I just knew she was up to something.
Perhaps it was the sneaky little way she skulked out of the room, all tiptoe with her head peeking over her shoulder to see if I was watching.
Which I was, out of the corner of my eye.
We were in our home office yesterday morning, my youngest child and I. I, of course, was multi-tasking, up on a ladder, measuring where to hang the new curtain rod I had just purchased, while I was simultaneously chatting on the phone about the happenings of the day with one of my besties, Amy, while I was simultaneously keeping an eye on my daughter, who was sprawled out on the floor of the office, on her tummy, clutching crayons in her 3-year old hands, and coloring pictures of the recent trip she took to the zoo with her beloved Daddy. The last time I remember glancing over at my little girl, before Amy and I became engrossed in conversation again, she was coloring a scene of "Daddy and the big, gray 'ew-a-fant''. A pair of child safety scissors sat the on the floor next to her crayons, and she carefully used them to cut out each scene that she completed.
Amy and I wrapped up our conversation and said our good-byes just as I saw a 3-year old tush tiptoe out of the office and run down the hall to the powder room.
"Hey girlie, what are you up to?" I asked, not sure I wanted to hear the answer.
"Nuffing," she quickly responded.
"Nothing?" I repeated, raising my eyebrow, instantly knowing that, "nothing," totally meant, "something".
I am no stranger to this rodeo.
I went back into the powder room that she had so hastily run into moments earlier, and I scanned it, looking for signs of 3-year old foul play.
I looked in the trash can and found a large clump of curly hair.
Brown curly hair, that coincidentally matched the exact shade and texture currently on top of my daughter's head.
Scissors + a 3-year old + a distracted mommy = UH. OH.
Not knowing what to say for several seconds, my mouth dropped and I just stared into her big brown eyes as I held the clump of hair in my hand. Finally finding my words, I simply said, "What. Did. You. Do?"
She crumpled into a heap of 3-year old sobs as she threw herself down on the floor. "I CUTTED MY HAIRRRRRR!!!" she wailed.
I wagged my finger in her face and said firmly, "NO! You know that scissors are only for paper! Paper! Not hair!" as the sobs continued to wrack her 3-year old frame. At first, I couldn't tell where the hair was missing off her head. She has shoulder-length chestnut curls that, at the moment, were wild around her head. As I examined the back and the side of her head, I couldn't find the chopping-off point, until I turned her around, and saw it. Very short pieces of hair where a large lock of brown tendrils had once been.
Why wouldn't it be the piece located front and center on her forehead?
Nothing more needed to be said. The guilt and remorse were evident as I ushered her little body off to her 3-minute tenure on the naughty step. When the timer was up, I got up in her little face and asked, "So? What do you have to say?"
"I sorry that I cutted off my hair, Mommmeeeeee!!!" she sobbed.
I reminded her of the scissors rule, told her I forgave her, and hugged her. As she pulled away from me, her eyes were red with tears. "I'm not pretty anymore!!!" she cried.
It was like someone punched me in the gut.
Not pretty. As if pretty were everything in the world. As if I would ever think that.
As if it mattered at that moment.
I have been raising sons for a total of 10 years now, and pretty is nothing to them. Of course I compliment my sons in many different ways for many different things, but pretty is not on their radar. But when I had my daughter, the word, "pretty" just became part of my everyday vocabulary. Rather than being an adjective to describe her, however, I use it a term of affection.
"Hey pretty lady!" I say to her when she puts on a new dress.
"Pretty in pink!" when she put on a brand-new shirt.
"Look how pretty you look in your new bow!" after a trip to the accessories department of Target.
Am I inadvertently, with my words, raising my daughter to think that pretty is everything? That she is somehow less of a person because her hair is now, in a word, different? All these things crossed my mind as I sat on the floor with her and hugged her after the naughty step.
"No way!" I said. "You are beautiful!"
Choosing my words carefully, I continued in the simplest way I knew to explain to a 3-year old, "You are a nice person, and you are a good girl. You help people, and you care about people. Mommy and Daddy and The Brothers love you. That makes you beautiful."
Within seconds, she was smiling again as she scampered off to find her next adventure.
My beautiful girl, missing clump of hair and all.