Every Halloween, I remember the time I went to kindergarten dressed as Ariel from the Little Mermaid. I wanted to be Belle from Beauty and the Beast, but the store was sold out. I also loved Ariel, so it seemed like a great second choice. The costume was a spaghetti strap dress that looked like a clamshell bikini top and a mermaid tail. Plus, it came with a foam cutout wig of Ariel’s bright red hair. It was adorable. I was adorable.
But when I wore my costume to school, my teacher asked me why my head was on fire and laughed at me.
I was five. And it broke my heart.
This picture of me with my brothers on our way to trick or treat shows the sadness and shame I felt after being laughed at by an adult. This picture is seared into my brain. It makes me so sad to see just how defeated I felt.
I took the flaming red hair off after my teacher laughed at me. I didn’t want to be laughed at. I was a sensitive kid (I am a sensitive adult, too.) and it made me feel worthless. I went from feeling like a beautiful underwater princess to feeling like a joke.
Why do adults do this to kids? Why can’t we just let kids live in their fantasies? The world breaks us all down eventually, why do it to a child on purpose?
This is just one moment on my journey, but every year I remember the adult who laughed at me. I remember the loss of innocence. I remember the shame.
I never want to take away the joy of childhood from Rowan. No matter how silly it seems to my adult eyes and brain, he deserves to be full of wonder and whimsy. I want him to be able to imagine himself as anyone he admires. I want him to feel free to be comfortable in his own beautiful fantasies.
Please friends, let your kids be themselves without fear of teasing. It robs them of their innocence and makes it harder for them to play and have fun.