One lazy Sunday, my five-year-old daughter and I snuggled up on the sofa and watched The Tale of Princess Kaguya. This animated gem chronicled the evolution of a small girl born from within a bamboo stalk, through her trials and tribulations into womanhood. There is no shortage of lessons around resilience, overcoming adversity and independent thinking within this artistic production. My “mommy pride” was high as I sat comfortably with my own budding brood.
As we watched the story unfold, we were introduced to Menowarawa. This young girl was an obvious ally and devoted friend to Princess Kaguya. Within moments of watching the interactions between the two characters, my daughter announced that she did not like Menowarawa. I asked why, and she answered without hesitation, “because she is fat.”
My heart sunk and I was literally speechless. For every moment that I sat beside her lacking a reply, I felt as though my failure as a mother was growing by leaps and bounds. Where was this coming from? Surely, I had never exhibited a behavior that would promote this type of thinking. I dug deep into my mental rolodex so that I could assign blame. Maybe she had heard someone at school speak this way. Perhaps one of my parents had allowed her to watch a sitcom beyond her years and had failed to provide context around something she observed. Possibly I had subconsciously made a self deprecating remark within her hearing range. My head continued to spin. I had no idea how I was going to fix this but was certain that I needed to understand the root cause in order to do so.
We continued to watch the film. Easily, 30-minutes had passed and my daughter was completely engulfed in the story as I sat drowning in my own racing mind. Before I could act, something happened. My daughter spoke up again. “I changed my mind Mommy. I do like her.” I was pleasantly dumbstruck and asked her what had changed. My daughter looked almost surprised that she needed to explain something so simple to me and turned to offer me a lesson I had hoped to offer her earlier.
“Mommy, it doesn’t matter what someone looks like on the outside. It only matters what they’re like on the inside. She’s really nice.”
I never learned the root cause of the original statement, but I learned some more important lessons instead. For starters, I witnessed my daughter process something internally and come to the right answer all by her own doing. Had I opened my mouth, she would have heard my words instead of actually experiencing compassion and gaining knowledge. I had unknowingly empowered her to work through her own solution. Secondly, I realized that the revelation of a root cause is never as important as a valuable resolution. To this day, there are still moments where I question what drove her initial proclamation. The consideration of my different theories are healthy as it allows me to process negative thoughts and become more aware of my own actions. What’s even healthier is reminding myself of the outcome.
Sometimes in life, we look within ourselves for a manner in which to teach someone else a lesson. If we’re lucky, a lesson can be taught to us instead.