We recently made the trek to Disney World with our almost 4-year-old and 18-month-old daughters. Some may call it the Happiest Place on Earth, but I’m going to be totally honest and say I disagree. I realize the age of my children probably plays a large factor in my opinion, as it is not easy to entertain them while waiting in lines. Since we left the park that day (well, actually, since the moment we stepped foot inside the park) I have been saying that you could not pay me to go back. But I would be lying though if I said that there was not one experience that I enjoyed. One experience will forever live in my memory and hopefully my oldest daughter’s memory as well, and has got me thinking about teaching how beauty isn’t just about appearances.
My daughter, Brianna, loves dinosaurs and lives to play outdoors, especially when it involves dirt. I have to beg her to let me put a ponytail in her hair once a week. She is independent, tough, and already won’t take any crap from anybody, and she is just shy of her fourth birthday. There is one thing though that gets her twirling around the living room, using her blankie as a dress, singing her heart out and wanting me to braid her hair. That one thing is a Disney Princess. Her current favorites are Moana, Rapunzel, Belle and Tiana. Of course, as a mother, I love when she is excited about strong, independent female characters and I was excited for her to meet them.
After arriving at the park and getting in, which could be a post all of it’s own, we decided one of our first stops would be meeting some Princesses. To our excitement they had Tiana and Rapunzel! After a forty or so minute wait, complete with toddlers pushing their way into other families, and gymnastics on the crowd barriers, we were led into a room where the Princesses were waiting.
Alright Disney, you got me here. The look on Brianna’s face as we walked in the room was worth all the waiting and expense of the day. I leaned down to my bright-eyed girl and whispered, “Tell Tiana she looks beautiful.” When it was her turn to go up, Tiana held out her hand and brought Brianna over by her. Brianna told her she was so beautiful, to which Tiana genuinely responded, “Oh my, aren’t you just the sweetest little thing!” This of course made my heart happy.
After meeting Tiana, it was time to meet Rapunzel! Without even prompting her this time, she told the Princess that she looked beautiful. Rapunzel spent a few minutes focused on her, talking to her and posing for pictures. In that moment, my heart was overwhelmed. I wanted to sit Brianna down and tell her that she is just as beautiful, strong and independent as the Princesses she just met (which at this stage it is quite a challenge for your mommy, but I promise in 15-20 years I will be thankful if you keep your spunk).
You see, I am just at the very beginning stages of raising two girls. Am I scared? Of course not, I believe the correct term would be terrified. In today’s society of body image issues and bullying, I think it is quite a feat to raise children who are confident in their appearance. I myself will be 31 in a few months, and I have just recently found my confidence. My hope is that by starting to work with my daughters at such a young age, they will find and appreciate their own beauty and the beauty in others. It is extremely important, in my opinion, to compliment others on what you admire about their outward or inward appearance. I can think back to specific moments in my life that made me feel incredibly special because of a compliment I was given.
About two weeks after our trip I was straightening my hair, which is a true rarity these days. When I was about half way done (imagine straight underneath and wild frizzy poof on top), Brianna walked up and said, “Wow, Mommy, your hair look so beautiful.” Sure, it was probably just because it was different, and had nothing to do with the Princess encounter, but it sure did make mommy feel like a million bucks. While I keep thinking these toddler years are close to impossible to manage, I have a feeling they are a cake walk compared to what I will be dealing with when they are in high school. I can only hope that the relatively small gesture of complimenting others will develop into lifelong confidence builders for my daughters and those they meet along the way. We all know our children reflect our behaviors. If we, as adults, took the time to show each other love and compassion through compliments and kind gestures, I feel we would all be better for it.