Love it, Barbara! I think a sense of wonder and play is essential to happiness. Looks like your father is imparting terrific wisdom to the…...
Adoption Blog: Melting Pot Family
I Am a Hair Hypocrite
I have written about my challenges in learning about African-American hair and getting to the point where I feel confident caring for my Ethiopian-born daughter’s gorgeous ringlets. She currently has a conflicted view on her hair. She likes it because it is hers, and also wants it to be more like mine. She will put a T-shirt on her head and let it flow down her back and say, “Look, I have hair like you now, Mommy.” She is also a girly girl and into princesses from fairytales and Disney cartoons. Unfortunately, not too many look like her with her mahogany skin and generous curls. When we were standing together looking in the mirror, she looked from face to face and stated, “You have princess hair and I have fancy hair.” I heard the slight wistfulness when she said “princess hair.”
Her brothers even noticed it and said, "You need to talk to Leyla. Her hair is awesome, but she wants hair like yours."
I adore my daughter’s amazing curls. She is told frequently how beautiful they are. I want her to love them and I hope she chooses to embrace her natural hair when she grows up.
When we recently accepted an international assignment, life got a bit more hectic than usual and I often find myself short on time. As a result, one day I left for work with wet hair and let it dry on the walk there. When I arrived, my hair displayed all its natural, wavy (uneven and frizzy) glory -- not the kind of waves you see in magazines. It struck me, looking at my hair in the bathroom mirror as I wondered what to do with it -- I am a hypocrite. I blow-dry and flat iron my locks straight because I don’t really like their natural state. I had to look through a lot of pictures to find this one from a few years back, with my waves on display. I remember teasing my blonde hair mercilessly as a teenager so it would look like my best friend Trish’s, who had thick, straight hair. I also talked to a number of moms of color who all told me they wanted different hair growing up, and pretended to have long, straight tresses as part of their play too.
I am now trying to be a bit more honest and balanced in my conversations with my daughter. Her pipe curls are lovely, but challenging to take care of, and I acknowledge that. I also tell her, "Mommy’s hair is wavy, and sometimes I wish I had hair like yours or like my friend Trish." I know hair is an important part of most women’s identity, and, for women of color, possibly to an even great degree. But I am coming to appreciate that I have more to offer my daughter than I first thought. I also realize that each of us, while unique, shares the desire for our hair and our appearance to reflect what we would like others to see us to be.
My daughter recently started a new school. During orientation, I noticed the principal was of African descent with a lovely English accent. I was thrilled to have this new role model be part of my African born child's life. When we discussed the orientation, she mentioned the pretty lady who talked to them AND had “fancy hair like me” -- this time she said it proudly. She also has a Scottish teacher, and commented that she loves the way this woman speaks. It makes my heart swell to see my daughter growing up and embracing the similarities and the differences she sees in those around her.
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