I tell my daughter she is beautiful
My daughter has a coily natural crown of hair.
Lili was born with a head full of hair and as she grew older, so did her hair. It became thick and constantly evolved into a glorious crown of natural curls on her head. However, taking care of it became a struggle. She didn't want to wash it, style it, or comb it. So we eventually shaved it off. This year, we started growing it, and I would occasionally tie it in little pom-poms, which she has come to love. Lately, she has been telling me how she wants to make her hair "nice". I think it's her way of saying she is ready to have her hair in plaits or braids.
Daily affirmations for my little girl
An online article that I read mentioned how these little affirmation sentences help kids develop a healthy sense of self and a positive mental-social-emotional mindset. These words of encouragement are important to kids as they grow and find their characters and strengths. So we started reciting our own daily affirmation mantras.
'I am kind
I am loved
I am seen
I am worthy and
I am beautiful.'
These five sentences started being a little recital we did in the middle of playing, during bathtime or before she goes to school. At first, she didn't understand them, well she still hasn't fully come to understand some of them, but it warms my heart when she tells me, 'Mommy, I'm beautiful, or Papa loves me, Mommy'.
Short hair for a girl makes her look ugly.
We were busy making tea (me coffee and Lili strawberry flavoured Nesquik), and then she casually mentioned how she was ugly. So I replied very quickly, telling her she was a pretty girl and that I loved her a lot. She took off her beanie and said, "look, Mommy, my hair. I'm ugly like a boy". I was gutted. Mainly because of the look she wore. Sadness. She was disturbed and hurt by those words, and I could see they carried some weight because why would they pain her if they didn't?
I was sad for her and hurt because as much as I wanted to protect her from the world's horror and cruelty, there was only so much I could do as a parent. So I asked the; why do you say you are ugly? Who told you that? Why did they say that? And it seems her friends at school have their hair in plaits with colourful beads and some have their hair in braids. And because she wears her hair in a short afro, she "looks like a boy". I was defeated, to say the very least.
Kids are painfully honest with their feelings and will not spare you a moment when they need to tell you what is on their minds; with that said, they can also be very mean. My mama bear 'I want to slay all the perpetrators' kicked in, but what could I do? March into the school and scream at all the kids?
"There is power in seeing yourself in the things you love. So much power in reading about people that are like you."
Empowering my daughter against the stereotypes surrounding beauty
"No, you don't look like a boy Lili. You have short hair. You are a beautiful girl with short hair."
I almost wailed when she replied asking; "I'm pretty with my hair Mommy?". I took a moment to recite with her the daily affirmation mantra. I told her we love her because she is an excellent big sister and a great daughter. How she is the best – which she very eagerly added on how she always played with Baby (her little brother) and that he loved her because she was the best. My heart melted at how she played out the positive things she did.
Lili is four years, and she is starting to be aware of her surroundings and is asking questions about things that confuse or intrigue her. It's important to me to teach her that beauty is different for everyone. And that when someone doesn't look like you, it doesn't mean they are ugly but simply different and beautiful in their unique way. So I told her so; she understood me somehow, I think. But I will keep reminding her as she grows.
And the truth of the matter is that she will encounter many differences the older she gets and interacts with other kids at school and in life in general. As her mom and biggest cheerleader, my job is to affirm and encourage constantly. Needless to say, we got Lili's hair plaited. I always wanted to do it when she was good and ready to handle the whole process because it could get uncomfortable. Plaits or not, short hair or long hair, I am continuously affirming her and empowering her with positivity.
"As her mom and biggest cheerleader, my job is to affirm and encourage constantly."
I want to redefine beauty with my kids.
When I bought a doll for Lili, I bought her a brown-skinned chubby doll with an afro. I also bought her Sulwe by Lupita Nyong'o. These may not seem like much, but there is power in seeing yourself in the things you love. So much power in reading about people that are like you. I want her to grow up being aware of these qualities. I want to redefine beauty for my kids. I want to constantly remind them that they are beautiful with their hair, skin colour, height and all they are.
I hope to break these generational stereotypes that define beauty. I believe so much goes into the word "beautiful". And with the daily affirmation mantra I do with my girl, I hope to at least cultivate a level of confidence and self-awareness in her. And I can only pray that these will be the stepping stones to building her self-esteem.
I am a Mommy to a beautiful girl with a crown of afro hair on her head, and she is altogether beautiful.
Please share some of your stories in the comments below.
All my love Ari and Kgoši's Momie ♥