During my first year of teaching I really connected with one of my families. They kind of “took me under their wing” and, well, now they throw me a birthday party every year, I’m invited to holiday family gatherings, and I am known as their “5th child”.
It has been an absolute privilege to become a part of this family. I have grown close to them and their children; one is in fourth grade, one is in eighth grade, one is a junior, and one is a freshman in college.
The fourth grader and I bond over soccer, mostly. In the summer we try to get down to the fields to pass, shoot, and work on dribbling with her left foot. She’s the youngest so she really enjoys this extra time and attention, and she was the one I had in class, so I have a huge soft spot for her.
The eighth grader and I talk about school, friends, and her hobbies. She loves to craft, she loves pandas and space, and she loves becoming independent. She comes in to my classroom occasionally after school to visit with my kiddos or help me organize, because, well, I’m a mess.
The college boy and I have your typical brother/sister relationship. We tease out of love and he’s a huge helper whenever I need some “manly” things done. This summer he helped us move, and the couch we wanted up the stairs did not go up the stairs so he rigged something up to drag it up and over the balcony- what a story that is and will forever hold a special memory. We put a hole in the wall trying to do it- that hole is now framed “museum style”. (Have you seen this idea on Pinterest?! Literally the best way to “fix up” mishaps that happen- your kid drew on the wall? Frame it! Write the date/name the piece of art work. It’s a fun way to remember that life happens and it’s ok!!)
Now, the junior in high school. She is so talented, so sweet, hilarious, fun- everything. She’s the best friend I wish I had in high school, and, quite honestly, the sister I always wanted growing up. And while she is all of the above and more, she is also so naturally beautiful. And a conversation we had last night broke my heart and brought me to tears.
“Can I tell you something that happened this week?” She asked, kind of nervously, a little annoyed, and almost as if she had a little “tea” to spill (“tea” is the new thing for middle school/high school gossip, FYI).
“Of course!” I responded, eager to hear what she had to say. It’d been a long week, she was in the high school performance that my boyfriend directed, and the performances were held Tuesday night- Thursday night (7pm-10pm- hence my absence on SOL).
“Well, you know how we’ve had Chizzle Whizzle all week? And so I wore make up for the show and stuff and everyone was seeing me. And like, everyone kept telling me how pretty I am, and how good I looked and boys started talking to me and wanting to talk to me.”
At this point, I wasn’t sure how to respond. My first thought was “Aw!”, but after really listening to the tone of her voice, I could tell it wasn’t really an “Aw” moment (and honestly, part of the problem with this is that many’s first reaction would be “aw”. Read on.)
“Oh yeah? How did that make you feel?” I asked her.
“Honestly? It was nice and all, but I was kind of like “thanks guys but why can’t you say that stuff when I’m not wearing make up?”
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is (one of the 1000000 reasons) why we need to help raise these kids in our classrooms to be loving, kind, respectful, strong, aware…
This girl, this girl who is so many more adjectives than beautiful just wants to hear that she’s beautiful even without her make up. She, like anyone, enjoyed the compliments and attention, but was also kind of hurt by them.
I tried so hard to be the big sister I think she was looking for.
I tried to remind her of all her beauty- her appearance as well as her talent and her heart. I tried to remind her that her makeup only accentuates her natural beauty, that her make up doesn’t change her look, it just makes what she already has more prominent. I tried to hard to tell her that the makeup she wore wasn’t changing how she looked, it wasn’t “faking it” and it wasn’t making others see something that wasn’t there. I tried reminding her that sometimes people take for granted what they see every day, so when they see something new, they comment on it.
None of what I said seemed right. She was nodding, and agreeing, but none of it could really capture the words I wanted her to hear.
I’m not even sure I can find the words now to say what I want her to know.
The good news is- she doesn’t feel like she needs to wear makeup. In fact, she said she hates it. She doesn’t like to put it on, she doesn’t like to deal with it, and she’s comfortable without it. And just as quickly as my heart had sank, it rose again. She has confidence like no other 16 year old I know, more than my 27 year old self has, if I’m being completely honest.
I reminded her again of her natural beauty. I reminded her again that she doesn’t need makeup. I reminded her again that if boys don’t like her as much without makeup then they don’t deserve her attention anyway.
Of course, that girl is smart enough to know that anyway.
But I could tell this still effected her. It was still a big enough deal for her to want/need to work through it, talk through it- whether it was just to vent, to look for reassurance, or advice.
I know the various grade level teachers that visit SOL, and possibly my page. I know many of you are parents. I ask that if you’ve read this, to please, go tell the females in your life that their beauty is so much more than their appearance, and that makeup does not change their beauty. (This goes for either side! I know some girls/women who use makeup for fun- because they love it and not need it- and I do not want to discourage that! If they like it for them then, encourage them to use it however they please!) Even if these females in your life are the most confident ones you know- it’s always nice to hear. And if you know of females that struggle with this, with trying to look a certain way to fit in, remind them of their worth, of their talents and their heart, and of all the beauty they have that is both the physical and non physical parts of them. Help these females become strong and confident in all parts of them.
And then, after you’ve done that- remind both the females and the males in your life of this same lesson. That just as they shouldn’t judge themselves, they should not pass that judgement on others.
(BTW- I in no way think the kids positively commenting on her looks were rude/mean. I do think that for them to take the time to comment on something they think looks nice was sweet. However, the lesson I am trying to remind her and others about is to not forget about what’s “naturally there”. Don’t ignore the every day things. Don’t leave out the pieces that may not “jump out” at you, like makeup and clothes can do. Don’t forget about the little things, the things that you can see and can’t see, the physical and the non physical. If you have a better way of putting these thoughts- please feel free to leave your comment so I can better pass this information on to her and others in my life. I will appreciate any thoughts!)