Note: Out of respect to the 12-year-old child, we will not post her picture here.
What does 12 look like?
Why does it matter?
Last week the news went out that a 12-year-old girl was missing and the news report stated that she was probably with a 15-year-old.
The local press was not quick and not dogged in any way; it was social media that really spread the word.
Then came the missing child’s picture; and a swift wave of judgment. The child was fresh faced, beautiful, with a shock of natural hair worn in a crazy afro, flashing a 1,000 watt smile and a body that is well, not what society thinks of when they think of a 12-year-old.
180 pounds. Fully developed. The comments came quick. “Don’t look 12 to me!” “She is not 12” “Wow.”
But she is 12. So she has a 12-year-old’s body. I tried repeatedly to make this point. And to remind folks that a child has no control over his or her packaging. The comments were harsh but it was the underlying disregard that was heartbreaking.
Our conversation about our physical appearance has to change.
Puberty, adolescence, all of the natural occurrences can’t be cloaked in pet terms, sly chuckles, and blank stares. How easy is it to trivialize the age and focus on someone’s appearance. Twelve. Twelve. Twelve. I want to scream it to anyone listening. I want to march to the paper with a sign reading 12.
I want an explanation on why she is not worried about.
This outrage sparked a distinct memory from my own childhood. I remember reading the famous line from Judy Blume’s cult classic, Are You There God, It’s Me Margaret: “We must, we must, we must increase our bust!” Such innocence. I was so surprised thinking this isn’t a conversation we have in my house. There is no comfort in what is happening during this time of physical change.
I recall grown folks sitting at the kitchen table, “Hmmm…she’s thick!” “You’re gonna have to watch that one,” and on and on. They were starting a shame they didn’t even know was growing within me.
It doesn’t have to be this way; 12 comes in many shapes and sizes. The shape will be all that matters if confidence and knowledge are missing. Educated girls become empowered women.
Update: The 12-year-old girl is back at home, after two weeks. Praise God.
She may be back, but somehow I don’t think she gets her 12 back.
I don’t think we will ever let her have it.
Nicole Harding is an expert in leadership development, a wife and mother, who is focused on spreading positivity, one conversation, one home project, and one dynamite deal at a time. Follow her on Twitter @RealTalkNic.
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