My five-year-old has a best friend named Carol. If you ask either of them they will tell you they are sisters. If you mistakenly call them best friends they will correct you. These girls are fierce in their love for each other and they fight, well like sisters.
One time they were having a squabble during lunch. One was in the other’s space or something like that. On our drive home from the restaurant Vivi was complaining about her friend so I asked her what are some things you like about Carol. The first thing that came out of her mouth was, “Well, she looks like me.”
Carol is the sweet little girl on the left. Mine is making the scrunched up face on the right.
Vivi often comes home from Carol’s house wearing fancy dresses. Sometimes with a hat and gloves. Her playdate on Tuesday was no exception. She came into the house dressed in white sandals that were slightly too small for her feet. A sparkly pink and brown dress and a pink straw hat that she wore backwards with the bow in the front.
The next day she wanted to wear the dress to Vacation Bible School. We told her no. We reminded her that VBS is a time to play, get dirty, get messy, sweaty etc… She chose a different dress – we compromised because it was denim and at least not as fancy. Then as her dad and her sisters were about to leave she changed her mind. She wanted to wear the fancy dress.
We said no again and they drove off.
Once they arrived at the church it took Tré 45 minutes to convince Vivianne to go to her class. It him took finding a T-shirt to put over her dress to turn it into a “skirt.” before she’d go inside. She was running away from him, hiding behind the church’s old bell-tower. I would not have had as much patience.
When she came home I tried to dig deeper into her behavior. Her answer to me is that she wanted to look pretty. As her mom I immediately reminded her of how beautiful she was, that beauty was on the inside and is reflected in how she treats others. But, I’m not sure she needed to hear me say that again.
As I listened to her and her friend Carol bits and pieces of the story began to add up. It was like deciphering morse code. I gathered that another girl at VBS had told Vivianne she wasn’t pretty and laughed at her. This struck my daughter at her core.
I realized what that dress meant to her. She wanted to prove that she was pretty to this person who had made her feel ugly. She thought if she showed up in this fancy dress that this little bully would realize her mistake. Don’t we all have that fantasy in same way or another?
Her behavior from earlier that day made so much more sense. My heart went out to her and the ways she was trying to make sense of what had happened to her.
The next day I helped her pick her clothes. She wore her wonder woman shirt with matching cape, sparkling skort and Wonder woman crown. Then we talked about some Wonder Woman tricks she could use if she ran into trouble again.
Things like what to do if she says mean things again – go to an adult. That this little girl might have been hurt by someone else and hurt people, hurt people. That as a Wonder Woman she has the ability to be kind even when someone else is not.
I don’t know how much that helped my daughter’s interactions. I do know she went into VBS without a fuss and her old confidence seemed to be back.
It’s so hard sending your babies out into the world. You don’t know if they’ll be bullied, become the bully or just be lost in a sea of children. I don’t know if I was seeing the whole problem. But, I did what I could with the little morsel that was given to me. My sweet girl dug down deep and conquered her problem from within – no fancy dress needed.