I've not written much in the recent months about my sweet Lissa's hair care. In the early days of mothering a young African American girl I was obsessed with hair. I read about hair care. I blogged about hair care. I read other people's blogs about hair care and watched You Tube for hours. Of course the hours could have been because my computer is so slow, but you catch my drift.
My angst was filled with a deep commitment to make sure that my baby girl was never in a position to feel out of place about her hair. I wanted her to be connected to the black community and to wear her hair as other little black girls wore their hair. Under no circumstances did I want black friends or neighbors to look at her hair and think "oooooh a clueless white mommy messed with that head!" I have a black friend whose step mom was white and who did not know how to handle her hair. She told me once about wearing puffs all the time because that was all her mom knew how to do. Her older sister who is also black eventually took over the hair care.
I envisioned hair time to be this really happy bonding time for Lissa and I. We would talk and goof around and I would happily do her hair. This was about the reality as much as The Donna Reed show accurately portrayed the American Family way back when. It wasn't horrible, but there was a certain level of stress involved. Especially lately as Lissa does not like to sit for hair care. At all. Anything longer than 10 to 15 minutes is really pushing the envelope of her patience. Games, songs, toys, TV. Nothing made it easier for her to sit. I know that I need to moisturize, to detangle slowly and carefully, to use protective styles, so it all made for a bit of a challenge. I became adept at doing simple styles fast. My days of box braids and mini twists were gone, giving way to french braids, flat twists, big twisted pony tails and buns.
Life went along pretty well. Lissa tolerated the system. She knew the styles and how long they took. We had a schedule for hair time, and like all my kids, she is always better with a schedule. But it was still nothing she enjoyed. I also have to confess here that it has never occurred to me to invite Lissa into helping with her hair care. In part, because she is young and black hair is fragile. Hers is in great condition but it needs TLC and a gentle hand. Also, at least in our area, black kids don't "do" their own hair. That is done by the women in their life--mom or auntie or a big sister. It just isn't culturally the norm to do their own hair. I realize that I am white,but I sort of absorbed that whole mindset from friends.
Tonight, as I detangled her hair and parted it for some medium twists, she asked if she could help. I thought back to a cool video that Cherish My Daughter put up. It showed her having "hair school" with her kids. I suspect that although she is gearing hair independence toward her older daughter, that the younger ones are eagerly absorbing the information as well.
And so I let go my preconceptions of the right thing to do. I squirted conditioner in Lissa's hands and showed her how to smooth it through her shiny tresses. I showed her how I wiggle my fingers through gently to loosen any tangles painlessly. She copied me so carefully and then managed to twist two sections on her own. I think we spent close to 35 minutes on her hair tonight (you know how things always take longer when you are sharing a skill that is new to someone) But she was engaged, and happy. She admired how long her hair is, showed her brother the twist she had done. It was the best hair night ever!