Throughout my life, my mom has always told me that I'm pretty. That's a great thing for a girl's ego -- except that often my mother does it in the context of disparaging herself at the same time.
"I wish my hair were shiny and beautiful like yours -- mine is so gray and flat now."
"You have such a nice figure -- I can't wear dresses like that anymore."
"Your teeth are so straight and white -- I've always hated my teeth."
The truth is that my mom is pretty -- and I look a lot like her, so it must be true. She's also 28 years older than I am, so I have a bit of an advantage.
Her habit of putting herself down while simultaneously lifting me up always makes me self-conscious. It's not a competition, I want to tell her. We are always our own worst critics (see the latest from Dove's "Real Beauty" campaign for more on that one). We're both getting older and changing, but I like to believe that neither one of us looks our age.
Then I look at Pippi. And suddenly I see what my mom sees when she looks at me. She's perfect and gorgeous and way more amazing than I am -- but unlike me, she has always looked more like her dad than her mom.
This afternoon, Pippi and I went to our favorite salon so that she could get a summer haircut and donate her beautiful, shiny, sun-streaked ponytail to Pantene Beautiful Lengths. As Stephanie snipped and trimmed a sassy little bob and Pippi winked and grinned at herself in the mirror, I watched my long-haired daughter start to look just a little like me for the first time.
It's a funny thing about motherhood, how each stage makes me understand something about my own mother. I'm starting to get it, what she sees when she looks at me. When I look at Pippi, I know she's prettier than I am -- the difference is that she's already got such a big head (literally and figuratively), that I'll be keeping that opinion to myself.
Click here to see the 1977 photo of my mom and me in our matching (Dorothy Hamill) haircuts, along with photos of Pippi's first haircut.