“Am I pretty, Mom?” Questions like this usually come when I have 5 minutes left to get everyone, including myself, out of the house. Then. . .I am tempted to give the pat answer, “Of course you are, sweetheart,” smile at you and send you on your way.
Today you’re in luck. I’m not under pressure to be someplace else
soon. Are you pretty? I pause, brush in hand, holding your
abundance of soft, strawberry blonde hair.
Any woman would love to have hair like this.
I glance at the mass of freckles peppering your
nose, so often sure that there is dirt hidden amongst them. And you, all too readily assure me that, “No
Mom, I washed my face. What’s left is
freckles, nothing more.” Why am I so
You’re tall and slender. At 9 there’s no promise yet of the woman you
will become. If you take after your
mother, you will have more than you want on your hips and bottom and not as
much as you would like on the upper torso.
So perhaps you won’t be as pretty as you’d like in the sense of today’s
society. And yet, is there promise of
the woman who will emerge?
Here is a child who cries when she discovers that
her older sister has done something terribly wrong and knows that she must tell
me of her sister’s transgression. She
does not want her sister to get in trouble but knows that the mistake should
not be hidden. Will you also be the
child of mine who cries for the peoples trapped in the inequities of this
You are the child who lovingly cares for her
handicapped sister, taking the time to entertain her. Will you also be the child of mine who shows
compassion for those less fortunate than herself?
You are the one who strives so diligently for
perfection. Crushed when you don’t
achieve what you visualize for yourself.
Will you learn to live with imperfection in yourself and transfer that
desire for perfection to making the world a better place?
Are you pretty?
Yes, my child. In the eyes of
this beholder, you are beautiful indeed.
From "Life At My House," by Bonnie Phelps. First published in 1989 as part of a column I wrote for several California newspapers.