Grandma Pigtail Pals Has Something To Say To Girls Who Are Different

March 19, 2013

Dear Amelia,

I learned from your Mama today that some of your classmates have said some mean things recently. You were not looking forward to recess because of that. You wanted to play “wolves” and they did not think that is something girls should do. They wanted to be fairies, delicate, tiny, and almost invisible. They teased that maybe you wanted to be a boy. I felt very sad that your feelings were hurt. I also feel sad that those girls do not know how they are keeping their own awesomeness from growing bigger and stronger.

When I was little, my best friend Kathy and I used to pretend we were wild horses on the way to school. School was a mile away and much of that trip we would gallop and paw at the cement like real horses paw at the ground. Each street was a pretend river we had to cross and not drown. When we got to school, I am sure we were wind-blown and sweaty most days. She and I never, ever played beauty shop or princesses. We created pretend mysteries, a dog kennel, and school. We played explorers. Sometimes, but not very often we played dolls. We swam a lot and rode our bikes everywhere. We spent long days in the public library and art museum. She and I did not fit in with many of the other girls. She now teaches college classes and earned many college degrees. I work at a college and have many college degrees.  And I never turned into a boy!

Your imagination and strong spirit is different from many girls your age. You like to do art projects and play outside. You like to play pretend. There are many children who cannot play like that. You may act differently than some of the girls at school, but that does not mean you are bad or wrong. There are many ways to be a girl and many ways to be awesome. You may make some of the other girls uneasy because they might not have imaginations as strong as yours. They may have only been given certain kinds of toys because that is “what girls play with”. They may think girls can only be pretty, look nice for other people’s approval and get boys to like them. You know better. You know girls can get dirty, be noisy, be scared, be brave, take risks, be creative, and not care too much how they look every minute. Sometimes people can act mean when they feel uncertain or scared. They fight against any idea that suggests they might be in the wrong or need a new attitude.

Sometimes you will have to deal with mean people. Girls can be especially mean. Your mama had to face some mean girls. They did not like her because her hair was black, because she was very smart, because she moved to Kohler from somewhere else. She was different.  Sometimes your mama cried very hard and I held her tight. Sometimes I got very angry at those girls for hurting your mama. I had to remind myself that those girls were very unsure of themselves.

Look at your mama now. She is beautiful and strong. She graduated from college. She has traveled throughout the world. She has started her own company that is helping so many people. She is going to Boston this weekend because other people want to hear her ideas. I wonder what those mean girls would think now!

I hope you will be strong and be the Amelia you are meant to be. You are smart, creative, and very funny. You sometimes will not fit in because other people do not see the world like you do. That does not mean you are wrong. No other woman had flown an airplane across the Atlantic before Amelia Earhart.  I bet she lost many friends because she would not give up her plan. Rosa Parks took a stand for freedom of Black people to sit where they wanted to on buses and she did not care what the other women thought. She had to be herself. Sometimes the people, girls or boys, who do the most and explore and create the most, have to do things differently than the group who thinks it makes the rules. I hope you will remember that awesomeness is inside and no one can take it away. You know how to show it and you know how to make it quiet when you need to. I hope you remember that there is not just one way to be a girl or a first grader or a big sister. There are many ways. Amelia Joyce, remember you are amazing. We can only hope those other girls realize they can be amazing too, even while they let other girls be awesome in their own way. If I ever learn you have been a “mean girl”, you and I will have to have a very serious private talk. You need to show other children how to let their seed of awesomeness grow. Never, ever forget how much you are loved. You are my very first grandchild, my very first granddaughter, and I learn from you every week. I expect you will teach me many more ways to be awesome as I grow old!

I love you very much.








  1. This made me weep. It’s so perfectly said. Melissa, your family is three generations of awesomeness. Keep on!!

  2. Beautiful! Brought tears to my eyes.

  3. Tonya C. says:

    This is my favorite part: “I hope you will be strong and be the Amelia you are meant to be. You are smart, creative, and very funny. You sometimes will not fit in because other people do not see the world like you do. That does not mean you are wrong.”

    What a lucky girl to have so many loving, smart people in her life!

  4. This is awesome. I see where you get it from.

  5. I almost started crying. This is so perfect. Brava!

  6. This is an amazing, beautiful letter and I cannot wait to read it to my daughter (age 6) who is facing some difficult teasing at recess bc of similar stuff. Thank you Grandma Pigtail Pals

  7. It’s no surprise your family is full of awesome women! I’m saving this for my 5 year old daughter for when she starts school next year. Thank you!

  8. Love the multi-generational manifesto for fierce, brave beings…Great way to start spring with a smile today, thx!

  9. I have a 7 year-old Amelia Jayne who also is just a bit different and can’t get her classmates to play at recess. She is creative and energetic and confused as to why no one wants to be part of acting out her imaginative stories.

    Just in the past two days we’ve talked about two different situations where she wanted one thing but the other kids thought she was gross (in one instance) and silly. I asked her which was more important to her – doing what she really wanted, as long as it didn’t hurt anyone else, or trying to please other people. In both conversations she thought for a moment and decided she really wanted to do what she wanted, and not change her behavior because of other people’s opinions. I am hoping she will continue to develop a strong sense of self that will serve her well because like your Amelia Joyce, she is smart and creative, and won’t always fit in.

    Thanks for writing such a wonderful post and being such a wonderful grandma. I hope she listens to you and believes what you tell her. She sounds very, very special.

  10. I loved this letter and think that Amelia is so lucky to have people like you and your mother in her life to guide her and give her strength.

    The only part that I didn’t like was, “Girls can be especially mean.”
    This sounds a lot like “boys will be boys” and I think it’s harmful. Though some girls can often act cruel for various reasons (sexism and sexist competition is a big one), being cruel is not an inherent part of girlhood.

    • Kelly –
      Just a bit of background, my mom was a school guidance counselor for years and has seen first hand professionally and as a parent the very specific type of girl aggression that is well documented and researched. I think her comment differs from “boys will be boys” because the boy version excuses poor or brutish behavior, whereas the comment about girls is simply a fact. Not all girls, and not all the time, but the specific type of verbal bullying girls do to each other is very much real.

  11. What a wonderful letter to a “different” granddaughter! I loved the line, “There are many ways to be a girl and many ways to be awesome.” Thank you, Melissa for bringing Gigi’s letter to all of us.

  12. Oh, yes, there are so many ways to be full of awesome (most often not by trying to be someone else)!

    My sister told me I looked like a boy once, and it stuck. I wouldn’t have short hair again for years! (Later, she told me it was because I got a lot of attention for my curls and she was upset she didn’t get as much attention. So maybe those mean girls are jealous that you feel free to be you?)

    I don’t know if this would help, but at recess, my second grade girl and her friends play wolf most days. She’s one of the battle wolves and they are immortal and golden. But one of her friends likes to take care of the pups and one of her guy friends only wants to be a baby wolf. Some of the other kids play hunters and that can get a bit rough, but so it goes. So. If you want to play wolf again, feel free to tell those girls that there is a whole pack of wolf girls down in Texas who play at recess everyday. And they’re not boys either. 🙂

  13. I’m going to frame this.

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