Every summer my daughter goes to day camp. She absolutely loves it and looks forward to it all year long.
This year, the camp has started having theme days which are kind of like spirit days at school. Recently, the theme was superheroes and princesses and N was pretty psyched about it.
As princess and superhero day approached, however, I began to have doubts about the merits of this particular theme. For one thing, my daughter is going in to third grade—most of her old princess dress-up clothes don’t even fit anymore.
I pointed out to her that most princess dress-up clothes are made for younger kids and a lot of girls probably won’t participate because they’ve outgrown their princess dresses. I even went so far as to suggest she dress as a superhero instead,
“We could make a really cool costume out of stuff we already have!”
I was met with a look that fell somewhere between abject horror and unwavering determination to tune out her obviously insane mother.
It became clear that my daughter fully intended to ignore me and my sensible advice so I backed off.
The next day, she came skipping out of her room with a frilly light green Tinkerbell princess dress (yes, I know Tinkerbell isn’t a princess but Disney apparently does not). While she looked adorable in her almost too small dress, a bad feeling settled in the pit of my stomach as I hugged and kissed her goodbye.
N is a sweet, sociable, happy-go-lucky girl who gets along with pretty much everyone but when she came home from camp that day, she didn’t seem like herself. She was lying on the couch watching TV, looking pretty sad and dejected.
I sat down and asked her if everything was alright.
After some gentle prodding, she told me that she was the ONLY girl in her group (besides her counselor) to dress up and that when she arrived, the other girls pointed and laughed at her.
One perpetually mean girl looked at her and sneered loudly “Isn’t Tinkerbell for babies?”
“And what did you say?”
She replied softly “I said no”
I wanted to annihilate those girls for hurting my baby, for crushing her spirit like that without a second thought.
I proceeded to do try and undo some of the damage.
“Tinkerbell is NOT for babies. You know that, right? They make clothes for grown women with Tinkerbell on them. Not Cinderella, not Sleeping Beauty. TINKERBELL.”
“And you are NOT a baby. You’re actually older than a lot of those girls.”
The thing is, my daughter may be several months older but she is very innocent and unjaded and perhaps a bit sheltered.
Unlike a lot of girls her age, she still likes fairies and princesses and mermaids…exactly the way an eight year old girl should be, IMHO.
Don’t get me wrong—she’s NOT the victim of a plot to keep her artificially immature or anything. She’s just been exposed to different things and really, in some ways, she’s more sophisticated than her peers—she’s able to talk to adults about a wide range of topics and she has an understanding of the world that a lot of kids her age don’t possess. While they’re obsessing over Hannah Montana and High School Musical, she’s watching British science fiction (The Sarah Jane Adventures) and NOVA and Dinosapiens, reading chapter books at a 5th grade level and pursuing her numerous artistic interests.
But at heart, she’s still very much a little girl and I love that about her.
That night, I told my husband what she told me, how much it hurt me to see her like that. We both voiced the same sad thoughts…
She’ll probably never fully put herself out there like that again. Sad.
Something that she loved to do will always be tarnished by the memory of this day.
A little piece of childhood innocence was lost today…
The next day she told me that the mean girl who said “Isn’t Tinkerbell for babies?” plays Elmo games on Sesamestreet.com in the computer lab.
Pot? Meet Kettle.
I told her to call the girl out publicly for playing Elmo games.
I know on some level that was bad. I know two wrongs don’t make a right. I know turn the other cheek blah, blah, blah…
But this girl is always so mean and until she gets put in her place, she’s not going to stop. I know this from experience—and really, it’s BASIC human nature.
For the record, I’ve never been mean to anyone unprovoked. It’s not who I am. But if you mess with me past a certain point, you’ll get it back in kind.
That said, if I have to choose between some 8 year old mean girl and my daughter, I’m choosing my daughter—I won’t fight her battles but I WILL teach her to stand up for herself.
And I make NO apologies…
I’m sure at least a few of you are DYING to tell me how wrong I am. Just keep it civil, please.