Mommy, you so pretty!

My toddler brushed my hair with a dog slicker brush, deftly using a brush-and-twist technique that is guaranteed to give me even more volume to my already gravity-defying thick hair. I took a video of it with my phone, just to see her adorable little furrowed eyebrows, her tongue sticking out of the corner of her mouth as she concentrated.

"Cheese!" she said, noticing the phone. "Cheese!!" She posed with a fistful of my hair, and then started teasing it into a nest again.

"Mommy, you so pretty!"

Simple interactions are the best. Except, you know, it's not always so simple.

I want to be a Empowering Mom (TM) and not one that places all the value on looks and endlessly praise her for being so darn adorable and cute. And I also don't want to go the other way and talk about how incredibly smart she is. There's a happy medium, I think. Praise and emphasize the brains, but don't give her a complex about her appearance one way or the other, or make her so anxious about staying the "smart kid" for the rest of her life that she gets into an nervous wreck.

Or maybe I'm overthinking it. My husband might tell me I'm overthinking it. I tend to overthink a lot, and overthink overthinking until I get into a twisted anxious jumble of thoughts and words sputter out like a choppy sprinkler

Cute! Smart! Sweet! Kind! ksshhhhhhhhhhhpppth

Some of it feeds out of my own background. My parents, to their credit, would tell me I'm beautiful, even though all I saw were the giant pimples and the scars from using cuticle scissors to cut open the pimples and my big nose and my big hair and my protruding chin and a lopsided mouth and lopsided teeth.

I got makeup for my 11th or 12th birthday, and Mom put it on me as lightly as she could for me. When she was done, the faint blue eyeshadow and the tinted lips made me feel like a whore, even as Mom and Dad commented on how awesome it looked.

I had so little self esteem.

I want better for my daughter.

I read the articles about encouraging STEM fields, encouraging math confidence, and encouraging your child to be themselves even if it's short hair or purple hair or goth jewelry, because what better time to explore than as a kid with fewer judgements?

I don't want her to think she HAS to look pretty for anyone else. She doesn't have to look a certain way for anything, unless it's professional for a professional job.

But I want her to know she is smart. Beautiful. Kind. I want her to have all the confidence she needs to be assertive. Strong. Caring.

It's hard to teach that or to demonstrate it when you are learning how to be confident, yourself, but you can only try.

So when my daughter compliments me, "Mommy, you so pretty!" I confidently say, "Thank you! You so pretty too!" and see the look of glee on her face, the look that one has when being loved on--I know we're doing okay.

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