One of the things I sometimes think about as a Mom is how to prepare my child for the world. A good friend once told me that we cannot “protect” them from everything, but we can “prepare” them, teach them, and give them the tools they need to handle whatever comes their way.
Friends with older children have told me stories of their children’s experiences with bullying, self-image issues, and self-confidence issues. This is something I am not really looking forward to and thought I had lots of time to prepare myself for since Little One is still only three years old.
Just this past weekend, one of Little One’s friends said, “[Insert Little One's real name here], do you think I’m beautiful?”
Little One said, “Yes! I think you’re beautiful.”
To everyone’s shock, Little One’s friend said, “Well, you’re not beautiful. You’re dirty.”
I quickly chimed in, “Mommy thinks you’re beautiful” and gave Little One a hug. Then I realized how crazy it is to tell constantly tell children that they’re cute, beautiful, pretty, etc. I’d rather tell my child that she’s smart, intelligent, witty, clever, funny, kind, generous, thoughtful, compassionate, empathetic, or sympathetic (yes, even three year olds can display sympathy). I don’t want Little One to base her self-worth on her appearance. Though I let Little One know how helpful, caring, resourceful (among other adjectives) she is, I remind her that her friends and peers also possess those traits. I don’t want her to think that anybody is more or less of something/better or worse at something. I am so sad that I’m seeing this so early in their childhood. I know it’s part of the way children interact with each other and they do learn how to socialize. It still doesn’t make it easy!
I know that Little One’s friend probably didn’t mean to hurt Little One’s feelings. She is, after all, only four years old. It’s just that this experience launched me into fast forward into their teenage years and what kind of cruelty can surface in pre-teens and teens. A friend told me that she pulled her son out of school and homeschooled him because of the intense bullying he was receiving at school. Another informed me of her seven year old’s eating disorder and issues with her body image. Seven years old! It breaks my heart.
Instinct tells me to guard my child from the harshness of the world, but we cannot keep our children in a bubble. They have to learn how to deal with adversity. Wow. This parenting business is no easy feat!
Parents, how do you prepare your children for life in the “real world” (aka: outside the home)? With Little One starting Junior Kindergarten this Fall, I’m trying to prepare her. All right. You got me. I’m trying to prepare myself for JK!