A mother’s emotional open letter to the stranger who insulted her four-year-old daughter’s haircut is being shared across the internet. The letter was written recently but has only now gone viral.
American journalist Terri Peters, from Maryland, took to parenting site Babble to respond to the woman who told her daughter she could be beautiful if only she grew her hair long “like a princess.”
Peters and her young daughter were waiting in line to pay for her new toy (a treat as she had been so well behaved) when a woman decided to make small talk: “‘What a beautiful doll,’ she said. ‘Which princess is that?’ Peters explained what happened next: “She looks at you with her silly, friendly attitude on display and says, ‘Rapunzel!’ And then, you look at my perfect little girl and say, ‘Well, her long hair is so pretty. You would be that pretty, too, if you had long hair.'”
Imagine saying that to a young child, who soaks up every word, every comment said? It’s unthinkable.
I see the wheels turning in her mind, wondering if she should have skipped the short haircut, wondering if she is beautiful like a princess. I see the shame and self-doubt that this small comment brings to her eyes, and I want to run from the store and protect her from the standards of beauty that our society wants to place upon her.
“Before you decided to tell my daughter that she could be beautiful — like a princess — if only she’d grow her hair long, I wish you’d taken a minute to think about your words. The truth is, you do not know my child. You do not know that she cried every day when I brushed her long hair, leaving both of us frustrated and in bad moods.”
Peters explained that her daughter had asked to have her hair cut short after she finished her ballet recital – and how happy she was after it was all done. In heart-wrenching detail, she described how proud she was of her four-year-old:
“You did not see how proud she was when she wore her hair in a bun for her dance recital, nor did you hear the excitement in her voice when it was over, and she asked me, ‘Can I get my hair cut short again now?’ You did not watch her sit still — and be very well-behaved for a 4-year-old — while she got her new haircut. You definitely did not watch her look at herself in the mirror and smile when it was finished because she was so happy with her new look.”
Here is a carefree yet impressionable young girl – at a time when hair means a great deal – embracing her own uniqueness only to have that notion quashed by the cruel comments of a stranger. Already, she has been introduced to gender stereotyping – pretty girls need long hair – something her mother wasn’t going to allow. She saved the day by reminding her daughter that at the end of Tangled, Rapunzel had short, brown hair too.
Instead of talking any further about how a lady in a store told her that she would be more beautiful if she grew her hair long like Rapunzel, my daughter and I drive home talking about the end of Rapunzel’s story — the way she stood up for herself, was strong and brave, took care of the ones she loved, and put other’s needs before her own — all while rocking a short, beautiful haircut.
She rounded off the letter by reminding the woman how susceptible young children are to criticism over the way they look. “In the future, speak with more caution to the little girls you meet. Children soak up everything, even the voices their mommas wish they could shield them from.”
You can read the full open letter here