When my Italian girlfriend, Marie, married African American Jake, they understood their ethnically blended children could encounter issues, but felt prepared to deal with them. One day Marie showed me a picture of her daughter. In it, 5-year-old Teresa was laughing with a flock of little girls from daycare—a blond girl, a redheaded girl, a black girl, a girl from Taiwan, and another from Ecuador. Somehow Teresa had managed to create a tribe for herself whose members did not resemble each other—a reflection of how her family members didn’t resemble each other.
I found it adorable. “The bunch of them look like a Gap commercial.”
Marie waved the photo under my nose. “You know what Teresa said when she saw this? ‘I wish I looked like them’.”
“What?” I held the picture closer to see what she was talking about. To me the girls were as different as different could be, with their distinctive ethnic features, diverse skin shades, and rainbow spectrum of hair colors.
Marie tapped the picture. “They all have straight hair.”
At only 5 years old, Teresa yearned to be like the others… with hair that also happened to be like her mother’s.
Fast-forward almost a decade when Marie shared this story with me:
On a hot August day, she and her now middle school daughter, Teresa, were sitting in the car outside the imposing new school, getting ready to locate her classrooms and locker.
“Mom.” Teresa’s voice was shaky as she leaned forward to peer at the wall looming above them. “I don’t think I can do this.”
“Well, I think you can. What exactly is worrying you?”
“What if there isn’t anyone here who looks like me?”
Marie tugged on one of her daughter’s soft curls and laughed as she raked her own straight hair with her fingers. “Honey, no one looks like you at home, and you do just fine. They’re going to love you, just like we do.”
Teresa grinned and put her hand on the door handle. “I wish my hair was straight like yours,” she said for the thousandth time.
Marie grinned back. “I wish my hair was curly like yours,” she replied for the thousandth time.
Marie never did convince her daughter how lovely her curls were. It didn’t help that Jake’s sisters not only straightened their own hair, but also straighten Teresa’s curls whenever they had the chance. It didn’t matter that Marie’s sisters adored the curls. There were still two basic obstacles to Teresa appreciating her own hair:
♦Teresa’s hair didn’t match her automatic standard of beauty – her mom’s hair.
♦Marie consistently modeled her personal dissatisfaction with her straight hair, so Teresa imitated her example by being discontented with her own hair.
The grass is always greener on the other side, right?
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Our daughters hang on our every word and deed. Since you want the best for your adorable adolescent, casually point out the positive similarities between you—your looks, style, personality, quirks, spunk, etc. She’ll unconsciously learn to appreciate herself more… and you’ll remind yourself about the things that make you awesome!
You can find more like this topic in my book, How To Keep Your Daughter From Slamming the Door (shameless plug). https://deborahanndavis.com/books/how-to-keep-your-daughter-from-slamming-the-door/