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“Whooo-wee!  That child has some pretty hair!”  It’s a phrase that I’ve gotten use to hearing.  It’s what strangers say the first time they see my daughter’s long corkscrew curls.

My daughter is multiracial and has a head full of hair that reflects her heritages.  Her curls are big and glossy, picture perfect and cascade down her back.  When you pull one of her curls, it literally springs in your hand and automatically bounces back in place.  Her poor little head is constantly being touched and marveled over by strangers of all ethnicities.  “What a pretty girl.”  “She looks like a little doll.”  “Child, I’d spend my whole paycheck to buy hair like that.”  That’s what my little girl constantly hears day in and day out.

My daughter’s exotic looks attract lots of attention.  As her mother, I’m often concerned.  I wonder what it does to a child’s self worth when the world places such an emphasis on how you look.  I want my child to be judged by the content of her character, not the curl of her hair.

Pretty doesn’t last forever.  Pretty can fade.  Pretty doesn’t pay the bills, get you a good education or a great job. And I certainly don’t want my only child to grow to be one of those women who uses her looks to try to get ahead in life.  So I’ve made it my mission to raise her to be a smart girl in a world that puts entirely too much emphasis on physical beauty.

For every “pretty” she hears, I tell her how “smart” she is.  I tell her that God looks at her heart, and that being a kind, smart girl is the highest goal.  I praise her for being good at math and science.  I applaud her for doing well in spelling.  And I give her huge hugs when she shares and helps others.   She gets tons of accolades from me, but she very rarely hears “pretty” come out of my mouth.

The harsh reality is that pretty little black girls and gorgeous black women are a dime a dozen.  But a smart woman is a powerful woman.  And a caring woman has the ability to change the world.  So I let the strangers call my baby pretty, and drool over her hair.  My job is to focus on raising the smartest, kindest girl this world has ever seen.

Moms, how much emphasis do you place on your child’s physical appearance?

Yolanda Darville is a mom, writer, communications strategist and blogger focusing on philanthropy and empowering women.  Learn more about her on her blog .

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