I went into her room and as I stole a half-hearted glance at her in the bathroom,
I saw her staring at herself in the mirror.
Tears were silently streaming down her face until I asked her what was wrong.
It was then that the wall of emotion came tumbling down.
She leaned back into my chest, still eyeing the girl in the mirror.
“I don’t like the way I look,” she said, and my heart crumbled into a billion tiny pieces.
She’s only five. Five!
I’m not sure I handled it well, but I knew I couldn’t leave this wound open.
With my words, I tried to gently stitch up her broken feelings.
“What’s wrong with the way you look? I happen to think that you’re quite lovely.”
“But my hair’s all sticky-up-ish.”
I froze, unsure of what to say.
I mumbled something about humidity and heat and frizzy summer hair.
I knew, however, that this wasn’t one of those times when I could just talk about the weather and fake it ’til I make it.
I stood there wanting her to know that frizzy hair doesn’t define you,
looks aren’t as important as they seem,
and that we are all beautiful in one way or another.
But those things all seemed contrite and cliche, and all I could stammer out was,
“You are beautiful, you know?”
Her blank stare looking back at me, both of us on unsteady ground.
“I want it braided. Will you braid it?”
“One braid or two?”
As I twisted one piece of hair over the other, I reached out to find more words.
“If you don’t like your hair in a pony tail we don’t have to pull it up that way again.”
Her brother – her big brother, her proclaimed best friend – happened to bound in just as I began to speak.
“Wow, Lydi! You look beautiful.”
I couldn’t have orchestrated that if I’d tried.
She grinned at him in the mirror and glanced up at me.
I’m not sure if she saw the tears in my eyes or not, but as soon as I snapped the elastic band into place, she fell into my arms.
I carried her into the living room (she’s still so small) and cuddled in the big chair.
“I love you, Mommy.”
“I love you, too, babe.”
I wanted to push for more, to talk more about it…but this moment begged for silence.
And so we sat and hugged and I prayed that I would catch hold of the next opportunity and do a better job.
I want her to know that I think she is adorably beautiful and wonderful,
but I also want her to know that I’d find her adorably beautiful and wonderful
even if she were stripped of everything that our culture defines as beautiful.
I want her to be self-confident and content with both how she looks and who she is.
I want her to know that we each define beauty for ourselves
and we discover our true friends and our heart-loves when we find those
who value our definition and celebrate it and nourish it.
I want her to know that she is beautiful, even with sticky-up-ish hair.