Let me start off by putting the blame firmly at my feet. As a white mom with ‘white’ hair raising a black baby with ‘black’ hair I’ve never quite gotten the hair regime right. I’ve asked friends, and strangers, and often the information is similar but at times, also conflicting.
Some say wash as often as possible. Others suggest relaxer and other chemicals to make her hair more manageable. Others say only wash once or twice a month. One thing they all agree on is lots and lots of moisture.
‘White’ hair is so different. My hair is so different. Mine is fine and pretty straight. As a baby I had curls and apparently I screamed and cried enough for my mom to one day take a pair of scissors to my locks and chop them off. Since then I haven’t had curls, or long hair again.
In the world of ethnic hair, Emma’s is coarse. And strong. And very curly. Which apparently is great. Unless you’re a white mom trying to manage it.
Yesterday I took Emma to a kiddies salon. Recommended by one of Emma’s friend’s moms at school. On our way Emma and I did a pinky promise that she would be as brave as possible. I told her that it might hurt because her hair is so curly but I’d ask the ladies to be as gentle as possible.
Let’s just say all promises went out the window. The woman at the salon insisted on putting a relaxer on Emma’s hair. I asked if it was necessary. The stylist asked me how many children’s hair have I done recently? So, against my better judgement, I kept quiet.
Emma started niggling with the relaxer. She niggled a bit more when the lady washed her hair. She asked me to rather do it. Which I did. I sang and laughed with her and took her mind off things.
Then she sat in the chair and it was time for the blow out. It was horrific. Emma screamed and cried. And ran out the salon. She wanted nothing more to do with the woman brushing her hair. But there was no turning back. She was looking like a little troll and we needed to try and finish it. So I sat in the chair with Emma on my lap and held her arms down. And two stylists attempted to dry and brush her hair. It was nightmarish. Emma called for me and begged me to make them stop. She sobbed while she yelled that it was hurting.
I looked in the mirror, horrified at the sight. Me, holding my child down, while I allowed people to hurt her. But what was more horrifying was the faces of the other parents. One mom said to another, and loud enough for me to hear, that what I was doing was tantamount to child abuse. Another customer said “good God, is styling her hair that important to you?”
Gone was the idea of braids. Down the drain the thought of dreads. The only thing we could do was little pom poms, which Emma yelled and screamed through too.
I don’t know. The stylists told me that unfortunately it’s the way it is for black hair. There’s no way they can be pretty without pain. And this isn’t the first time I’ve been told this from people working at a kiddies salon. But surely it’s not the only way.
I’ve now ordered another product for Emma’s hair which will apparently detangle and soften the follicles, enough for me to put my fingers through it easily. And a dear friend has given me the name of her kiddies’ stylist who is so gentle they nap while having their done. So I’m going to give that a try.
And then I got home to hear Ben had beaten and bitten his friend.
Let’s just say I won’t be getting one of these soon