The instant my husband and I found out our first child would be a daughter, I began imagining what she would look like and be like. It was a given that her middle name would be Rose, just like mine—a family name that goes back generations. When I pictured her, I saw dark, thick hair just like I had in my baby pictures. The day she was born I was shocked to see that she had neither my dark hair nor my husband’s light hair. She had no hair! I wondered, “How could this be?” It was a thought I had many times over the passing months as I looked at my daughter’s bald head. When she finally started to grow hair came yet another surprise. It wasn’t dark. It wasn’t thick. It wasn’t straight. Wild Shirley Temple curls covered her scalp.
Soon those curls became my pride and joy, my nemesis and my metaphor for mothering.
Whether we’re at the grocery store or at the park, her curls are a topic of conversation with complete strangers. They envy them and sometimes want to touch them. Then the inevitable question as they look quizzically at me, “Where DID she get those curls?” Stating the obvious, she didn’t get them from her mother. Most likely, they came from my sister or my husband’s sister. You see, we have curls on both sides of the family. Often these strangers offer advice on how to manage curls. (Perhaps from the look of things I don’t know what I’m doing, which is partly true.) I’m fully aware of my curl shortcomings so I ask friends, family, my hair stylist, even the receptionist at my dentist’s office, what I should do. Now I have a routine: special curl conditioner, a Wet brand brush, detangler and a spray bottle filled with a mix of that detangler and water. I’m no curl guru. But, now that my daughter is three years old I can speak intelligently on the curl topic and even offer advice to other curl-befuddled mothers.
My daughter’s wild mane (especially in the mornings) has come to represent more than just the hair on her head.
As it turns out, those wild curls perfectly sum up her personality. Exuberant, sassy, soft and sweet with a wild streak. I recently realized it’s the perfect metaphor for mothering. Those curls are a physical reminder that she isn’t my mini-me, the one I imagined when I was pregnant with her. My curly haired girl is her own person with her own ideas (which at three she feels surprisingly strong about). Yes, I am her mother and I will guide her and her hair. But I have to remember she is not a clone onto whom I can project all my likes and dislikes. True, she has come to love horses just as I did as a child. And my husband says our daughter has definitely inherited my flare for drama (and fashion sense, I might add). But, she also loves construction equipment and digging in the dirt for worms and other bugs (yuck!). I have learned to embrace those sides of her and foster them even though they’re well outside my wheelhouse. I even wrote about that here on Knoxville Moms Blog. My daughter’s curls are also the source of contention. Brushing out the tangles can lead to a tantrum. “That hurts, Mommy!” even as I am handling her hair as delicately as humanly possible. Sometimes I win that battle. Sometimes she does. Sometimes it’s a battle not worth fighting.
It’s a perfect metaphor for raising a three-nager or a teenager.
Speaking of those teen years, I’m already imagining the day when she wants to rebel against her curls and straighten them. That will be a heartbreaking moment on many levels. I’m already starting to cry at the thought of her using her precious little girl curls to exert her independence and adulthood.
Until that time comes, I will continue to handle carefully those ringlets and the little girl who owns them, constantly remembering she is her own person who is growing and changing all the time. Eventually she’ll need a haircut as my husband reminds me. I’m not ready for that yet. She may not be bald anymore, but she’s still my sweet baby, my first born, with a head full of tangled curls.