Quality Time for Mother and Daughter
My oldest daughter — then age 5 — had been asking me to blow dry her hair "straight" and give her bouncy curls for some time. Though it seemed like a simple request, I dreaded the amount of time and work that it would involve. Let me explain. My daughter has a very thick head of hair. It is very soft, but after it dries from washing, it can become an unruly mess. I ran through the mental checklist of all the reasons why she should wait, then I heard a small voice inside tugging at me to remember that every girl needs to feel special no matter what her age; to feel that she matters enough for someone to take the time, regardless of inconvenience, to love and care for her. This is what a girl wants!
I grabbed her by the hand, reached for a bottle of no-tears shampoo, and began to wash her hair. I assured her that this would be the easy part. After the repeated patterns of sectioning, combing, drying, and moisturizing, I took to the delicate work of curling her hair with the heated curling irons. I wanted to be really careful to avoid burning her ears, skin or hair. Then she said, "I don't just want my hair blow-dried and straight, Mom. I want it curled, too, like a princess!" She also wanted style and a little bit of pomp and circumstance.
What I wanted was not very different from what she wanted. It was a yearning for us to spend more special time together. Oddly enough, I felt like I was getting her ready for some big event. Would she like it? Would I be comfortable with seeing her look slightly more grown up? Would she ask me to do this more often than I'd care to? Would I then have to share with her my opinions on why she shouldn't have her hair like this more regularly? We got to talk about what was on her mind, and I got to revel in her excitement and anticipation about the big reveal, once we were finished.
Then a rather different mood hit me altogether. My mind fast forwarded to her teenage years and young adulthood and the mirrors into which she may look as she morphs into her various stages of becoming the young woman that I imagine she will become — first day of middle school, high school, sweet 16, prom, going off to college, her first heartbreak. My eyes held back the tears that stirred in my heart, and I became full with longing for her to return to her childhood, though she still sat before me as a 5-year-old. Each stroke of the hairbrush and release of a new Shirley Temple curl became that more deliberate and contemplative.
While I attended to her, I shared stories about my grandmother, who would secure me between her knees to comb and grease my wild and woolly hair. I explained to her that though I appreciated my grandmother taking time with me, I wasn't too keen on the crookedly parted plaits and pigtails that I got after enduring all that pain. That just didn't feel like a fair deal. I was surprised by my daughter's sensitivity toward my grandmother, whom she had met at only 6 months old, an age too young to remember. I told her that had my grandmother been alive, she would scoff at the lengths I was going through to now elaborately style her hair, applying heat to such a tender head. Surely, this would result in my daughter growing up too fast, my grandmother would maintain.
I contemplated how my 5-year-old would remember these moments we were spending together. Were my responses affirming? Was my touch gentle enough? Did I celebrate her, and more importantly, did we both share in the moment that I hoped would be bottled forever? I was doing my best to create what I hoped would be a sweet memory. She approached the mirror, looked at her hair, smiled at herself and remarked, "I look beautiful, Mommy." Her words needed no chorus or response. Though I was happy I provided one, she was sure of it, as she continued to exchange smiles with her reflection; that was all that mattered.
My heart smiled, wider than my face could manage, as I held back tears of joy. She felt confident, radiant and beautiful! I hoped that she would hold on to this remarkable confidence and always see herself as worthy of her mommy's love and care, without hearing "next week" or "maybe tomorrow." From her, I now understood that every little girl needs to feel that they matter enough for someone to take the time to love, nurture and care for them.