“Hannah your mom brought you that?”
“No. I brought it.”
“Hannah you brought that with your money?”
“You have a job?”
Her name is Alexia, and I’ve known her for seven years. When we met she was about four. She was smart and she was driven. She was driven to be like myself and every other girl older than her. So every time I came to church with something new she came with the same questions. (And she still does.)
Now she’s using lip gloss and body spray, and she’s learned to roll her eyes. (Wonderful.) She’s growing up into beautiful young lady, but she has some challenges to face and that’s where I come in. Just the other day I noticed Alexia getting excited because her dress is getting shorter. My first reaction was anger. (She’s too young to want to show off the little goods she does have. I’m still trying to figure out how to handle mine, and she’s ready to flaunt hers? No, just no.) But then I remembered how I felt at her age when my favorite skirt started getting shorter. I was excited too, and that’s when I realized that she wasn’t wrong for feeling that way. We were wrong for teaching it to her.
Short dresses and tight clothes seem to be the staple item in women clothing. So Alexia’s first sign that she’s growing up is her short dress. She isn’t excited cause she wants to show off anything. She’s excited because she’s growing up. She realizes that she’s not a little girl anymore and, though that may bother her at times, it’s exciting. So instead of getting mad at her, I sit her down and tell her that there’s more to growing up than getting attention and showing body parts. (I, of course, give her the rated G version of the convo.) I make sure she know it’s her brains that make her a young lady and not how she looks or what she wears. I tell her that it’s how she carries herself that makes her beautiful, but she needs more. So I show her in the way I live. (After all she does look up to me, so she’s watching what I do. ) I hold off on a boyfriend because I want her to know that a man doesn’t make you a woman, but an education does. She knows I have guy friends, but she also knows that I’m involved back at my college, and I study hard. I avoid dressing too provocative because I want her to know that showing skin doesn’t make you a woman. (Sometimes I’ll even wear a floral pattern or a graphic tee, so she understands that we’re not so different after all.)
Watching her grow, I’ve noticed that sometimes being upset and disappointed doesn’t do anything but break her spirit. My grandpa always said that “Those that know better do better.” (I think he was on to something.) Therefore, I can’t be mad with the way she acts sometimes because she doesn’t know any better. It’s my job– as the big sister because she refuses to call me anything else– to teach her better. She listens too. Sure I may have to remind her, but she gets what I’m saying. She’s growing up, but she’ll always be my princess. However now I’m not just her playmate, but also a confidante and an advisor. She’ll always be my princess, but she’s becoming a queen– and it’s my job to help her get her crown.