Thursday, September 16, 2010

The Great What if? - Part 2

Wow you guys!  We have some really great comments from Steph's post yesterday.  Everyone should go back and read the stories the other mom's are sharing about their experiences with relaxers and peer pressure here.  Steph has asked me to weigh in on the conversation with my thoughts about that fateful day, so here it goes....

I absolutely love Mocha Mom's video.  I couldn't agree with her more.  She says it all so beautifully that I think there is little else to say on the subject.  As a Christian woman I completely agree that my goal is to teach my daughters that God created them just the way they are and that he didn't make any mistakes!  He created their beautiful hair, just like he created their beautiful minds and their beautifully athletic bodies and their beautiful personalities.  And it is ALL GOOD!

That being said, I think I am up against an extra set of challenges that Mocha Mom does not have to contend with.  I am a white mother of black children.  I do not have the advantage of being able to lead by example here.  I have a very different hair type than they do.  They are thoroughly aware of the ease of care that my straight hair comes with.  They play with my hair all the time.  They easily run a brush through my dry hair.  They quickly put in one style and then just as quickly take it out and put in another.  I get my hair wet every day and I swim and shower without wearing a cap.  I sleep without wrapping my hair up in any way.  And so does their little sister E.  They will always be confronted with that truth and it might be hard for them to not have moments of jealousy and "Why Me?"  "Why do I have this hair that has to be treated so carefully and is so much work to care for."  "Why can't I just hop out of bed in the morning and run a brush through my hair?"  I don't really have an answer for that.  I have no idea why God made the choices he did when creating humans.  But what I can point out are all of the wonderful benefits of having hair like theirs.  That is, after first recognizing their feelings and letting them know that I understand why they feel the way they do.  I think it is important to validate them in their feelings.  Not to just say, "NO, YOU ARE WRONG TO FEEL THIS WAY.  GOD MADE YOU PERFECT.  END OF STORY."  I want my girls to know that even though I don't know what it feels like to be them, I understand why they might be frustrated.  And then remind them of the awesome versatility that their hair possesses and all of the cool things that their hair can do that mine can't!

Oh, and like I started off saying, I can't lead by example.  I don't have afro hair, so I can't set the tone for them by NOT relaxing my hair.  But I can set an example in how I respond to the rest of my body.  I may struggle with body image issues sometimes, but I am sure to not let them know that.  Not at this age at least.  I don't want them to know that I am irritated about the little pouch of fat that I carry around on my belly since having Little E.  I might not like it, but it is part of life.  God blessed me with the ability to carry a child and the end result is a not-so-flat stomach.  I do my best to teach my children a healthy lifestyle when it comes to diet and exercise, but I don't want to be so obsessed about my weight that they develop an unhealthy view of what a body should look like.  Goodness knows the media already does that for us!  I don't need plastic surgery to change my face or my boobs.  I don't need botox for my wrinkles.  Wrinkles come with age, that is a part of life.  I don't go to the tanner or spend hours laying in the sun to alter my skin color.  Please don't be offended if you do these things.  I am NOT pointing fingers. But for ME, these are ways that I can show my girls that I am ok with myself exactly the way God made me.  I don't even wear makeup!  I am just me.

If I am having a heart to heart conversation with my girls I would let them know that I don't always love everything about my appearance.  As a child I hated my hairy arms.  I have very long, dark and thick hair on my very pale arms.  I always thought it was so ugly.  I didn't like to wear short sleeves to school and if I did, I would avoid raising my hand in class.  I struggled with this for many years.  It was probably sometime in high school that I came to terms with the fact that God gave me hairy arms and that it hadn't stopped ANYONE from liking me or wanting to be my friend!  If I could choose, I would probably have totally hairless arms, but I can't choose, so - oh well!  I also have struggled with acne my whole life and I have done what I can to treat it.  But nothing has ever really gotten rid of it.  Even now there are days I have to look myself in the mirror and tell myself I am beautiful even though I have acne and I force myself to hold my head up high and walk out my front door with confidence.  My acne did not stop me from having friends in high school, and it was BAD.  It did not stop my husband from falling in love with me and marrying me.

On that note, if any man does not like my daughters because of their hair, well, I think it is obvious he is NOT the man for them!  Hopefully they will be able to understand that!

So while I can't identify with having the same hair texture as them, I can identify with not always liking things about my appearance and wishing that I could change them.

But the really great thing here, is that having afro hair isn't like having acne or hairy arms.  Their hair really IS beautiful!  It isn't anything to be ashamed of or want to hide.  More challenging to care for - yes, but unattractive - NO WAY!

So the last thing that I feel I can give my girls is the ability to LOVE their hair!  And I think that Keep Me Curly is playing a big role in that.  Hair has become a big focal point in our house since starting this blog.  The girls feel beautiful every time I give them a new hairstyle and they know that hundreds or even thousands of people are looking at their hair on the internet and LOVING it!  They know we are inspiring people.  They also like to look at pictures of other girls and get inspiration from them.  They are starting to come up with creative ideas of their own.  Their hair is FUN!  And even though we may all get a bit tired toward the end of a hair session, I don't ever give them a reason to think that their hair is a burden in any way.

It turns out I actually have a lot to say about something I didn't think needed anything else to be said about it.  Shocking.

In the end, I am pretty sure I know exactly how I will handle this issue.  For now, relaxers are off limits.  They are too young for a relaxer in the same way that they aren't allowed to wear makeup.  They are still of an age where it is my job as their mother to make a lot of their decisions for them.  I am not sure at what age I will decide that they can decide what to do with their hair.  Probably around 16.  But, maturity comes at different ages for all children, so I don't have a set age.  Just assume that they ask me for a relaxer at age 10.  I would tell them that they are not old enough yet but that we will discuss it when they are 16.  If they come to me at age 16 and still want a relaxer I would probably sit down with them and show them all of the facts.  I would warn them of the possible trauma they would be causing their hair.  I would warn them that it might burn.  I would warn them that it could cause their hair to become weak and break off.  After reminding them of all of the benefits of keeping their hair in its natural state, I would encourage them to take a few days to think it through.  And then I would let them choose.  If they chose to relax their hair and they ended up unhappy with it, I will be there to help them restore it.  But I will support them and love them no matter what choice they make.

Whew!  I think that is it!



  1. I allowed someone to relax my foster daughter's hair before I knew much about taking care of her hair. The reason for relaxing her hair was to help me take care of it. It was explained that straight hair would be easier for me.

    The result was terrible. My FD has thin hair and relaxing it seemed to make it seem even thinner. There was breakage at places where I feel that too much relaxer was placed on her she has lost more hair since coming to my home resulting in more comments by the biological family and some of the AA community about my ability to care for her. (she had extensions in her hair when she came to me that caused breakage at the temples and along the hair line)

    My FD loved her straight hair and would beg to wear it down - with no pony tails or beads. I gave in for almost a week, but her hair would be such a mess when she returned from I put my foot down and had to tell her "No. You are to wear "little girl's hair". Relaxed hair is for bigger girls." I then proceeded to point out other girls her age wearing more "age appropriate styles" and showing her teenagers and college students wearing the relaxed styles.
    Now that her hair is "coming back" I make sure to state how excited I am to see her "real hair" growing back. When I comb and restyle her hair I'll make comments about how full and thick her hair is coming in.

    But I'm like you...a white mom with a black daughter, who has another daughter (biracial) who has Caucasian-type hair. It is difficult to relate to her feelings of wanting to fix her hair like her sister's (i.e., my daughter). My FD is having some self confidence issues with the fact that her "momma" is white and not like her...but then she will comment how happy she is at our home and how she loves to live in our house.

    It's a great growing experience for all of us. I wouldn't trade these past 10 months for anything and I hope she feels the same.

    Thanks so much for sharing and teaching others...for helping us white moms build our confidence so that we can build confident and beautiful daughters!

  2. Katie, I feel the same way you do- God made everyone who they are and there is no way to get around it. No matter what you do to your appearance, you will still be the same person inside. I was'nt so lucky having acne, being over weight and having glasses my whole life- no one was there to tell me I was still a beautiful person. Instead, my family, even my own mother, pointed out my flaws constantly, making me feel even worse. That really ruined my life, but I knew all along that when I had kids, I was not going to ruin their self esteem by making fun of them in any way. I just ignore all the "Cut her hair", "I would straighten her hair if I was you" that I hear from my family all the time and tell my daughter to do the same. All of the negativity of family is what caused me to end up ruining my sons hair, and almost stopped me from trying to do any type of style in my daughters hair- ESPECIALY corn rows! I am glad I got over trying to please everyone else. I wish that I could have seen this blog when my kids first came along- or even before. Even though my kids are just half black, I still am going through what you go through trying to convince my daughter that her hair and skin are beautiful even though they are different than mine. I always tell her I wish I had her hair, I love it! All of your posts are so sweet and you have given me lots of ideas for my daughters hair. She has gotten even more compliments, making her feel even better about her hair. I hope you keep this blog going until your kids grow up and move out!

  3. I also wanted to let you know, I learned how to do the criss cross cornrows from watching your video! I'm not as good as you by no means, but whenever I do them, my daughter gets lots of compliments!

  4. Lisa - blessed2fosteradoptSeptember 16, 2010 at 7:38 AM

    Amazing post! Thank you for reiterating what should be the obvious regarding beautiful curly, coiled hair. As a Caucasian mom of a beautiful 4yo 4b black princess through the miracle of adoption I am pressured often to relax and cut her hair. I do admit that I had been tempted in the past because her hair is a lot of work but thankfully I found your videos and this blog and now I am committed more than ever to embracing my daughter's beautiful hair in its natural, God-given state.

    Thank you again for taking the time to provide such a wonderful source of inspiration to me and so many others and for sharing your talents and enthusiasm for Afro hair.



    I have forwarded your blog link to my foster care agency and also an adoption agency I work with and they are grateful as well.

  5. Katie,
    I *really* appreciate your thoughts. I feel the same way. I want my daughter to know that she was created by God and given beautiful hair by Him and I so want her to love her natural hair because of it! We tell her how beautiful she is/her hair is all the time, and I truly hope she thinks so, too- as she gets older. I think you made a really good point that it begins with US, as mothers- and how we handle our own insecurities; how we can embrace those (the stretch marks, the extra fat on our tummies from babies, etc) with grace and a thankful heart and ultimately, acceptance for what God has given us!

  6. WONDERFUL post! My 4 year old half black daughter has very tight curls and we struggle with her acceptance of styling her hair quite often. While she loves her curls she wants to wear her hair down or just up in a ponytail like mine. It is sometimes hard for me to explain to her why she doesn't get to wear her hair down all the time or just in 1 ponytail. I just explain that her hair gets frizzy and breaks when not in cornrows or some other protective style. She has seen me use a flat iron on my hair from time to time and asked me to straighten her hair once. I had the time so I did. She looked like a completely different person! (To be honest I really didn't like seeing her hair that way) I was beaming with Joy when about 30 minutes later she came to me and said "So mom, how do we get my hair back to curly?" I informed her all we have to do is wash it. to which she replied "Oh, good! can we do that now. I miss my curls!"
    Anyway! your blog and You tube videos have been wonderful and so helpful to me.
    God Bless

  7. As a white mom, I so appreciate what you say about finding common ground. I think we sometimes do ourselves a disservice by discrediting our life experience because they are not black life experiences. I'm not black and can't ever be. But that doesn't mean I don't have a general idea of how certain things feel and that includes body image.

  8. AMEN! Our family is very international and we have all hair types! Learning what to do with my African born daughter's hair has been challenging. You have helped us a whole lot. I don't like relaxers, the same way I don't like perms for my more white daughters. We allowed our oldest to perm her hair when she saved enough of her own money to do it. It was an experience for her, but not one I think she will repeat.

    I hope that my perseverance and learning curve in styling her hair gives her hope that we can always learn new things.

    Debbie G

  9. Bless you, Katie. What a wonderful thing you are doing for your daughters--teaching them to love themselves just the way they are and be grateful for who they are. Yes, they will face many challenges and pressure as they grow up because of images in the media and society, but you are setting a wonderful example for them and they will be stronger because of it and be able to face the world with confidence because of what you are instilling in them now.
    And I am MEGA-impressed with your videos. Kudos to you! You've given me some ideas for things to do with my daughter's hair. So, go you!

  10. One thing I try to do is always say "get healthy" rather than "lose weight." I am overweight but I don't want G to fall into that trap of wanting to be stick thin because that is what she is bombarded with in the media and society. Being too overweight is as bad as being too underweight. So I try to never make "fat" a 4 letter word (the doc thinks she is some pounds too heavy..she is "thick") because for girls in our society today, it is one. Get/Stay/Be Healthy is so much more powerful than Don't Get Fat, which is what girls fear. I try to remember to encourage the positive. Of course it has to apply to me too! THat is the hard part!


  11. This is my first post. These "What If?" posts are an interesting topic.

    Even though my mom is Black. I still had a lot of insecurities about my hair. I often felt I didn't measure up to my Caucasian counterparts. Unlike Mocha Mom, who is natural, my mom straightened her hair. So even though my Mom is Black, I still didn't have a natural example to learn from. She also straightened my hair as well. So I got the message early that straight hair was easier to take care of.

    I didn't get my first relaxer until I was a teenager. However, my mom began pressing my hair with a straightening comb at about age six. Because of this, mother rarely ever allowed me to go swimming or run through the lawn sprinklers. She didn't want my hair to kink up. When she sent me to school, she made sure I carried an umbrella and rain bonnet with me so in case it rained, my hair wouldn't revert.

    I envied how combs just glide through my Caucasian counterpart's hair like melted butter. I hated how the combs didn't glide through my mine. In fact my hair broke the teeth out of combs.I felt really insecure when I saw my Caucasian counterparts swimming, taking part in water sports, and playing out in the rain with their heads uncovered like they didn't have a care in the world. I hated that my mother held me back from participating in those activities. When I would ask my mom why I couldn't go swimming. She would say, "Because you will mess up your hair. SweetThang, you can't do what the White girls do because you don't...(Excuse me for saying this but my mom is old school and she is set in her ways) ...because you don't have 'Good Hair'". So that let me know at an early age that something was wrong with my hair. It was bad, unmanageable, unruly, and difficult to deal with.

    Katie and Steph, you do such a good job with your girls hair. Please encourage them not to use chemicals in their hair and love their natural hair texture while they are young. I didn't learn to love my hair texture until I was an adult and decided to stop relaxing my hair over a year ago.


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