I’m a pretty hands-off mom and want my children to be able to express themselves and learn for themselves. Of course I have my moments that I turn into a helicopter mom, but for the most part, I love being able to watch from the sidelines as they discover the world for themselves.

Ever since the girls’ were able to, I’ve been giving them the freedom of getting themselves dressed each morning. They are very picky about what they wear and honestly, it’s not a battle that’s worth fighting. Usually it’s a dress with shoes or during the winter it’s a dress with tights, or a skirt, tights, and a shirt. They don’t get too crazy on their outfits, but there are times when they come downstairs with outfits that have several different patterns or colors. I usually smile, applaud them for doing it all on their own, and then let them enjoy their day.

Harlan has always taken pride in her outfits. She loves styling and putting things together. She’s had some pretty incredible outfits, and has never once batted an eye when she walks out of the house. I’ve always admired her confidence and ability to feel so secure in all of her decisions and herself.

And then something changed.

A couple of weeks ago as the weather really started to get cold, I pulled out the kids’ winter hats. As Har was getting out of the car for school, I told her to put it on. She assured me she would do it as soon as she got out, and quickly shut the door before running inside school – sans hat. I didn’t think anything of it other than that she probably didn’t want to mess up her hair (she’s big into braids lately,) so I let it go.

The next morning I noticed her hat wasn’t on again. I prompted her to put it on as the temperatures were near freezing and she was hesitant. She didn’t do her hair that morning so I knew that wasn’t the problem. There was a reason behind why she wouldn’t put on that hat and I couldn’t put my finger on the exact reason. I let it go for the morning as I didn’t want to stress her out before school started.

That afternoon as I picked her up from school I noticed she was wearing the hat. She was all smiles and seemed fine, so I didn’t press the issue from earlier that morning.

And then it happened again the next morning. Third day in a row she refused to put the hat on when she went to school. Finally I asked why. She was very honest and upfront with me.

“I just don’t want anyone to make fun of me for it.”

There it was. A sentence I’d been dreading, yet knew it would come someday. It just came sooner than I would’ve thought.

She was letting them in. Their thoughts and opinions began to consume her. Suddenly she couldn’t think for herself anymore, she was letting others do some of it for her.

I assured her that no one was going to make fun of her for her hat and even assured her that her hat looked very similar to the hat that I had on and I was wearing mine proudly and confidently. You could tell she contemplated my statement before hesitating to put on her hat. But she ended up putting it on and it was still on when I picked her up from school that afternoon.

“Was the hat okay today?” I asked nonchalantly after school.

“Yep!” she exclaimed as we walked to the car.

She hasn’t hesitated with the hat since.

But that hat means so much more than just something used to keep her head warm. That hat took away some of her innocence. That hat brought on insecurity and fear. It let others in. It let the judgement of others show.

That hat took away some of my little girl.

That wall around her is slowly breaking. And here I am right behind her desperately trying to build it back up before it all comes crumbling down. And then I’ll teach her how we can build it back up together. One step of confidence at a time.