Wild Thing, I Think I Love You: Why my daughter can wear her natural hair however she wants

This is my daughter.

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She is not-quite five years old. She has a bold, confident, larger-than-life personality. She sings loudly in public. She dances with strangers. She makes friends everywhere she goes.

And she chooses to wear her hair in a way that reflects that.

And this is a problem for people.

Lily’s hair has been an issue for a long time. In fact, it has already been the subject of this blog. Twice. I’ve spoken about it in national media.

It’s a whole thing.

What I don’t understand is why it’s THE thing.

I did an interview with a radio host in Atlanta a few months ago. We had such a nice chat about transracial adoption. It seemed like I had really gotten through to her. (She opened the interview asking why white women adopting black babies was a trend.) And then. The very last thing she said before signing off, leaving me no time to respond, was “but those white women who don’t know how to take care of their daughters’; hair. That just makes me crazy.”

That is what you take away from learning about my family?

Before I go on. If you are new to this blog (hi!) please click the links above where I have talked about Lily’s hair issues before. I don’t want to repeat myself. But there is stuff in there you need to know. Really. Please.

I’ll wait.

(Jeopardy theme song)

Welcome back!

So as you can see, this is not a new issue. And it is exhausting.

Imagine my frustration, then, when someone who is on the fringe of Lily’s life asked me yesterday what “we” are doing about her hair. He is concerned that kids in kindergarten may make fun of her. (Heaven forbid a kid getting made fun of in kindergarten.) He had lots of advice. None of it was new information to me.

Immediately on the defense, I felt the need to go into everything I’ve explained above. I eventually brought Lily into the conversation because she was within earshot and I didn’t want her to overhear people she cares about talking about her like she’s not there.

And then he told her, “Do you know how pretty you would be if you let Mommy take care of your hair?”

And I saw red.

True, he tried to back-pedal a bit, saying that of course she was already pretty, she just would be even prettier…. And it would really bring out certain features… And she would be so pretty…

I got her out of there after an offer for him to go with her to the barber (I kind of want to take him up on it, for entertainment value. But I won’t put her through that.)

Shortly after I got home, I vented on Facebook. Because Moms don’ have afternoon coffee around the kitchen table any more. We have Facebook.

And yikes.

68 comments later and I realized how high emotions run with this topic. Almost all of the comments were supportive in the beginning. Then someone I hardly know told me the teacher was right, and white women need to understand how to take care of black hair. I won’t go into detail because it got really out of hand. I was so SO thankful to have so many friends stand up for my family. (Many of these friends are not white.) It went on for quite a while, and eventually she went back and deleted all of her comments. I am still getting messages of support from friends this morning.

So.

Here are some things I need the world to know.

1. My daughter is not pretty. She is gorgeous. She is stunning. She stops people on the street because they can’t getter over her charisma.

2. She calls her hairstyle “Lily Hair.” She chooses to wear it that way. Just like she chooses to wear princess dresses and sunglasses.

3. I believe she will outgrow the drama surrounding her hair. Just like she outgrew needing to poop in a diaper until she was 4 1/2. (“But WHY won’t she poop on the potty?” people wanted to know. “Have you asked a doctor about it? What about kindergarten?” I felt pretty strongly that she wouldn’t be pooping in diapers in college. One day she decided to be done with it. So she was. And never used a diaper again.) I feel strongly- as a Mom who knows her kid- that this will be the case with her hair. She is one of those kids who needs to decide things for herself.

4. I teach at a special needs school. I am around children with all kinds of special needs every day. Lily does not have very much in common with my students. There is a chance she could have sensory issues. I am looking into it. It would explain a lot. But she is bright. And she is passionate. And she is stubborn. (See “pooping in diapers.”) Given that, if there are issues she doesn’t outgrow, I would be the first person (Dad would be second) to say “let’s talk with someone about this.” Not only am I a teacher, I am someone who suffers from mental illness.

If there is an issue here, we will seek help.

5. I am not interested in teaching her that she needs to wear her hair a certain way so that the kids in kindergarten don’t make fun of her, nor so mommy and daddy don’t get judged by strangers. This is not the sense of self I have chosen to help her develop.

Now that all of that is out of the way.

Why on Earth does anyone care?

Seriously.

I mean, SERIOUSLY seriously.

It is hair. She likes it this way. It is a choice. She is a crazy kid. Her hair fits her personality.

WHO CARES????

I have been told it needs to be moisturized every day.

Yep. Just getting her hair wet in the bathtub is a two-man process. Getting any sort of product into her hair (wet or dry) is a wrestling match. LITERAL wrestling. Sometimes we don’t have it in us.

I have been told multiple times that it will lock and we’ll have to cut it all off in order to do anything with it.

Yep. Fully aware. This even feels likely to me.

And when that day comes, she will rock her super-short Afro just like she rocks her craziness now.

We have standards. She must be clean. She must be fully clothed when she leaves the house. She must eat healthy foods.

But this is hair. She is a small child. There are more important things in life.

Like friends.

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And ice cream.

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And helping.

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And the animals at the zoo.

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If you see these pictures and your takeaway is hair, I humbly suggest that it is your world lens that is out of focus. Not hers.

8 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Megan Whitacre
    Mar 27, 2014 @ 17:30:17

    For what it’s worth, my white towheaded son screams and runs when we go to brush or shampoo his child and I’m white and used to have blond hair, so it’s certainly not isolated to Miss Lily and you are not alone Mindy! Although, in fairness, I’ve probably received a lot less unsolicted advice.

    Reply

  2. Nancy Hedrick
    Mar 27, 2014 @ 18:10:17

    I don’t know anything about black hair except what I’ve heard you say over the years. To me, Lilly’s hair looks GREAT the way it is. Its Lilly. Keep on doing what your doing. She’s a great kid!

    Reply

  3. Ashley
    Mar 27, 2014 @ 19:46:17

    I think her hair is amazing an fun .. you rock on Lily ❤

    Reply

  4. Tamara Fairbanks
    Mar 27, 2014 @ 23:07:08

    I as an african american, I like the fact that you encourage your daughter to not be defined by her hair. I think the negative response stems with the fact that many women of color have been labeled by their hair. I have been reprimanded from certain jobs as a result of my hair not being a certain look and it is annoying because that is not who I am. Keep encouraged, you are doing a great job! 🙂

    Reply

  5. Cara
    Mar 28, 2014 @ 00:04:29

    For what it’s worth, I honestly LOVE her hairstyle and don’t see why anyone would get upset about it! She doesn’t look dirty, she doesn’t look unkempt…she looks whimsical and fun. It suits her.

    Reply

  6. heynaturalbeauties
    Mar 28, 2014 @ 12:49:33

    your daughter sounds awesome a free spirit! Its great that you leave her to express herself 🙂

    http://www.heynaturalbeauties.com

    Reply

  7. Jaymi
    Mar 28, 2014 @ 13:36:20

    Agree wholeheartedly with your priorities in raising this spectacular creation of God! I love to read you posts and how open you are with the world. It’s refreshing and counter-culture. People are simply not used to hearing your approach. So it takes them a long time before they get it! Your stance is important and as a family all that matters is that it is working for everyone that matters!

    Reply

  8. Trackback: Purple Hair and SPD | Thoroughly Modern Mommy

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