When a 6 year old makes you question everything.
I’ll never forget walking by my daughters room and seeing her standing in a hot pink swimsuit in front of her kid-sized vanity mirror repeatedly poking herself in the belly. It stopped me dead in my tracks — it was the beginning of the end of her magnificently uninhibited childhood.
After a bit of conversation I learned that an older neighbor girl was picking on her for her appearance. Every time she went outside in only her swimsuit or in her new little sports bra top and shorts that grandma had bought her, she was being questioned and ridiculed…
“Why aren’t you wearing a shirt?”
“You can’t just wear a bra outside!”
“You shouldn’t be hanging your big belly out.”
“You’re going to get arrested for being naked.”
This was it — her first experience with body-shaming and she didn’t even have to leave our yard. I’m not naive, I am well aware that we are in the age of social media and the pressure to fit the mold is enormous — but I just thought I still had time.
But, I didn’t. So we stumbled through a conversation about her beautiful, magical, healthy six year old body. We talked about her strong shoulders that make her the fastest 6 year old on her swim team and her muscular legs that help her race her bike all over the neighborhood. We talked about self-expression and how her wearing a sports bra and shorts around the neighborhood was her way of expressing her style.
Then we talked about empathy, compassion and bullying. It was heart-breaking, necessary and a even a little bit encouraging all at the same time. It was an opportunity to set the stage for further conversations about her body and to learn what she already knew about bullying — all while crossing my fingers and hoping her magical six year old innocence would survive this conversation intact.
That girl…I just wish I had more time. Time to build up her confidence and teach her all about the magic within her — time to show her how strong her spirit is and build up her resilience to the countless mean girls and bullies she will experience in the coming years.
I just wish I had more time to build her up before society started chipping away at her perfectly beautiful and magical imperfections.