My husband took our seven-year-old daughter to our small town’s annual Father/Daughter dance last weekend. The theme was Butterfly Kisses, and the excitement had been building in our house for three weeks prior to the big event. She practiced dancing around the kitchen with the broom, her little brother, me, and her other little brother. She wanted to make sure she knew some fancy dance moves before her dad took her out on the town.
Once her shoes arrived in the mail, she practiced wearing them around the house. She made sure to go up and down the stairs a few times, just in case she had to navigate any stairs the night of the dance. She wanted to be prepared.
She picked out a formal gown with a floor-length tulle skirt and three-quarter length lace sleeves in bright blue. She wore sparkly blue peep toe low heeled shoes with white tights. I pinned her hair into a crown of blonde rosettes, then curled the rest. She wore a matching corsage on her left wrist and looked like Cinderella on the night of the ball.
While I pinned and curled her hair, I talked to her about what makes us beautiful.
“You know, sweetie, you are beautiful to me and Daddy no matter what you’re wearing. We think you look pretty in your fancy dress, but you’re just as beautiful to us in an old t-shirt and pants,” I said.
“Really?” she asked. “You always think I’m beautiful?”
“Yes, of course. Doing fancy hair and painting our nails are fun, but those things aren’t what make us beautiful. Being nice to other people, making others feel good about themselves, and being kind and generous are what makes us beautiful on the inside, which is where it counts.”
“So I’m beautiful because I am nice to other people?” she asked.
“Yes, that’s right,” I said.
“What if someone is mean to other people and not nice?”
“Then they are not very beautiful,” I replied.
I want my daughter to enjoy formal updos, fancy dresses, and elaborately themed parties, but I also want her to know these things are just decoration. They are not the substance of our character. I also took the opportunity to give her an age appropriate dating lesson.
When they returned from the dance, I asked my daughter if her dad made her feel like a special princess.
“Yes,” she said.
“Good, honey, I’m glad. You deserve to feel special, and if you ever go on a date with a man who doesn’t make you feel special and is rude to you, you don’t go out with him again,” I said.
“And you go straight home and call your mama,” I added, because I’m protective. And I mean it; I hope my grown girl calls me to chat after a good date, a bad date, or because she can’t get a date. Motherhood is a lifelong gig.
“Okay,” she said. “So, if a guy says mean things to me, I don’t have to go out with him again?”
“Nope,” I said. “You look for a man who treats you like Daddy does.”
She’s only seven, but we are laying a foundation that will shape her future romantic relationships. It’s never too soon to start having positive discussions regarding dating and the opposite sex.