Rachael Rachael, a mom of two daughters, is a freelance editor and writer who enjoys gardening and dreams of keeping chickens in her suburban St. Louis backyard. In her spare time, she helps to edit her husband’s science fiction books. Read more of Rachael's work at www.rachaelsjohnston.com or contact her by emailing rachael@mumblingmommy.com.

I stood outside the neighborhood elementary school, waiting to pick up my oldest daughter from kindergarten. My 2 ½-year-old daughter was buckled into the stroller next to me. It was a humid afternoon, and Abby’s brown curly toddler hair was more springy than usual.

Another mom waiting nearby smiled at Abby and nodded at me, “Where’d she get those curls?”

I gave my usual response that evokes a laugh: “Not from my side of the family.”

Toddler Hair

I come from a long line of women with straight hair. Everyone in my immediate family has stick straight, fine hair. We envy girls with curls.

Throughout my life, the women in my family have sympathized with each other over our straight hair. And we have tried to do something about it. I got my first spiral perm at age 10, back in the early 90s when spiral perms were popular. I continued to get spiral perms every so often until just before I graduated from college, which was probably long past the time they were in style. If I didn’t have a perm, I tried to work magic with curling irons and hot rollers. My mom also has gotten her share of body perms, and when my sister was a kid she once rocked a perm my mom gave her with a home kit.

Curly haired sister, straight-haired sister.

My oldest daughter, Megan, inherited my hair. These days, we both look good with smart bob haircuts between chin and shoulder length. I often take the curling iron to the ends of Megan’s hair to give it a neat, flipped-under look. When people say Megan is my mini me, I wonder if it’s mostly our similar hairstyles.

My second daughter won the toddler hair lottery. I always figured my chances were slim that I would ever give birth to a curly haired child. Abby got some help with genetics from the other side of the family tree. While my husband has straight hair, his mother has curly hair. So does my husband’s youngest brother. I always knew my husband was a good catch, and the fact that he carries a propensity for curly hair in the recesses of his genetic makeup further proves it.

We didn’t immediately know Abby’s hair was curly. She was about nine months old and sporting a thick cap of dark, short hair on her head when I noticed that the ends of her hair curled out slightly. I pointed it out to my mother. “She might have a little bit of a wave,” my mom said, but she sounded like she didn’t want to be too hopeful.

Abby sporting her “prom do.”

Abby’s hair continued to grow, and by the time her first birthday came it was evident she had not inherited my hair. It’s gotten curlier as it’s grown in, and I have begun to learn how to care for hair that is very different from mine. I never brush Abby’s hair, which would only make it frizzy. I use a wide-toothed pick to detangle it, and I usually spray on a little water or children’s detangler to wet it and help define the curls. On some mornings, all I do is finger comb it. Abby looks especially good when I pull her hair up into a high ponytail with shorter wispy curls framing her face. My husband calls it her “prom hairdo.”

My mother-in law has given me some tips about curly hair, too. “You can always tell what season it is by how curly her hair is,” she told me. Abby’s hair tends to be straighter in dry winter air, but it gets really springy during the summer when humidity is higher. A few minutes out in the humidity and my carefully styled hair goes flat while Abby’s toddler hair instantly looks fantastic.

It’s human nature to envy what we don’t have. Someday, Abby may long for straight locks like her sister’s, but I will always be enamored with her curls.

Did your children inherit desirable traits that didn’t come from your side of the family tree?

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Category: Kids

Tags: curly hair