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.
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!