed in her, trusted her and responded with one word…
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Gee, I’m so sorry you suffered over your hair as a little girl! As a child I always thought red hair was pretty! It wasn’t that common (among the kids I knew) and seemed special. And, of course, most girls’ favorite heroine in upper grade school is Anne of Green Gables, so we all know the redheads win in the end. 🙂 But seriously, you are right that it is how parents talk that teaches children they are beautiful and gifted in their own ways. And that other people’s subjective preferences about looks are just that–their own. They have absolutely nothing to do with you.
Yes. When I was a little girl, my aunt always encouraged me to read Anne of Green Gables. Great book. The movie is lovely too. Thanks for visiting!
Rachel @ A Mother Far from Home
Love this, Lauren
My daughter has a glorious mane of ginger hair. Her whole life, all she’s heard from people are compliments. She hasn’t received any hate because of it. She’s now average height, but grew early, so she had a period of being very tall. Height isn’t usually seen as a disadvantage. Tell your daughter she’s beautiful every single day. Any negativity she receives will wash off her, because you’ll build her up to the point where she won’t be torn down.
Well said. Thank you for your encouragement!
I love this SO MUCH~ I’ll never forget my daughter leaning over examining her face in the mirror beside me one day and I realized she was mimicing me. She was 3 and already looking for her own imperfections in the mirror. I have tried hard to only be positive about myself around her since- but it’s hard! This is great advice- thank you!
Oh tne pressures we moms put on ourselves and our daughters. Your check list is a good reminder and hopefully will also help the heart to be assured our daughters and ourselvesare fearfully and wonderfully made. Two of mine are adopted so much of what we said was to affirm our love and confidence in them. I am in a differnt pace with my daughters than you. One is a mom herself and the two adopted are teens. I wrote about how fragile they are just like me and hiow I did the hurting, not someone else. Becasue the words matter just like our actions do. Thanks you for your authentic sharing. Linda
My oldest daughter gets comments all the time about her height. It frustrates me that people need to make a comment and bring it to our attention. I have heard girls have self esteem issues from being too tall so whenever I see a tall beautiful woman I point her out and say how beautiful she is and comment that she will be like that when she is older.
Here is my thing though. It is her feet size that I worry about because I have big feet as well. She is 12 years old and has women’s size 10 already. There is no going back from that. I don’t want her to feel bad. I have told her that I worried about the size of my feet for years and years until one day I saw someone without feet and then I stopped caring, because I would rather have big feet than no feet at all. Despite that, I still look at her feet and worry. Time to put it aside and move on. I wish we didn’t have these worries!