White Knights, Dads and Self-Image Saviors

My daughter came home from school and told me something that caused my heart to slam into my chest and as the instinct born into me to fight for my own kicked in, my hands curled into fists under the table, fingernails biting into my palms. I lowered my head, took one calming deep breath, and prepared to simultaneously have my heart shattered while gently and firmly placing the pieces of my seven-year-old daughter’s back together.

About my daughter Tatym, she is an old soul, wise beyond her years and the kind of person who will drop everything to make another smile, because that is what Tatym does. I have often sat in awe of her; the carefree way she plays, climbing and tumbling, always trying to go higher or farther. She challenges herself, but if she doesn’t meet her expectations she understands that there is always another time to try again. She does not understand failure, or what we as adults perceive as failure. She is a child, and her only worries should be those of a child’s innocent mind … should be.

Tatym does not cry often. I think she got most of that out during her first few months here. She was a screamer, that one. For months, that child kept me awake, and nothing I could do would calm those cries, until one day she just stopped. Sure she has had her moments when she’s been injured where she has shed a few tears, but she gets back up, dusts herself off, and she gives it another go because that is what Tatym does.

Tatym was gifted with compassion the likes of which I have not seen in people who have lived rich and full lives, decades beyond her entire seven years. No, Tatym does not cry often, but when she does those tears are usually reserved for those she loves. When her sister was ill, Tatym was there. When her sister fell from the highest monkey bars and wound up in the medical room awaiting my arrival, Tatym refused to go back to class, tears cascading down her beautiful cheeks.

I will not leave my sister.

Today I raised my head and looked into her luminous grey eyes, pooled with unshed tears, my heart broke again.

She said, “He told me, maybe the reason I’m fat is because you put an iced tea juice box in my lunch. Do you know my thighs touch? My thighs aren’t supposed to touch. I feel really bad, please don’t say anything to him I don’t want him to get in trouble.”

The vilest thoughts coursed through my mind.

SHE IS SEVEN YEARS OLD, and she thinks she’s fat because some little puke at school said she was? Is my beautiful baby already fighting body image issues because of a little boy at school? Where did he get that? Who told a seven-year-old boy that it was okay to talk to others that way, to body shame another child? Because let’s get real, that’s exactly what he did.

No, this isn’t a ‘kids will be kids’ scenario; these are seven-year-old girls who are developing body image issues because seven-year-old boys are telling them that they aren’t skinny enough.

I quickly countered with how beautiful she is, how wrong this little boy was and how important it is for her to see, really see, what we all see when we look at Tatym. But, more importantly than that, I needed her to FEEL what I was saying.

As her tears turned to sobs and I rocked her in my arms, I could feel that I was losing this battle, the hit to her esteem was too great, and while I recounted my own experiences with cruel children and the lies we believe, it wasn’t enough. I kissed her forehead and felt my own tears well up and just when I knew I couldn’t get through to her on my own the Hero arrived.

He isn’t a white knight, and he didn’t show up on a noble steed; he is Daddy, and he rode up on his motorcycle, pipes loud as thunder.

We explained to him what happened and he gently scooped his precious child into his arms. He explained to her how sometimes people say cruel things that just aren’t true and that he wishes those kinds of people were more like Tatym. He asked her thoughtful questions, hard questions, engaging questions, and she answered them all. Her shattered esteem, crushed by the thoughtless remarks of a young boy, was lovingly stitched back together by the truth of a good man. A man who understands that his daughters will face pressure to be “perfect” by some bullshit standards that others will place on them.

I can relate to my beautiful daughter, and I can share my battles of self-esteem with her, but it took the love and encouragement of a strong man to seal her confidence again. While I am grateful for him, it still pains me that what a young boy said caused a ripple effect that, in her complex mind, only a strong, loving man could undo.

When I step back and look at the world and the message it sends to our girls, I thank my lucky stars for strong women, empowering women, and a few good men.

Heroes come in all forms, but the greatest one in our family is the man who goes to the wall for his daughters. This hero is aware of the battles that loom, the one where he will constantly be there to reinforce how amazing his girls are when society tells them they aren’t. This hero is ride or die all the way, and he’ll come out swinging every single time to make sure those two girls know that they are fierce, capable of anything, and loved beyond measure. Just to seal the deal, he’s more badass on that motorcycle than any white knight in any fairytale ever written.

Photo: ©Nicole Lyons All Rights Reserved

Nicole Lyons

Nicole Lyons is a force of nature disguised as a writer, a social activist, a voice for the downtrodden, and a powerful poet with a delicate touch. She is a published author and poet featured in the books Feminine Collective’s RAW&UNFILTERED VOL I, Love Notes From Humanity; The Lust, Love, & Loss Collection, and Stigma Fighters Anthology Volume One. Her essays and poetry have also been featured in numerous literary collectives. Her debut book of poetry HUSH, published by FC Media will be released in April 2017. Nicole was inducted into The Mental health Writer’s Guild in 2015 for her work on The Lithium Chronicles, Psych Central, The Mighty, and the International Bipolar Foundation. She is a speaker and event coordinator with a Canadian nonprofit that focuses on suicide awareness and prevention in children and teens, and she lives a good life in beautiful British Columbia with her brilliant daughters and amazing husband. From a sunny porch beautiful British Columbia, Nicole is enjoying a glass of wine, and working on her second collection of poetry.

10 thoughts on “White Knights, Dads and Self-Image Saviors

  1. Laura McGowan Reply

    Aww damn, abusing females so young. What kind of father does this boy have? What kind of mother? Useless and likely abusive ones. 🙁

    A bully is that way because he is likely bullied as well.

    Glad you have wonderful bikers fixing your beautiful girls.

  2. Kitt O'MalleyKitt O'Malley Reply

    Heartbreaking. Not all girls have fathers like your husband. I didn’t. My father loved me, but body fat was not tolerated in our childhood home. Ended up starving myself when in my 20s.

  3. Jackie CioffaJackie Cioffa Reply


    This made me cry for your precious girl, and all the little girls who are told they aren’t good enough, pretty enough, skinny enough at the age of SEVEN. Shame on all the bullshit feeders messed up, ignorant people and society who are bombarding children’s heads with vile nonsense.

    I cried for all little girls who aren’t lucky to have a loving, thoughtful dad. (And mom).

    Mostly it made me cry because the only White Knight and good man hero I knew and ever needed was my dad. He loved me unconditionally, and told me I was pretty, and special and I believed him.

    Your story reinforces the power of love from one kind, cool badass hero and dad on a motorcycle.

    Thank you for writing this. My heart breaks for your sweet girl and her sister, that they will face the ugly people and cruel comments. She is blessed to have you both as her parents.

    Xo Jackie

    1. Nicole LyonsNicole Lyons Reply


      I still cry when I think about it too, and I knew you would wen you read it. She did ask the other day at the dinner table how her tummy looked, so we’re reinforcing and it’s not a quick fix, but we’ll get there. One battle at a time.

      Your Dad sounds like he was an amazing man, I wish I could have knew him, he has a lovely daughter, and he was right about her.

      Nicole Xo

  4. Marla J. Carlton Reply

    Thank you for sharing this story. I have a nine year old daughter and I know exactly what you mean. Fourth grade is really tough because girls start shaming each other too. I love that your husband took the time to talk to her and ask her questions. He sounds wonderful. She is one lucky girl. But, I agree with you, it’s so frustrating that girls seem to need a man to undo what another man/boy did. This sentence you wrote, “It still pains me that what a young boy said caused a ripple effect that, in her complex mind, only a strong, loving man could undo,” made me stop and think. I wondered why that is and why it’s so ingrained from such a young age in girls. Thank you for writing this. And please tell your husband thank you for being a great dad!

    1. Nicole LyonsNicole Lyons Reply

      Thank you, Marla.

      It is absolutely ingrained at that early age, and we’ve been blessed that he has been an amazing father and has been there for them always. It really put a few things into a better perspective for me.

      My oldest is nine and I see what goes on in her grade as well, she hasn’t been a target of this nonsense, but bullying has been an issue at a point. Kids are cruel, I just don’t know.

      Thank you,


  5. Mary Rowen Reply

    Beautiful, Nicole. I’ve never met your family, but I love them. Terrible that the little boy said that to your girl; makes me wonder what kind of stuff he’s hearing at home, or what media he’s exposed to. And it’s not always boys who body-shame girls. I remember the day another girl told my daughter (they were both nine or ten at the time) that her thighs looked like two sausages stuffed together. I was driving, and it was all I could do not to pull over and tell the kid to walk home. I guess the best we parents can do is keep reinforcing with our kids that real beauty has nothing to do with appearance or weight.

    1. Nicole LyonsNicole Lyons Reply


      Thank you so much. I think the world of you as well. I’m so sorry that your daughter experienced that too, and the really sad part is how easy it just slides out of their mouths, half the time I don’t think they realize what they’re saying to one another because it’s so crammed into them to be a certain way, the other half is just to be cruel. But, you’re absolutely right about how we just have to keep reinforcing what you said, real beauty comes from within, nothing to do with appearance or weight. Thank you again.

      Nicole Xx

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