It was just after 7pm and I sat perched on the edge of my daughter’s bed. Tinkerbell and her friends were involved in some sort of antics on the pages of a short chapter book I was reading aloud. Chapter books are new to us – she’s just become interested in reading big books with not so many pictures and thinks it’s pretty awesome that I’ve been reading through this set with her.
I won’t pretend they are riveting literature. Truth be told, my brain was already on other things while the rest of me was nattering on about fairies and Neverland. In one of the stories, a character was focused on her wardrobe *eyeroll* and called one of her dresses ‘ugly.’
“What does ugly mean Mom?”
My mouth hung agape while I waited for my brain to catch up to this moment.
How was it that my daughter of nearly six years did not know what ugly meant?
I wasn’t sure how to answer her, knowing that whatever I told her would stick with her for the rest of her life. Parenting is so permanent sometimes isn’t it? How is it that I can I etch something so concrete into the mind of a human being in a mere instant? If I was flippant or cruel that would stay with her. If I said the wrong thing she could end up with my voice repeating in her mind in perpetuity every time she heard or read the word. Ugly.
Dictionary.com defines ugly as: Unpleasant or repulsive, esp. in appearance: “she thought she was ugly and fat”.
Ok, I think I did better than that.
“The fairy means the dress wasn’t as pretty as the other ones. She didn’t think it was fancy enough to wear to an important party.”
I was hoping she wouldn’t realize you could describe people this way.
Bringing in context from the story helped me to focus and not blow things out of proportion. Bedtime story questions have the ability to turn into big philosophical discussions. You don’t want to know what happened when she asked me what a soul was. Let’s just say a therapist may need to be involved at some point.
She knows what pretty is. We never hold back with the word pretty, at least, I don’t think we do. I tell her she’s pretty, or cute, every day. It’s not a lie – the kid is beautiful. I want her to know it. But at the same time I don’t want her to be so concerned with what things look like. Can we have both? Can we have children secure in their skin, knowing they are beautiful and amazing creatures without them passing judgement on others?
I suppose I should just be proud we made it so long before she learned beauty has a counterpart.