My youngest daughter recently turned 6, and I got to go to spend the afternoon with her in her class. I arrived to her room before the class got back from music and was preparing their strawberry shortcakes when the students began arriving.  Comments soon began to fly: "She looks like a boy."  "Your mommy is bald headed."  "Where did her hair go?"  I could tell my daughter was beginning to get defensive.  "My mommy's cute.  I think she's beautiful."

The teacher wasn't back, so I asked the student teacher if I could talk to the class.  I had all the kids with blue eyes raise their hands, then those with brown eyes, etc.  I had those with short hair raise their hands, and then those with long hair.  I explained that we all look different, but could still be friends.  Then I said, "If we said something like, 'your mommy looks like a boy' you would feel really sad wouldn't you?  Do you think (my daughter) feels sad when you say things like that about her mommy?"  It turned out to be a teachable moment, and we all became good friends as I fed them shortcakes and pushed them on the swings.  I was grateful for the opportunity that I could help broaden their horizons about what is and isn't acceptable.  We don't have to be ashamed by rudeness or ignorance.  We just need be ready to teach.

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Comment by GardenJess on December 4, 2014 at 5:20pm

What a great, positive story. Last year was my first year with mostly absent hair, and I had a kindergartener who still found my wig wearing novel enough to announce to his classmates, my mommy is wearing a wig. While I did answer the ensuing questions calmly and directly, it wasn't something the whole class heard. Now that I have a 1st and 3rd grader, I kind of wish I had made a point of explaining alopecia in kindergarten. I had kind of thought that it might be hard for 5 year olds to get, but now I realize there is an edge to the third graders that wasn't there in kindergarten, and, even as part of me wants to be out there and open (easier to do I guess if you go bald :)  ), I worry that my sons might get teased or otherwise end up feeling bad about having a bald(ish) mom. For now it hasn't occurred to them to be concerned about my personal appearance, and I like it that way. Good for you for teaching more kids about being OK with being different.

Comment by kymkym on December 9, 2014 at 4:12pm

Comment by kymkym on December 9, 2014 at 4:12pm

I agree you handled that situation beautifully. Kudos to you for sharing your experience.

Comment by Dena on December 9, 2014 at 5:30pm

I think you handled it perfectly. I remember when my daughter was this age. About a month before she lost her hair. We were in a restaurant and a man walked in missing an arm. I noticed her staring. I asked her not to stare that it might make him feel uncomfortable. She stopped not wanting him to feel uncomfortable, but of course she had a ton of questions. We sat and talked them through and she even smile and said hello to the man when we walked by. It wasn't that she thought bad of him, but it was just something different that she had never seen. A few weeks later when she lost her hair, I reminded her of this encounter. I told her to remember that people being curious didn't mean they thought bad of her, but that they were naturally curious and concerned. To be honest I personally find kindergarteners the easiest to deal with when it comes to Alopecia. They usually just want to know what is going on. Once you explain you aren't sick and that you just look different they usually move on. They get it all out in the open. Now that my daughter is older I notice the kids tend to not ask questions because they don't want to be rude. They tend to whisper in the back ground about it. I think it makes it harder to deal with sometimes. The only time I notice my daughter feel uncomfortable is when a child asks and the mom immediately tells them to be quiet. In her mind it is who she is, so there is no need to not talk about it.

Comment by on December 10, 2014 at 11:56am

When I walked my granddaughter through the halls to her kindergarten class with a smile on my face and my bald head, there were a lot of comments and questions. I could see my granddaughter, who has decided she likes me better without hair than with hair, getting uncomfortable.

I answered questions and soon had a flock of children clambering for attention until the bell rang and they had to run to their classrooms. This, I thought, will be a great opportunity to teach. I went to the office and said I wanted an all school assembly on the topic of hair loss and bullying. Whoda thunk it...they said yes and a week later I spoke to the entire elementary school. I asked my granddaughter to stand up and tell her school the name of why her Yia Yia has no hair. She did. I had the whole school repeat the word.

"What?" I said cupping my ears.
"AL LOW PEE SHUH," they shouted.
"Oh, come on, I said, you can do better than that!"

They shouted it again and I started asking questions. Had anybody in their family lost some or all of their hair? Did they know why?

There were many responses, among them cancer therapies.

I talked about alopecia and what it did to get rid of hair and keep it from growing back in kid friendly terms. We talked and laughed and I told a story and hands went up all over the room. Their interest was intense and the level of involvement enormous. I was surprised and happy and knew this was something I could really have fun with.

At the end I asked them, "Who am I?"
"Jordyn's Yia Yia!"

Where's Jordyn? I had her stand up again. Everybody was telling her how cool her grandmother was.

After that, Jordyn was the most famous kindergartener in the school and whenever I walked her to her classroom kids called out in the hallway.

"Hello Jordyn's Gramma! I remember you. You have AL LOW PEE SHAH!"

And I waved back and said, "I remember you too. You were in the assembly!"

It was lovely. The entire school had a new perspective Kids with hair loss were treated with knowledgeable interest and respect.

What surprised me even more and completely melted my heart was what happened the first time I walked Jordyn into her first grade class the following September.

"Hello Jordyn's Gramma! I remember you. You have AL LOW PEE SHAH!"

And I waved back and said, "I remember you too. You were in the assembly!"

*sigh*  I do so love being bald.

Comment by Laura Duksta on December 10, 2014 at 12:06pm
Awesome!!! Good job Yia Yia!!
Comment by Laura Duksta on December 10, 2014 at 12:07pm
And Bonnie! I agree being ready for teachable moments makes all the difference! Keep Shining sisters!!
Comment by Brandy on December 10, 2014 at 12:26pm

Great story!  You give me hope.


Comment by Lori-akaMimi on December 11, 2014 at 8:29am

Ms.Pam Fitros: Awesome story! In my case, it is my 6 year old granddaughter that has alopecia. She was diagnosed last February, and lost almost all of her hair over the summer - between kindergarten and 1st grade. I asked her new teacher if I could come talk to the class (hoping this could lead to a whole school assembly). She was all for it. Unfortunately, the teacher relayed the message that the principal had turned us down - saying the school counselor would handle any problems that may arise. Ticked me off royally - but, being "just" the grandmother, there wasn't much more I could do...

Epilog: By October, with very little hair left, my Babygirl decided to shave her head. People say that kids can be cruel. Not these kids! The response from ALL her school-mates (K-5) has been wonderful! She has since gone to universalis, and (to quote her): "I am a strong kid! I am me! And, I like my bald head!"

Comment by Londongirldee on December 18, 2014 at 7:59pm
Wow what great stories.
I recently shaved my head (I have AA but my hair matted when washing it, so had to shave it off) and choose not to wear a wig most of the time. So far I've not had any negativity and if I catch someone looking I just smile at them and yes will explain if anyone asks.


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