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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.