A little girl who wore pigtails to school for the first time after fearing kids would laugh at her hearing aid and red birthmark was rewarded for her bravery in the most beautiful way this week: with every girl in her class, plus her teacher, wearing pigtails in a show of support.
“This says so much about everyone involved,” says Dana Fowle, mom of 7-year-old Leo Rose Powell, regarding the first graders and their teacher at a public school in downtown Atlanta.
Fowle tells Yahoo Beauty that her daughter was born with an “invasive, scary, terrible hemangioma,” which is a benign vascular tumor that can cause birthmarks and other complications and typically fades after childhood.
In Leo Rose’s case, she explains, they were told at three weeks that she’d be possibly blind or developmentally delayed; instead she was able to undergo extensive surgery, which revealed the tumor had wiped three small bones out of her ear. She started to lose her balance at the age of 4, and in kindergarten, she wound up losing hearing in her right ear. During that same year, Leo Rose asserted herself by saying she didn’t want to have laser treatments to reduce the appearance of her birthmark.
“She said, ‘This is who I am, and I’m not changing it,’” recalls Fowle, a consumer reporter for Fox 5 news in Atlanta who posted about Leo Rose’s pigtails on Tuesday on Facebook.
“The kiddo has always been quite a tomboy eschewing things like pigtails. Or so we thought,” she wrote. “She admitted she really wanted to wear them, but she’s been too embarrassed because of her one hearing aid and the red speckles on her ear and neck from a hemangioma. Well, yesterday she went for it. No classmates made fun. Her teacher spontaneously put her hair in pigtails. And today the whole class is wearing them. My heart is so full.”
In just a few hours, the post has received hundreds of supportive reactions and comments, including one that noted, “That child is meant to tear down barriers. … What an inspiration to other children — even though she probably does not even realize!”
Fowle tells Yahoo Beauty that the first grader decided “out of the blue” on Sunday that she wanted to wear pigtails to school the next day. And has her mom helped her practice a style she approved of, she said, “I’m afraid people are going to make fun of me.” They then then went through worst-case scenarios together and discussed how some kids might ask questions, but that they would come out of a natural curiosity.
The next day, Leo Rose jumped out of bed a half hour early for school, getting help from mom with her pigtails. Since Fowle works the early shift, a sitter walked her to school, reporting that the 7-year-old was nervous and took a deep breath before entering the classroom. But when her mom checked in with the teacher later in the day, she was fine.
When Fowle went to get her daughter at pickup, she saw the teacher, Patricia Derrico, in pigtails. She later learned the teacher had asked all the other girls in class to wear pigtails too, and lo and behold, this morning at drop-off, Fowle says, “I saw all these little girls in pigtails filing in. Kids get such a bad rap today, and they are kind.”
As for Leo Rose? “She had a whole new bounce in her step. It was a breakthrough moment for her,” her mom says. “She’s so brave. Braver than many adults I know. This week I got a real glimpse of who she is going to become. And I like what I see.”
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