I was a bit nervous sending my daughter off to school this morning. Not for the reasons you might think given the latest school tragedy, I’ll be addressing that in due course once I’ve had time to process it a bit more, but because I was afraid of what my wife was going to say when she saw how I had allowed her to leave the house.
She’s always been fiercely independent, her first complex sentence uttered being “I’ll do it myself!” It’s a quality that is equal parts impressive and frustrating. It’s encouraged as much as is reasonable but the fact is, there is actually very little that she is able to choose for herself. The amount of autonomy enjoyed at six years old is pretty much limited to what brand of cereal you want for breakfast and what crafts you want to make a mess of while daddy is watching sports.
So I try and let her pick her own outfits and hairstyles, offering suggestions and trusting that there really isn’t a lot in her wardrobe that is going to be too cringe worthy of a combination. She really didn’t need one but we went for a haircut this past weekend, sent her with a ponytail sticking straight up on her head one day, red spray dye staining her scalp on Valentine’s Day.
Her teacher thinks she’s cute, refers to her as a “modern day Punky Brewster”, a character from a mid-80’s sitcom that I was somewhat surprised she was old enough to reference. For those of you not familiar, the titular child is a clever, spunky foster child with a penchant for very brightly colored clothing and vibrant self expression.
It’s also that self expression that I want to encourage, that confidence. It won’t be that many years before outside influences are going to start to challenge the way that she looks at herself, pressures to dress and and to look a certain way. The time to build a wall against the potential impact of these is now, to make sure that she continues to feel like the only person that she needs to impress, the only opinion that matters regarding her appearance is her own.
Imagine how liberating it must be to always think that you look good, to never have it cross your mind to worry about or even consider the judgments of others.
She won’t be hearing any different from me.