If you’re an African-American woman with a blog reader, Facebook page, or Twitter account, you’ve no doubt seen the incredibly adorable Sesame Street video “I Love My Hair” by now. If you haven’t seen it, in short a cute little brown Muppet girl extols the virtues and versatility of her kinky tresses. It was developed by a father (who himself is white) who wanted his adopted Ethiopian daughter to take pride in the unique texture of her hair. My daughter, who loves to hijack mommy’s laptop time by forcing me to play Elmo videos on YouTube, is absolutely enamored with the video. When I play it for her, she happily sings along while playing with her own hair, then asks me to play it again when it’s over. I so love that she digs the video and that at only two-years-old she obviously “gets” it.
But I have to be honest about something… I hate doing her hair! All mothers of little black girls can feel me on this one. While we can’t have our little Nubian princesses looking any ol’ kind of way when they step out the house, most of us would pay royally for a magic wand that would make those braids, beads, and cornrows suddenly appear with no effort, tears, or struggling on our part. The process is arduous, but at least the older girls know how to sit still while mommy does their hair. Not two-year-olds. They have the attention span of a gnat and do not like to be constrained for long periods of time.
I finally learned how to cornrow this year (seriously, my “Black Card” was in jeopardy without this very elementary skill). It has been both a blessing and a curse. The blessing is that I can braid her hair once and the style will last for a week with care, saving me valuable time in our morning routine during the work week. The curse is that I have to convince/manipulate/force her to be still long enough for me to do it in the first place. Waiting until bed or nap time usually helps, as does playing her favorite videos. But it never comes without a struggle. And as if putting the braids in wasn’t enough of a fight on its own, taking them out is met with just as much resistance. If I even touch a braid — not pull or attempt to unravel — just brush a finger against one of her braids, she yells, “Ow, Mommy!” and commences to hold her head, cry feverously, and create an all-out scene in the middle of the living room floor. Child, I used to comb and brush your hair into a million afro puffs every single day before we started this braiding routine, so I know you are hardly tenderheaded. Who do you think you’re fooling?
Thing is, I know where her resistance is coming from: her mother. Like I said, she’s two and does not yet have the patience to sit still for long periods of time. But my exasperation with her in the process only compounds the problem. I don’t want my daughter to look at her hair like it’s an inconvenience, or to think that doing it is a chore. That’s the same way I’ve been looking at my own locs for the past two years. Oh yes, the maintenance is a bear, I won’t even lie about that. But it’s a task I used to take much more pride in, and it showed in the health and beauty of my tresses. Whether natural, loc’d, blown-out, or chemically-straightened, Black women have long had a love-hate relationship with their hair. We love it when it’s “done,” but we hate the process of getting to that point. And sadly, the “hate” has often disproportionally outweighed the “love.”
I want my little diva to love her hair in every way. I want her to not only appreciate her unique texture, but also take pride in the fact that she has mastered its maintenance and can bring out its best beauty. Going forward, I want her to know that no aspect of taking care of herself is a chore. It is instead your sacred duty to the Queen inside of you, and because you love her you gladly and willingly do everything you can to make her shine forth. It’s when we start to look at self-care as something to dread (no pun intended) that our game seriously falls off and we start looking, for lack of a better phrase, a hot mess. My baby girl is a princess and she will be raised to act, think, and treat herself as such.
After an hour (yes, an hour) of struggling and cajoling last night, I finally finished undoing all her braids. I picked her up, took her to the mirror, and she smiled and played with her big, braided-out afro. And as if to channel Willow Smith herself, girlfriend started whipping her hair back and forth. She then looked at me and said, “Mommy, SHAKE!” And soon we were both flinging our hair and smiling at how beautiful we were. She was proud of her hair, and I was proud of her!For an absolutley fabulous blog on Black hair care, check out my girl Roshini at Glamazini.net. Also referenced in this post is The Broken Brown Egg, a wonderful blog highlighting infertility in the African-American community. 15 Comments