She wants me to pray it for her every night at bedtime, for her hair to grow fast and long. And I do, because it is something of value to her, and because her Creator cares about her heart. I can’t say I’m that eager. I like her hair just the way it is. But I’m sure I’ll like it longer too.
Once in a while she prays it back to me, for my hair to grow quickly and long and when she does I reply “and then I’ll cut-cut-cut” and mimic cutting my hair short again with my finger-scissors. And she asks me “why you not want your hair be long?” And I tell her that I’m tired of long hair and I like it short right now.
“But long hair is so beautiful!” she declares in her heavily accented English, and I think of all that is wrapped up in that single whole-hearted belief and I sigh inwardly.
“Well” I say, “I think my hair is beautiful short. And long. And in between. I think it’s beautiful when it’s brown or red.”
“Black hair is the most beautiful,” says Ava.
(When crossing cultures we often idolize what is ours to protect our heart identity in important ways. I get that. I honor that. I’m so glad she thinks Asian is beautiful.)
“You know what?” I say. ” My heart is so beautiful that I can look beautiful no matter what my hair looks like or what I am wearing.”
“She giggles at me, “what about you have no hair you still be beautiful?”
“Yes,” I say, “I would be very very beautiful even with no hair.”
(And I think of all the women journeying with cancer – the bravest of warriors. )
And I mean it with all my heart.
“You can’t be beautiful without hair,” says the knowledgeable Ava.
And that is where I take a deep breath, and I think of all the things she does not yet know but will someday learn. I think of all the ways I have fought for this simple truth: that I am beautiful no matter what. I think of how it hurts a little that she doesn’t like what I find beautiful. And I think of how I thought about growing my hair out just to please her – and then I decided that teaching her, by example, to please herself is much more valuable. I think of how culture and conditioning and peers and advertising affect our ideas of beauty. And I think of how, to me, the most beautiful thing of all is authentic, creative expression.
Then I hug her tight and kiss her goodnight.
Me with my short, brown hair. And her with her long black hair. We are both beautiful. Inside, and out. Honoring her disagreement with me about beauty is part of the way I push her forward on her journey towards authentic self-love and complete confidence.
Journey well, beautiful soul, I will be a little ways ahead, calling you on.