Raising Mixed Kids 101: 4. Learn How to Do Your Child’s Hair…with Love.

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4. Learn How to Do Your Child’s Hair With Love.

I know my mom’s been waiting for this piece, because my hair has been a continuous tension between the two of us. I could very easily write a series, possibly a book, about my hair experiences, and the politics of Black/ mixed hair. Before I get into my personal experiences, however, I’d like to begin this piece with an inquiry I found on a blog for mothers. One mother writes:

“[Are] there any moms out there with mixed little girls? My daughter is almost 4 and mixed with black, white, and Spanish. I know poor baby. But I have been trying for a couple of years now to find something to put in her hair that will calm it down so that she can wear her hair down and to look nice instead of frizzy all the time. Someone help PLEASE!!”

Comments like these make me sad, and create fuel for writing this series. “Poor baby?” If one thinks being mixed is a deficit, they shouldn’t have mixed children. But the part I want to focus on for this piece is the last part. While this mother is making the right steps by seeking  support for doing her child’s hair, the attitude behind her research is demeaning to the uniqueness, and beauty of her daughter’s curls. Her quest to “calm it down” so that it can “look nice instead of frizzy all the time” is offensive, and loaded with European ideals of beauty that shouldn’t be projected onto this little girl, especially not from her mother. In my experience, I’ve met the most well-intentioned mothers with similar attitudes towards their children’s mixed hair. Simply because you may not know how to care for your child’s hair doesn’t make it difficult; it’s simply different from what you’re used to, and you need to learn how to care for it, not change it, deal with it, or “calm” it down. As I always say, if God wanted my hair to lay flat, I would have climbed out the womb with straight hair.

Before you go about learning how to properly care for your child’s hair, however, you need to, first, learn how to love it, and appreciate it for its uniqueness. Every word coming from your mouth should be in praise of the beauty of each curl on your child’s head. When referring to your child’s hair, avoid words like difficult, lioness, troublesome and for goodness sake, don’t say “nappy” (a relative of mine used that word often when describing my hair). Instead, use words like beautiful, special, soft, and unique.

My grandmother (who spent many weekends caring for my hair), and mother loved my hair. On the rare occasion that my mother allowed me to straighten my hair, my grandmother would literally have a hollering fit: “Why would the baby do this to her curls,” my nana would shout. When I’d complain about the thickness of my hair, my mother would break it down by saying, “In the Bible, it says Jesus’ hair was like wool. You, and your hair are more like Jesus than any of us.” For my mother, my hair was holy; for me, it was what separated me from being as pretty as Kelly Kapowski. It took me until college to truly appreciate and love my kinks and my curls. Regardless of what was said at home, I was teased at school for having kinky hair by my classmates, the media gave little to no love for hair like mine, and the hair industry catered to “calming” the Africa out of my hair, rather than caring for it.

My mother, however, did what she could to combat the negative messages around me, and took the duty of doing my hair seriously. She’d walk all up into Black hair salons (while I shuttered with embarrassment- “Moooommmmy, you’re the only white person!”, and inquire how to care for my hair. She’d ask her friends for tips, and, have them show her how to style it. Just like all my Black friends, my hair was most always, shiny from grease, and braided with colorful barrettes. We also had some unfortunate missteps—I have school photos for proof–but we got through it. My mother never acted like doing my hair was a chore, or nuisance; it was just another part of caring for her daughter, who happened to have different hair from her. Thankfully, I now see why my mother and grandmother thought my hair was  holy, because it is a crown of goodness.

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My mother gettin’ down with my hair.

Fortunately, there’s a hair revolution going on at the moment, and there’s plenty of support available for caring for your child’s hair. Caring for, and maintaining naturally curly hair is  supported by products like Mixed Chicks, Miss Jessie’s products, and my favorite: good ol’ natural products like coconut oil, avocado oil, shea butter, and jojoba oil. There are websites and YouTube tutorials, as well as hair salons that specialize in caring for our hair. There is absolutely no excuse for not properly caring for your child’s hair, but again, you must begin with loving their hair, and teaching them how to love it.

For parents who want a list of things of do’s and don’ts, I hesitate to list these (other than, DO love their hair, and DON’T try to change it), because mixed hair/ Black hair comes in so many different textures. A child can have bone straight hair, really thick, curly hair, and anything in between, and come from the same parents. You need to get to know your child’s curls, and go from there. In regards to which products to use, I suggest to go as natural as possible. Here are some websites that may be useful:

Treasured Locks: http://www.treasuredlocks.com/biracial-hair-care-guide.html#expectations

1. Chocolate Hair Vanilla Care (I, personally, don’t like the title of this site, but there are some good tips shared here): http://www.chocolatehairvanillacare.com/

2. My personal go-to site, Black Girls with Long Hair (BGLH); they also have a link to hair stylists around the world that specialize in natural hair: http://blackgirllonghair.com/?cat=412

3. Curls: http://www.curls.biz/multi-ethnic-hair.html

Explore, have fun, and most importantly, LOVE your child’s hair, so that they can feel empowered to love it too!

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25 thoughts on “Raising Mixed Kids 101: 4. Learn How to Do Your Child’s Hair…with Love.

  1. I love this, thank you! “Calming black hair” is the most common and most insulting (and yet symbolically accurate) representation of how Euro centrism works to control people of color. The politics of black hair is such a fascinating subject, and has a lot of gender, and class threads interwoven within it (ie: black hairstyles & associations with each, expensive weaves, white/euro beauty standards…). The dynamics of a white parent and a daughter of mixed race is a whole other level. Thank you for writing this!

  2. Thank you so much for writing this! I’m only thirteen, but my sister who’s 25 just had a daughter who is mixed! Me being the sole babysitter, I love this article. I as a black child had a lot of hair difficulty’s going to an all white school. I hated my hair. I got teased and kids would ask questions I couldn’t answer. “why is your hair so puffy” ” it’s weird!” After reading this I can understand how to make my niece love her hair and be proud of her heritage. From both sides of the family.
    Thanks Again- Makenna

    1. Hi Makenna,
      I’m really happy this piece resonated with you. I’m sure your own experiences and consciousness of difference will help you be a great role model for your niece. Your hair is beautiful, and it’s too bad that people’s ignorance can make us forget that sometimes. Be proud of who you are, and your niece will follow in your footsteps :).

    1. Thank you ‘dnhair’… more of us need to name the power of words and actions, and call out moments when people are creating trauma with their statements… I had an aunt who always called my hair nappy, and shamed me for having ‘difficult’ hair, and it took until my mid 20s to deal with that pain and rejection.

  3. Love this!!! For the life of me I’ve never understood our culture’s obsession with “taming unruly hair”. My son is biracial, with beautiful thick curly hair, and it infuriates me when people say “You need to cut that boys hair”! His hair is full of character, just like him! As I prepare for my biracial baby girl’s arrival in a few months, I welcome the opportunity to get to know her curls (or lack of!) and teach her how to love & appreciate everything that makes her uniquely her!

    1. I couldn’t agree more, we hear that all the time too. My so has a head full of long curly locks, and I am quite jealous quite frankly. He does get a lot of compliments every where he goes, but it also attracts comments from family about when are you going to cut his hair. I am like are you KIDDING!!! People pay good money for curls like this!!!

  4. I have to confess, I say ‘poor baby’ about my daughter, too – however, what I mean is…I feel bad that she has a Mom who doesn’t know how to do her hair correctly. I love my daughter’s (Chloe, mixed black/white, 7 years old and BEAUTIFUL) hair. I don’t intend to change it/calm it down/ etc. I just want to learn how to do her justice.

    1. I’m sure your daughter has beautiful hair.I have a friend who is white, and has a half Black/white daughter, and she’s been learning as she goes. She now designs beautiful braids all over her daughter’s hair, and the time they spend doing her hair is sacred mother-daughter time. I hope some of the links in this article will help you learn how to do your child’s hair. She’ll eventually have to learn how to do her hair, and it would be great for you to teach her. YOUTUBE also has great tutorials, and hopefully you have some close friends that will lend a hand. Good luck on your journey with your daughter and her hair :).

  5. Loved this article as I can totally relate… My 5 year old is mixed Mexican and Trinidanian, her class is all white (or white looking kids) and she hates her hair .. At such a young age she asks about “making it straight or dyeing it blond”.. She asked why I had to have her “like this”, it really hurts me to hear her say these things and I always remind her how beautiful she is and how many compliments she gets about her looks and her curly hair (from adults) , yet she always says “but many just stare at me.. And I don’t like to be a curly girl”. It’s getting so bad that she refuses to go out unless her hair is in a pony tail . I don’t struggle with her hair as I figured out what works, what I struggle with is seeing her feel so bad about herself..Deep down I wonder if I’m doing something wrong by putting her in an environment where she just can’t relate and she feels “different”, but I also can’t just pick up and move to a more “black” or mixed community..does this get better when she’s older? Or worse since kids get meaner when they get older? Any advise/thoughts?

    1. Hi Dina, I’m sorry your daughter is experiencing this, and I’m sad to say that I, too, said many of these things as a little girl. I also know many Black/mixed people who grew up in predominately white spaces who had similar experiences. Our society values whiteness, and even in the most diverse schools, many schools value whiteness as well. I’m happy to say that I grew out of the self-hate stage, but it took a lot of time, and sadly, I know many adults who never grow out of this. You’re doing the right thing by telling her she’s beautiful, but she needs more… she needs to see her beauty in others, in the books she reads, in the things she watches. She needs to not feel like she’s the only one. Here’s a link to tip 3, “Have Black Friends,” which explains more of what I mean: https://shesgotthemic.wordpress.com/2013/05/10/raising-mixed-kids-101-tip-3-have-black-friends-plural/. Keep working hard to show your babygirl is beautiful inside and out, because she is!

  6. My daughter is mixed, mixed. Her hair isn’t straight or kinky. Her father is mixed and i’m white. I think it needs moisture but far from grease. I comb her curls every morning but i’m sure they need to be embraced. I haven’t found a way. HELP!

    1. HI Courtney,
      Yes! Your daughter’s curls definitely need to be embraced.
      Curly hair ranges, so it’s hard for me to give exact advice without seeing/touching her hair, but what I would begin with is, stay away from grease (this goes for all hair types), and try the natural hair products route. Make a mix with lighter oils and shea butter that will work for her texture. I’ve also listed some sites to go to for caring for mixed hair in this entry–check them out, along with YouTube tutorials. Most (I would even say all) curly hair shouldn’t be brushed dry, as you are destroying the curl, and creating more of a mess. Most curly hair should be combed with a wide tooth comb while wet. I have curlier hair, so I finger comb in it the shower.

      There is a whole community online about how to care for natural hair, so explore and have fun while doing your research, but please, please, please embrace your daughter’s curls!

  7. Thank you for this piece. My daughter is 2.5 and the comments from both sides have begun. I love her hair and I try to keep it natural with mixed chicks leave in conditioner and a light olive oil in the morning. Its beautiful. However, her fathers side is always giving me tips and making me feel less than I am in regards to her hair. They say that I have to braid it to make it grow. They will not let me trim her hair because they said that will change the texture and hinder the growth. From my history, I have always been advised that a light trim is healthy and should be done every couple of months to avoid dead, split, and dry ends. They also say I need to put oil into her hair. I love my daughters hair and am trying to teach her that the curls are special and beautiful. The texture is wonderful. It is fine and curly. The back of her head is growing slower and they said I have to braid it to make it grow. Is all of this true? I don’t want to do something wrong but I also want to be her mother and not have everyone from our family telling me how to manage my daughters hair.

    1. I just read another site and it seems my daughter has 3B and possibly between 3C Hair. Seems to be a little of an in between of the two.

      1. Hi “LAC,”
        Thank you so much for reaching out. It sounds like you are beginning the journey of taking care of your daughter’s hair right– you recognize the beauty of her curls, you’re asking questions, seeking advice, and doing your own research. Before I begin with any of my own ‘advice,’ let me start with saying you may make mistakes along the way (I have with taking care of my own hair, and so did my mom), and it’s okay. As long as you’re seeking to improve and are loving your child’s hair, I have a feeling things will be fine.

        Your family is offering advice because they love you and your daughter. I would suggest to listen to what they have to say, and if you’re unsure about what they’re advising, do as you have done– look to the Internet for more advice. If they’re crossing boundaries- gently let them know.
        Your daughter’s hair sounds similar to mine, but finer (I’m around a 3C). As you know with caring for your daughter’s hair, curly hair is very delicate. It must be treated with the utmost care. While wearing it out and loose is fine (I wear my hair out often), braiding curly hair is also important. Braiding hair, sometimes referred to as a “protective style” helps protect the hair from getting tangled and knotted. Braiding the hair may support growth, because it will help prevent fewer tangles/knots, and therefore breakage. I imagine when I have girls of my own, braiding will be a nightly ritual. I especially wouldn’t want my child going to bed without a protective hair style, because that may cause further breakage. (NOTE: when I’m talking about braiding, I’m referring to braids without extentions…)

        As for oil– I love them. jojoba oil, coconut oil, olive oil–most are great for the hair. You have to, however, be careful how you use them, because some can be drying,,,, I actually am gathering tips from other mothers raising biracial children and plan on posting a follow up to this entry before the end of the month. Please check in again in a few weeks, and hopefully I will have some useful tips for you. I also hope you’ll be able to add some of your own.

        Remember, your heart is in the right place– that’s the beginning… because you’re searching and trying to find answers for nurturing your daughter’s hair, you’re on the right path for caring for her hair. Your family, and friends who have similar hair are also great resources, so keep them close, and pick and choose what you think is right for your daughter– you’re her momma, after all!

        Hope these tips help… again look for a follow-up post by the end of the month!

      2. Thank you for responding. I had my daughters hair slightly trimmed this weekend only to remove the very ends. It feels healthy and looks great however her father is very concerned that I have ruined her hair and it will not grow and will change the texture. If you can put information on the blog in regards to that I am sure it would be so helpful for mothers. I am hoping I did not harm her hair. I don’t feel I did as I have always grown up that small trims are important to keep hair healthy and removes split/dead ends. I now don’t have to even use a brush because all of the “dead ends” are gone and her hair is fully healthy. Is this going to cause her hair not to grow or change texture? Is there an issue trimming African American/Caucasian hair? She is almost 2.5 years old. The hair stylist I went too is a master stylist and is very knowledable so I felt comfortable. Any guidance you can give in these regards would be of assistance. Thank you again! Date: Sat, 3 May 2014 21:31:28 +0000 To: elizabeth_coffing@hotmail.com

      3. Hi Elizabeth,
        Sadly, quite of bit of time has lapsed since you last posted. I apologize for the delayed response–life’s surprises gets in the way, at times… anyhow, i wanted to know how you’re feeling about the trip now that time has passed. Trimming hair has its benefits, and I, believe, is important when dealing with dead ends. I know I have hesitations, because I’m still traumatized by the time I asked for a trim, and my hair –which was once in the middle of my back when straight– was now above my shoulders…but, of course, it grew back. And despite the tales of Afro-hair not growing back, it does, so long as its taken care of properly. I promise that I will soon post some other tips…

  8. Our son is biracial and has 3b curly hair that is fragile. I made the mistake of getting cornrows for the first time a few weeks ago. His hair can’t take it. I took them down, worked through his hair with my fingers and gave his scalp a gentle massage. He lost a lot of hair, granted he has plenty, but I will never have it braided again. He looked great in braids but we know now it isn’t the thing for his hair. We use mixed chicks products and leave in conditioners. I am using an oil based spray now to help bring moisture back and protect his hair. We love his hair like it is and he does too. Unfortunately people are blind and think he is a girl, even at 7. He looks nothing like a girl but has a gorgeous head of curls. I am going to continue to take him for a trim every 6 months or so and keep doing what we are doing. I too have heard that we should get it cut to look like a boy, he is going to have a “complex” over it, and on and on. The only people with a problem are those on the outside looking in.

    1. Thank you, April, for your comment, and I apologize for the delayed response. You have given a lot of insight to other parents who frequent this particular post, and I’m so appreciative of your contribution! I think your experience properly demonstrates that not all hair is the same. Cornrows, or other types of braiding are great protective styles for some children’s hair, but not for everyone’s! One of the pieces of advice that a friend of biracial and Black children said is, “Get to know each child’s hair!!!!” I believe she has 4 children, and each child’s hair is different. She has made mistakes, and has learned from them. No need to be hard on yourself when you realize you’ve experienced a mishap, just move forward, which it sounds like you’re doing!

  9. I came upon your blog while searching “how to braid mixed babies hair”. Initially I was looking for something that would help me keep my daughters little curly frizziez smooth when I braid it. I have a thicker and curlier texture of hair than the “average” white woman, and I spent all of my school years straightening it. I finally learned to love my curls and found that I had to use products designed for black women. My daughter was blessed with thick, soft hair, and small cork screw curls. It’s been a learning experience so far for me (and she’s only 2) with trying different organic and natural hair products on her. I hope that I can help her and teach her to love her curls and properly care for them.

    1. Hi Cory! Thanks for visiting! I plan to post more “tips” in the future, as this is my most viewed post, but I hope you were able to find something of use. By showing love to your hair and hers, she will understand that her hair is beautiful. I also think that your daughter is growing up in a society that is more loving to curly hair, but there will still be competition with the media’s portrayal of beauty. But, remember, you;re her number 1 role model so far, so she’ll think what you think for at least the next 8 years or so :).

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