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A Love Letter to My Daughter's Unexpected Curls

Photograph by Rex / Rex USA

Dear Sweet, Lovely, Perfectly Crazy Curls,

Where did you come from? My hair is pin-straight, fine and limp, resistant even to repeated perms throughout junior high. When I was young, I would spend the night with Lock N Rolls in my wet hair, praying to wake up with the kind of springy ringlets that sprout effortlessly from my daughter's head.

Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that one day, I'd have a little girl who could give Shirley Temple a run for her money. Your dad was a curly towhead as a kid, but his current look—closely shorn all around—makes it hard to believe. And for the first year, you grew in straight. It wasn't until around 15 months that the ends started corkscrewing around and we realized we had a surprise curly girl in our midst.

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When we're out and about, you're the first thing strangers notice. "Look at those curls!" the mailman calls out. "Your hair is awesome!" the grocery bagger shouts with glee. Our girl smiles and sometimes confirms that yes, they are "magical curls," because that's what her dad and I call them. Then she offers up that she has a puppy (she doesn't), that she's 6 years old (she's 3) or that her mom accidentally dropped her in a hotel toilet once (OK, true story).

Caring for you is a whole new ballgame. I've had to consult my friends with curls to learn the ins and outs. No brushes; only finger combing. Condition every day but shampoo just when the grime becomes obvious. Try not to trim it too frequently, except that one thicket in the front, because curly tresses take forever to grow, spiraling around horizontally rather than draping vertically like her straight-haired friends.

We never want our girl to think it means her hair is somehow unruly or needs to change.

You, curls, have become part of our daughter's persona. She is sassy, loud, clever, fierce. She doesn't like to conform. She stands out. When we're out and about, I can usually spot you pretty easily by searching the sea of flat hair for a dark blond pouf. Once, my hairstylist straightened you, just for fun. I showed a picture to our nanny the next day—a woman who has cared for our daughter since she was two months old—and she didn't recognize her. It was like her superpowers had been stripped. You were cute, don't get me wrong. But you weren't YOU.

Before naptime, when we cuddle and I stroke you, I hunt around for the most defined amongst you and play a little, gently pulling you taut and watching as you spring back like soft little Slinkys. The curls in the back, near the nape of her neck, are the best. I wrap the fat, smooth sausage ringlets around my pinkie, marveling at all the ways in which our girl is such a miracle.

Her little sister is only a year old but she seems to be following in your footsteps. I snapped a pic of the tips of the baby ringlets spiraling just behind her ears and posted it to Facebook, along with the tagline, "Foreshadowing."

I recently read a children's book called "Crazy Hair," written by a fellow straight-haired mom who, like me, was indoctrinated into the culture of curls by means of her offsprings' genetic lottery. The book reads, "When I get up each morning, there's something I always say: 'Mommy, do I have crazy hair? Is it curling every which way?'" Indeed, my husband and I do tend to refer to you curls as "crazy," probably a bit too often. We mean it with love, but we never want our girl to think it means her hair is somehow unruly or needs to change.

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The other day, my husband was carrying her through Chicago on an especially windy day. Her hair was blowing every which way, getting in her face. She pushed what she could out of her eyes, proclaiming, "That's just what happens when you have beautiful, curly hair." You said it, baby.

Photograph by: USA Today

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