"Dad, am I pretty?"
"Yes. You are very pretty."
"Dad, what does pretty mean?"
"Pretty means a lot of things. In fact, it means different things to different people. It is kind of hard to pin down."
"How do you know I'm pretty?"
What I wanted to say:
Because I get to see you when you are kind. Because your eyes widen and you smile when you see something you've never seen before. Because your forehead wrinkles when you are thinking really hard about something. Because when you get excited to do something you fling your arms behind you as you run out of the room. Because when I look into your eyes I see your mom, and I am reminded about how much we love each other. Because you climb on things you probably shouldn't climb on.
You're pretty when you ask questions. You're pretty when I answer, and then you ask another question. You're pretty when you squint in disbelief and say, "Is that real or are you just joking?" You're pretty when you laugh at my answer.
Your face is pretty when you kiss your brother on the forehead. Your hands are pretty when they reach out to hold mine, when they take things from your mind and put them on paper, and when they take your excitement and transform it into clapped sound. Your arms are pretty when you wrap them around your mom, when you wave them in the air while dancing, and when you lay your head on them while reading. Your legs are pretty when you run and turn and jump and run again.
You are pretty because you are alive. You are pretty because you are curious. You are pretty because you take the good parts of the world, pull them in through your ears and eyes and mouth and body, and shout them back out to me in action and voice, in everything you do. You're the prettiest person I know.
What I actually said:
"I just know."
"Oh! OK! Thanks dad!"
Then you ran off, arms behind you, feet beneath you, eyes open, too young to be worried about pretty, but pretty all the same. So, so pretty.