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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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10 Comments

great post! So sweet that your sons are tuned into their little sister’s feelings…

By Sharon Van Epps on Thursday, October 25, 2012 at 5:37 pm.

Thanks so much Sharon!  Her brothers adore her and her hair smile  One of her brothers even told me he wished he had hair like hers because it is so much “cooler” than his.

By Ellenore Angelidis on Thursday, October 25, 2012 at 5:48 pm.

That’s wonderful.  I’m sure that there are plenty of Women of Color who don’t mind giving advice.  Feel free to ask me anytime for advice.  I am a Black Women, and I have had Natural Hair for about 3 years now ( I used to relax).

By nursenelly72 on Tuesday, October 30, 2012 at 9:06 am.

Ellenore:

      I truly enjoyed your post and agree that hair issues pluck a chord for most women. (LOVED the idea of “fancy” hair!) I’m blessed with baby-fine, thin hair and admit to a bit of hair envy when I see women with thick locks.
      That being said, what if your hair challenges became a reciprocal gift that you and your daughter offer to each other as you each face ‘norms” that judge your hair negatively? “Perfect” hair would limit you to only “talking the talk.” Your real hair allows you to choose to reinforce the talk with a proud example of “walking the walk.” How would embracing this challenge empower both of you? What would be the most difficult aspect? Who would be the most important—and possibly challenging—person to persueade?

Thanks for an honest, sweet and thought provoking post.

By Gayle.Swift on Tuesday, October 30, 2012 at 5:58 pm.

I am the adoptive mom of two beautiful bi-racial daughters ages 7 & 3. After years of highlighting & coloring my hair I decided a few months ago to go back to my natural color & let my hair grow for less maintenance .  My reason was finances & I considered it as only temporary.  However, my oldest daughter and I had a similar talk a few weeks ago and I too felt hypocritical with the amount of attention I give in making my hair look different than what God gave me:)  Therefore I have decided that at this point to work with my natural color (even with a little gray) & texture. To my suprise, this has had a much more positive affect on my oldest daughter than I ever thought it would.

By isabelsmom on Tuesday, October 30, 2012 at 6:32 pm.

I am African American, my hair was straightened by hot comb as a child, then chemically (relaxer) as a teenager. In college I grew my natural hair out, then straightened it again when I went into the working world. I’m 36 yrs old and have had my natural non relaxed, non straightened hair for 1 year. I love it now.
When we adopted our kids from foster care, the previous families straightened our daughters hair (she was only 4yrs old). I wanted to repair her damaged hair, so we washed her hair weekly, as to strip out her natural oils. I blow dryed it to make it easier to braid, but did not chemically straighten it.
At the time I was getting relaxers, and she noticed how straight mine was. I bought her princess wigs (cheap after halloween), so she could play with the idea of long straight hair. After the adoption went through (she was 7), she asked for straighter hair. I used a box of texturizer on her hair. The time, effort, and pain of watching those tight curls straighten was worth it. Being one of 4 black girls in her school, she said it made her feel prettier.
At the same time I began growing out my straightened hair, to find my natural texture. I washed my hair & air dried wearing perming rods to get used to the shorter look & different texture. Every few months I got 3inches of straightened hair cut off. My daughter hates my hair’s natural texture. I tell her hair has nothing to do with personality. I’m still the same with my long curly fro as I was with my shoulder length straight hair. She realizes her hair will not grow to the length of her friends, and she doesn’t play with the wigs as much as before. Now she’s able to see, I’m still pretty with my hair not straight. My daughter goes 4-6 months between texturizing her hair. Some times she asks me not to straighten hers too. It doesn’t take much effort to maintain the half straight, half texturized as lons as it’s in a “princess braid”, a braid that coils around her head like a crown (or beehive).

Hair can change. It can be changed as often as you want, it’s just hair. It doesn’t change you. And no matter what color, texture, length, it can always be beautiful.

By A & Z's mom on Tuesday, October 30, 2012 at 6:49 pm.

In summary. . . I felt like I was being a hair hypocrite. My african american parents straightened my hair, not for me to fit in, but because it made it easier to style. Our kids now want straighter hair to fit in. With my curly fro, I don’t fit in with people I see everyday, but I’m an adult with no ego issues.
For your daughter, think about her hair the same way you would if your caucasion son wanted to fit in and asked to have a spikey blue mohawk. You’d get him a cool mohawk wig so he can wear it on the weekends til the thrill wears off. Treat her the same. Get her a long witch wig, a snow white wig, the thrill of it may wear off.

By A & Z's mom on Tuesday, October 30, 2012 at 7:33 pm.

I guess I’m a hypocrite also.  I relax my hair and then get mad at my adopted daughter who is a teenager because she always wants hers flat iron.  But I think I get mad because I know how damaging relaxing and flat ironing can be on hair if you don’t know how to take care of it.  I feel if all she’s going to do when it’s in its curly natural state is to throw it in a bun then she’s not learning how to care for it properly.  But when it’s straightened (flated iron)  then she takes great effort to do something with it.  She’s looks at her white sister and is envious that her hair isn’t like that.  She got her African American Father’s hair and it’s beautiful.  People pay good money to have the curls she has.  But she considers it BIG hair and hates it.  I even told her that I would get it flat iron for her ever other week if she would let the curls hang loose the opposite weeks.  But nope she won’t even take the effort to do that, so she doesn’t get it flat iron either.

By Sherri3 on Wednesday, October 31, 2012 at 12:10 am.

I recommend Natacha Tarpley’s picture book “I Love My Hair.” The colorful illustrations celebrate the joy of “fancy hair.” Also consider Rachel Isadora’s “Twelve Dancing Princesses” a classic tale reimagined from an african cultural perspective. Her illustrations capture the varied beauty of the intricate prints and ethnicities. Isadora has written/illustrated a series of retold tales done in this afro-centric approach and they are a great addition to all children’s reading experience—regardless of their own ethnicity—but especially for chldren of color.

By Gayle.Swift on Wednesday, October 31, 2012 at 1:14 pm.

Thanks for all your great comments.  Sorry for the much delayed response.  With a lot of big changes and events in our family last year, everything seems like it was in a slow motion pattern. 

An update to this post—I am embracing my natural hair much more often and am loving it smile 

I will also be checking out the great recommendations shared here.  Thank you for those. 

I also appreciate the insights about keeping perspective about hair being hair and beauty coming in many shapes and forms. 

Great to have this wonderful community share our journey. Best,—E

By Ellenore Angelidis on Saturday, March 16, 2013 at 5:35 pm.

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Meet the Author

Ellenore Angelidis

Ellenore Angelidis



I have recently adopted or am adopting from...
Ethiopia

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