I read an interesting article on child plastic surgery the other day. It talked about this mother whose daughter took ballet classes and since she had to put her hair up in a bun, the other kids noticed her ears stuck out and made fun of her every day after. The little girl went back home every day crying and begging her mother to help her out (I don’t think she meant by surgery though) but the mum took her in to see a doctor and had her ears pinned back. That was the end of the bullying. I kept thinking child cosmetic surgery? End of bullying? Really? Till when, they realise she has something else they find weird?
When I said I found it interesting, I didn’t mean in a ‘whoa!!!cool!!!’ kind of way. It was more toward the ‘huh???!!!’. I couldn’t help picture her years later crying about her boobs being to small and being taken off to shop for implants.
Fact : child cosmetic surgery (I didn’t even know this was happening till I read that) is on the rise. Is it because there are more children who don’t like something about how they look than there was when we were growing up? i think not.
I cannot say that this mother didn’t love her child, or that that little girl didn’t deserve to be picked on every day because I believe both to be true. She loves her child and she did not deserve to be picked on. However, I refuse to believe that teaching a child there’s a magic wand that can change fortunes which is what to turn to when there’s something to be worked out is the best possible sustainable approach.
Growing up, I was taller than the other kids my age. I thought I had an expansive (read huge) forehead and that my teeth were too big. I thought I was fat, not so much cool to hang out with as witty and get this – I thought my ears were too small. Where did I get most of this ‘valuable’ input you ask? From the other kids – mostly. Yeah, I thought a lot J Did I cry about it when I got home? Yep. Did I ask God why he had to give me big teeth, a big forehead and all this body mass? YES!!! Did I tell my mom I laughed with my mouth closed or covered, because I had super sized teeth that didn’t look pretty, AVOIDED putting my hair up because I thought it made my forehead and cheeks pop out? Oh yes, I did…A LOT.
Did she hug me and book an appointment with a dentist to have my teeth resized and with a doctor to see what to do with my forehead? Hell no! And though I thought her unable to fully understand then, I thank God every day she didn’t feed my insecurities or my ‘flaws’. She talked them down instead, way down.
My mother didn’t get me help repackaging my body, she help me repackage my mind, how i looked and dealt with things. You might say that ours is a different culture or that surgical intervention wasn’t really something we’d spend money on but; I know my mum. Even given the chance, she’d have done the same thing. She talked up my strengths and talked down my weaknesses. She taught me that there were many voices in this world all wanting to shape who I am and that only I could chose which ones did.
Was it tough to keep ignoring the comments and smirks? Yep. It actually picked up along the way when the voices multiplied and got stronger – teenage. When I lost a few pounds then gained them back. When I dashed home one day after sports in my games kit only to come back the next day and find my school dress hung out because no one thought it belonged to any one in class because it was just too big. It was tough but I learned how to deal with it. How to be myself, accept every part of who I was half the time and enjoy life. I learned how to deal because I had someone to teach me how. If she had taken that chance away from me, I’d have grown up knowing issues were meant to be shot down, not faced.
This is not just another ranting of a little girl that got her share of insecurities growing up. It’s a plea to the mothers that are and the mothers that will be : love your children. LOVE them fiercely. But don’t let that love turn them, or you, stupid. Don’t let that love be the force that shelters them so hard, it forgets to teach them because someday, they’ll be old enough to fly. And they’ll drop to their deaths when that time finds they know not how.
I will love my children, I will – despite my better judgment- want to shield them from a lot of things that I felt I wasn’t shielded from, feel I should keep them from. But in so doing, I just might smother them to death. So everyday I will make a conscious decision to love them as they come and to teach them that God loves them, I love them and they should love themselves too. I pray everyday that I will remember to tell them that there are many voices in this world, and only they can choose which ones will shape them.
© Ang’asa Malowa