Friday, May 29, 2009

The Doing of the Hair

By far, the biggest challenge for this little ol’ white lady in raising a daughter of color is the hair. Oh my goodness, the hair. Such a challenge!

I know that I have spent hundreds of dollars on hair products over the years. I had no idea what I was doing and was susceptible to the advice of every black grandma I ran into. Lil Sweetie, bless her heart, didn’t have much hair for the first three or so years of her life. And what little she had was so delicate. It was like trying to comb out cotton candy, constantly twisting up on itself into little knots and then breaking off the minute I tried to comb it. I combed that baby’s hair twice a day and it still knotted up.

But I tried. God knows I tried. I greased that baby’s head every day and once a week, I would wash her hair and put a heavy duty conditioner on it, slap a shower cap on her and leave it on a good while, then rinse that out and put a leave-on conditioner in her hair. Those were some challenging times. I remember one time, she decided after I got her hair lathered up that she was DONE. Well, I couldn’t leave shampoo in her hair and I really couldn’t wash it without conditioning it so we struggled and fought through the process. When Mr. Sweetie got home later, Lil Sweetie ran to him and gave me a dirty look and said, “Mama hates the baby.” Ouch!

You need to know that hair is vitally important in the black community. If your child’s hair is a mess, you are not a good mother. Period. And I believe that goes double if you are a white lady raising a black child. In my experience, that is just the way it is.

Friends, caregivers at the daycare, all kinds of people tried to help. One friend took me to the black hair care store, and Lordy is it different from the places where I buy my hair products! You can buy hair in there in any color of the rainbow, beads, things that look like medieval torture devices. It truly is a whole different world. It’s a great place to get cute barrettes and pony tail holders, though! So cute! So cheap! So many choices!

I finally found a woman who was going to help me with Lil Sweetie’s hair. A professional. I don’t care how ridiculous it was to take my 3-year-old to the hair salon, I needed HELP, y’all. So off we went, and Lil Sweetie got braids which looked cute and worked well for a while.

And it was such an experience! I liked putting myself in a situation where I was the only person of my race in the room, because that is my daughter’s experience some of the time and it seems only fair. Sometimes I got some funny looks but for the most part, people were kind to me and my child. And just like the beauty supply place, things were different. There were red-hot instruments that made hair smoke! There was also Patrick the Chicken Man, who came in with his ice chest full of barbecue chicken wings that he would sell you to snack on while you sat under the dryer. I’ve gotten my hair done my whole life but that was my first introduction to Patrick the Chicken Man. But dang those wings were good!

So the braids worked well for a while and then Lil Sweetie’s hair started falling out all around her hair line. I think it’s called losing your edges. Miss Hair Care Person #1 said Lil Sweetie’s hair needed a break from the braids and a relaxer was the answer. I did not want to ever put a relaxer on her hair. I figured that was Lil Sweetie's decision to make, when she was old enough. But here was a professional, convincing me that this was the thing to do. So I did. And it was cute. 'Til it started breaking off.

Then, one day, a woman approached us at McDonald’s and begged me not to put another relaxer on Lil Sweetie’s hair. She (of course) was a hair care professional and gave me her card. Coincidentally, we had an appointment at the beauty shop later that evening. I was so confused! Maybe it’s silly to pray about your daughter’s hair but that’s what I did. I told God of my confusion and asked him to show me what to do.

We drove over to the beauty shop and it was dark, locked up tight. I had never before seen it empty like that. Not even Patrick the Chicken Man was there. We waited 15 minutes past our appointment time and then I said, “Thanks, God, for showing me so clearly that this is not the thing to do.” So I called the McDonald’s lady and booked an appointment with her.

Oh my goodness, I do not want to relive the horror that was the McDonald's lady's attempts at doing Lil Sweetie's hair. Suffice it say it was not a positive experience.

So, I was whining to a friend at work who happens to be black, and she handed me a business card. Glory Hallelujah! Third time is a charm! Miss Hair Care Person #3 is the best. She is sweet to my child, and Lil Sweetie's hair is longer and healthier than it has ever been. I spend close to a $100 a month on my daughter's hair and I make no apology for it. It is worth every damn penny.


Barbara(aka Layla) said...

Lil Sweetie is blessed to have a mom like you, you never gave up and now you she has healthy hair. What a happy story.

Robin Thomas: A Nest With a View said...

I LOVE that picture of wee girl. This is so sweet. The struggle for what is right defines motherhood doesn't it? Mama loves the baby.

Milly said...

Us mom's sure go through a lot for our littles

Milly said...

oops moms