Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Let's Talk About Hair...

That can be such a “4 letter word” (if you know what I mean…).  How many of us did not spend our teenage years fussing with this or that?  And bangs? Don’t get me started…

But, at the end of the day, it’s just, well, hair right?

Not for everyone.

Let me back up a bit. 

Over three years ago, Abi and Hana joined our family.  Abi came home with a freshly shaved head.  Hana, fortunately, had managed to escape the razor’s wrath, but still suffered very dry, damaged and broken locs.  She had bald patches and different lengths. 

It took weeks, months, years.  Investment of hours into learning, combing, braiding.  Investment of money into products.  And simply time. Time for her head to heal.  And she did, little by little.  Her beautiful curls began to shine, tightly woven into intricate braids.  I was so proud of my growing skills.

And she was lovely.  And terribly, terribly unhappy.

Abi’s hair began to grow as well.  His thick curls came in fast and furious. That boy can grow hair so quickly.  And he loved it.  Oh, how he loved it!  Even at age 4, he would carefully comb out his curls in front of the mirror, patting his little ‘fro, his “big fluffy,” as he called it for a time. (To get a better idea, check out this video we posted awhile back here

And it grew. And grew.  And became more and more unmanageable.  I was barely keeping afloat keeping Hana’s hair in braids, I couldn’t fathom adding Abi’s head to my workload.  So, periodically, we buzzed it down.  

I will never forget the first time we did this. It was summer and it seemed like the perfect time – a nice, cool short cut for the hot months.  Abi didn’t seem to mind until it was finished.  He took one look at his close crop and burst into tears.  He cried forlornly in his bed for a long time.  Although he has never articulated his “hair issues” I suspect the shorter cuts take him back to mass shaves at the orphanage.  Shaves that were quick and sloppy and often resulted in cuts to his head.  Shaves that took a piece of his dignity and caused pain.  As a result, even years later, hair cuts are met with trepidation by all of us.  We’ve tried going to a barber and just trimming it down rather than shaving. It doesn’t seem to matter.  Any way we cut it seems to depress him. So much so that he wants to wear a hat or hood in public, sure that everyone is looking at him.

So jealous of Hana, with her long, tight curls and beautiful braids.

And Hana was… well, completely miserable.  Braids were our only option because the alternative was daily hair battles.  Braids allowed us at least a week or two between the fights.  Nearly every comb out, every part brought tears.  She has a very sensitive head and no desire for anything at all on our head.  She had no interest or incentive to sit for hours while I braided intricate designs or added beads. She grew to tolerate it and, at times, it offered us some nice bonding time. However, the majority of the time, it caused a hurt head and hurt hearts, with both of us in tears and/or very angry.

It. Was. Awful.

So why? Why did we continue on this way?  Why didn’t I seek alternative solutions? 

Pride, I think.  At the core, I was proud of Hana’s beautiful hair and what I did to take care of it.  I was proud that I invested the time and effort into learning to care for it and carrying through on maintaining it.  I was proud to have  visual marker of my fitness to care for my brown children.  Because everyone’s looking right? Everyone’s looking at the hair?  Can that white lady handle it?  Yes, I could and there was the proof!

One day this summer, after much thought and consideration, I just decided that enough was enough.  It’s not my hair. It’s Hana’s. And no matter how much time I spend on it or what I do to it, she hates it. She hates every moment of taking care of it and it does not make her feel beautiful.  Why should my pride keep my daughter in such an uncomfortable position?

So, Mark and I agreed that we should let her cut it. All of it.  And we did. 

The smile on her face when she looked in the mirror.  The hug she gave me after.  Oh, it was incredible.  She felt beautiful that day.

Unfortunately, I left the salon with a pit in my stomach, feeling judged and lacking… but that's another post entirely. 


  1. I think Hana looks beautiful with her short cut and I think Abi is very handsome with his big fluffy. We haven't started appearance struggles here yet but I'm sure they're coming, and I'm sure we'll struggle with balancing what we want for Nick, what Nick wants and what we think is socially acceptable. All part of growing our kids up, right? :)

  2. Great post. Each kid IS different, that's for sure. I spent forever trying to figure out Sarah's curls, felt like I was being judged all the time, since it was never perfect. This summer I learned how to use a flat iron on it. Ahhhhhhmazing! One episode of Spongebob and we're done! Once a week! Straight. Flat. I can comb it. She can comb it (and can even put it in a ponytail - all by herself!). I might have failed in the natural hair department, but I made my little girl SO happy. Whatever makes them happy, makes this mamma happy. Be proud that you do what's best for your individual kids, not what you think is expected of you!!!