I put a bow in her wispy, brown hair.
And she pulled it off.
I laughed, said something in a ridiculous baby voice, then slipped it back into her hair.
And she pulled it off.
And finally, I realized what I was doing: I was forcing her to wear something she didn’t want to wear. I was forcing her to wear something she didn’t need to wear. I was forcing her to wear something that serves no purpose whatsoever.
I was forcing her to be pretty. I was forcing her to look good. I was forcing her because I wanted her to be a certain way. I was forcing her to fit into a mold, a ____, a perfect, little Barbie doll box.
How could I tell her that it was most important to be kind? How could I teach her that it was most important to be smart, and thoughtful and brave? How could I explain to her it was most important to make an impact with your heart and talents and brains when I was showing her that it was really most important to make an impact with her appearance?
How could I pray that she’d grow up to be the kind of beautiful that finds freedom in life and embraces fullness and faith with wide open arms that moves and breathes and lives without restraint, without barriers, and without fear when I was showing her that I really prayed she’d just grow up to be the kind of beautiful that looked good in pictures?
How could I expect her to grow up to be the kind of beautiful that courageously chases after her own dreams, that lives loudly and boldly and unapologetically, with feet that seek to run and hands that seek to conquer, and a confidence that softly whispers “I can do it.” when I was really hoping she’d grow up to be the kind of beautiful that had boyfriends and had friends and had an easy life?
I didn’t make my two older boys wear hats at this age. I didn’t make them fix their hair. I didn’t make them fluff and primp and get dressed up.
I didn’t make my two older boys be nice and neat and clean and quiet. I didn’t make them sit still and be polite.
Why was I making her?
Why was I raising her to be the wife of a CEO instead of her own CEO?
Why was I raising her to learn her place in this world instead of creating her own place in this world?
And so, I’ll never make her wear another bow again. I’ll never make her wear ruffles or frills or itchy tutus again. I’ll never make her anything that feels uncomfortable or out of place or not her style.
Because do you know what happens when little girls know without a doubt that they are more valuable than their appearance? That their worth is more than a pretty face and skinny thighs, that who they are can’t be summed up in mascara and lip gloss and perfectly groomed eyebrows?
They write books that change the world, they start charities that change communities, they launch businesses and they become managers. They stay at home and continue the cycle of raising more strong children. They feed the hungry, they educate the masses, they clothe the poor. They join hands with other women and together, they become leaders and shakers and movers and do-ers and forces to be reckoned with.
We are in a constant battle against this world to raise daughters who know their worth, who know that their identity is not in what they look like, but in who they are in their deepest parts of their heart.
And that’s why I’ll never make her wear another bow again.