In between bites of guacamole, Talia looked up at me and said, "You should wear your hair down more often, Mom."
"I do," I replied. "I haven't worn a ponytail for at least a couple of days."
As many twelve-year-old girls are wont to do, she rolled her eyes. Because a couple of days is not what she meant. Clearly. And here I was forcing her to talk more. With words, not with non-verbal tween body language. "No," she said. "I mean out of your clip."
"Oh." I stopped for a moment and then went on. "Because I look so beautiful like this?"
I muttered the comment in jest, truthfully. I wasn't searching for compliments at all. I just knew what I looked like with my nest of unwashed hair and a tired look upon my face. In my mind, the whole look wasn't pretty.
My daughter thought otherwise. "Yes, Mom," she whispered. "You do."
I said a quick thank you and redirected the conversation toward other topics, like possible homework. (Those of you who know me also know what sorts of dinner conversations we have around here, and therefore, you expect me to tell you that we did not stay on topic. From homework, we moved onto body parts, sexual reproduction, potty issues, middle school woes, and Minecraft. Always Minecraft.) But of course, Talia's comment made me stop and think. (And I'm finding that the more I really listen to my children, the more I'm forced to think. A wonderful thing, by the way.) It made me think of what would have happened at my house when I was a child.
Here's how the conversation would have gone:
Me: Mom, you should wear your hair down more often.I didn't add the two question marks to the end of the sentence. My mom did. Or rather, it's the way I envision my mother's lack of confidence in herself. Whenever topics about her mind or body came up, she'd always put two question marks at the end of the sentence, even if that sentence was a statement. And it didn't take long for me to recognize that my mother wasn't sure of who she was. Now I have to be honest, I don't always believe I look beautiful (come on, we've had this conversation before) and there are times I'd rather look like someone else. But I've learned to be grateful for what I have, and to find the beauty in everyone, myself included. And I've also learned that children are sponges: they pick up so many things we don't think they are going to pick up. Which is why I tried to accept the compliment instead of pointing out that I had bags under my eyes and my hair really was a mess.
Mom: Why? Because I look so beautiful like this?
Me: Yes, you do.
Mom: No, I don't. Do I really??
I don't always get it right (we've had that conversation before, too). I'm not sure I got it right the other night, either. But if one of my children thinks that I'm beautiful, then so be it. I'll take that compliment and run to the bank with it. Being beautiful in the eyes of your child is no small thing.