A mother's open letter to the woman criticising her four-year-old's hair
An American 'mom', Terri Peters, has penned an open letter which has gone viral in response, "To the inconsiderate stranger I encountered the other day," who wrongly criticised Peter's four-year-old daughter's haircut whilst in a queue to buy a doll.
Said stranger messed with the wrong woman: you see Peters is a reporter for TODAY.com and the Huffington Post, and so wisely chose to bide her time, and respond via a very public, open letter a few days later. She chose to stay steely and calm at the time, explaining, "we have a doll to pay for, so we stand in line and make small talk with you until we’ve finished paying." But her timely response has now garnered the appropriate attention, and more importantly - support, from mothers all over the world.
The story goes like this, as Peters and her young daughter waited in line to pay for her new toy, a woman decided to make small talk: "'What a beautiful doll,' you say to her. 'Which princess is that?' Peters explains. "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'." Wrong move lady.
Peters writes in her open letter; "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."
With plenty of emotion, humility and heart-wrenching detail the saddened mother goes on: "You do not know that last summer she and I got matching bob haircuts and she loved hers. Then this fall, when she started ballet, she desperately wanted to wear her hair in a crocheted bun holder, leading me to tell her if she grew it out and was very patient through all of the hair-brushing, she’d be able to by recital time in the spring.
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 four-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.'
Until that is, a lady in the queue undid it all, while at the same time making her mother feel "like you punched me in the stomach, because who says that to a child?"
She describes the scene; "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.
"On the walk to the car, my daughter says to me, 'Mommy, I wish they would have had a princess doll with short hair like me.' And so, I tell my daughter that all kinds of hair are beautiful, just as all kinds of people are beautiful. I explain that sometimes people say things without understanding how those things sound to others, and that you were not saying she wasn’t beautiful — only that Rapunzel had pretty, long hair. But then I ask her, 'Do you remember what happens at the end of Rapunzel’s movie [Tangled]? What does her hair look like?'
I get giggles from the back seat as she says, 'Short and brown like me!'”
Undoing any damage done she spent the car journey home talking to her daughter about Rapunzel's now timely 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 writes.
Peters closes: "I’m sure you didn’t mean to insinuate that my daughter was not beautiful. You were just making conversation with a very cute little girl in the same checkout line as you. But please, 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."