Yesterday before bath, it was time to take out BB's elaborate post-Ren-Faire braids. In some ways, I think she likes unweaving the braids as much as having them put in. She adores the waves and fluff that result from having her hair braided.
BJ was at his evening gym class, so BB and I had lots of uninterrupted time to undo the updo and brush it out. BB wanted to do this while standing on the step stool in front of the bathroom mirror, so that she could watch, and once everything was taken down she wanted to do the hair brushing All By Herself. It was pretty danged cute to see her watching her reflection as she smoothed the brush through her tresses. (I would have taken a picture, but I didn't want to ruin the moment by running for the camera. Plus, I wouldn't have shared it here anyway -- she was undressed for bath, and I don't post naked pics of my kids.)
She was especially gratified to see that her hair was "really long, Mommy!" She bent down so that her hair was at the level of the countertop. "Longer than this!" (I had to smile -- I well remember growing my hair out for the first time, tilting my head back as far as it would go so that my hair reached down my back. It felt so long!) She kept brushing and smiling. "I have beautiful hair, Mommy," she informed me. Utterly un-self-consciously, she said, "I have beautiful, golden hair. My hair is the color of the sun!"
For a moment, I was tempted to give her a bit of a talking-to about vanity. (I like to think that I'm not an especially vain person. I know that I clean up pretty good, and I am fortunate to be fairly photogenic -- but I mostly don't worry too much about the way I look. These days, anyway. It took me a long time to get there. Most importantly, I don't want to raise a girl who believes that her appearance is of prime importance. Yes, I have recently viewed the Miss Representation video that is all over Facebook, and as I write this I'm certainly thinking of that, but I came to such conclusions long before. Feminism 101, and even before that.)
I wouldn't call BB vain. But she has already imbibed those mainstream, misogynistic spirits -- the ones that insist, intoxicatingly, that to be a girl means to be pretty. She wants to be pretty. To be beautiful. She tells me when she feels pretty, when she feels beautiful. Mostly, so far, this feels innocent. Sometimes it doesn't. (And don't get me started on the princess thing.) Granted, she is a beautiful child -- though I say it myself. (Truly, all children are beautiful. Truly. For BB the features line up nicely with the social expectations for beauty. Blonde, blue-eyed, fair-skinned...) But there are too many social pressures at work for beauty to be a simple virtue for her. (For any girl in this culture, alas.) So when she starts talking about how beautiful she is, my reaction is always, always complicated. The temptation is to start analyzing and to share that analysis with her.
Then, I decided, nah. Let it be. She's four! (Actually, as she will tell you, she is four-and-two-thirds. Ahem.) She will have plenty of time to have plenty of influences convincing her that there's something wrong with the way she looks. Let her be beautiful. Let her feel good about the way she looks.
And just as I was coming to this conclusion, BB turned to me and said, "Mommy? You know what? You have beautiful hair too.... " I could hear there was a "But" coming.
And sure enough. "But your hair, Mommy? Your hair is the color of dirt."
Nothing like a kids' perspective to bring it right home for ya, every time. No need for analysis there!
And wait, it gets better.
Because at dinner, I was telling this story to S. (Who thought it quite funny, but we'd both been told by BB that it was Not Funny, so we shouldn't laugh.) While I bit the inside of my cheek, S decided to step right into it. He asked BB what was the color of his hair.
She looked at him, considering. (I'm thinking, oh, this is gonna be good. He's gonna be told it's the color of rocks, or gravel, or maybe asphalt. Or silver, if she's feeling especially kind. After all, hers is golden.)
Then, she pronounced, "Daddy, your hair is the color of love."'
At which point, if I had been drinking milk, it would have come out of my nose. (As it was, I nearly choked on my baked ziti.) S isn't a particularly vain person either, but you can be sure he won't be forgetting his daughter's opinions on hair color anytime soon. And neither will I. Perhaps this is one more reason for me to be glad for the ever-increasing numbers of white hairs on my head. (I certainly don't have enough vanity in my character to worry about coloring my hair. Or perhaps that's just laziness.)
At any rate, I now plan to tell myself -- I'm not going grey. My hair is simply turning the color of love.