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Mother’s Day Letters: Eliza and Amaya

Dear Amaya,

Growing up, I got a lot of mixed messages about my hair. Grandma kept my hair in curly pigtails and I always looked forward to Titi Steph doing my hair into all different kinds of awesome styles. Some people thought my curly hair was absolutely beautiful, and others called it unmanageable, even “bad hair.”

The TV shows and movies, the magazines I saw in stores, and the products I used, all featured women with straight hair.

And while growing up, getting my hair straightened at the salon was a treat. And as I got older, I got it done more and more.

Pretty soon, I started straightening it myself, using chemicals and flat irons. When my hair wasn’t done I would say it looked “crazy” and that I needed to have my curls straightened. Your dad would tell me to let my curls out all the time. My response? I couldn’t – because I had “bad hair.”

By way of friends, books, neighbors, magazines, TV, movies, and even our own family, I had grown to think that the only way I was beautiful was if my hair was straight. In many ways the images we see teach us to dislike ourselves or make us want to be like someone else.

When I found out you were in my belly, I loved you fiercely, instantly. I called you “she” before I even knew you’d be a girl.You were born with a full head of beautiful hair. As you grew older, your hair got curlier and curlier, and I was surprised and sort of amazed by it. There were times I wasn’t sure what to do with it, so I blew it out.

The day you told me you wanted to wear your hair straight because you liked it better, I honestly wondered where you got that idea from. For a second, I was really confused.

Then your father pointed out that since you were a baby, I had been taking you to the salon, where I’d get my hair straightened.

Without even realizing it, I was teaching you the same things I had been convinced of – that your curly hair wasn’t beautiful. That straight hair = beautiful hair. By constantly straightening my natural hair, by talking it down, and even by blowing out your hair often, I was showing you that your natural self wasn’t beautiful.

I had allowed a negative feeling I had about myself to get to you. I’m deeply sorry for that.

I know you’re only 8, and you might think its “just hair,” but it’s not. It’s a unique part of you. As you grow older, you’ll start to see that people are often scared of things that are “different” – it makes them uncomfortable, they even make fun of it.

It’s my job as your mom to help you love and show your differences, not hide them.

It’s my job to make sure that you are surrounded by positive media that shows all different kinds of people in beautiful ways.

It’s my job to make sure that you know that your natural self, inside and out, is beautiful.

I’ve been growing out my hair since that very day. In the two years since then, we’ve had many talks about curly hair. All the cool stuff about it, some of the challenges. We see curly girls in the street or on the train and talk about how beautiful they are, how there are so many types of curls. I wear mine curly and so do you, and I LOVE IT. We rock these curls, we love them, we take care of them. The bigger the curls, the better!

Is there anything wrong with straight hair? Or straightening it once in a while? Not at all! But I want you to be you. Beautiful, natural, amazing YOU.

The most important thing for me is that I model behavior for you that is admirable – kindness, intelligence, strength, humor, and self-confidence. I pray that you look at me every day and see those things.

Lastly, I want to thank you. Because at only 8 years old, you have somehow managed to show your mother her own beauty. Maybe that’s why heaven sent me a little girl. I dedicate my curls to you.

Love,
Mama

Dear Mommy,

There are many things in that letter that I did not know. I always wondered when I was little how your hair was so straight, I just never asked. I didn’t realize that you felt that you were teaching me the wrong thing, but I like that now we wear our hair curly together. Now, there is a bond between us with our curls that we share.

As a young girl I accept my curls, and I love them.

I know that in our culture, many people like to straighten their hair. I would like to show the people of my culture my curly hair, because I’m proud of it. I also want to show other little girls and boys that you don’t have to do what everyone else is doing. Most of my friends at school have straight hair, but I like being different. I like that I can style my hair different ways that no one has ever done before.

When I grow up, I want to be just like you. I want to have a daughter of my own, and teach her to love her hair exactly the way it is, even if people tease her. Maybe me and my daughter can wear the same hairstyle like we do! I want her to know that being different is cool, and it’s a part of life.

I love your curly hair even more now because I know you wanted to make a positive difference in my life. And I’m really happy that you accept that this is the way I like my own hair.

I hope that you like this letter. Everyone should love their hair the way it is.

Love your curly haired daughter,

Amaya

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