Saturday, January 8, 2011

A Teen Story - Hair Adventures

We are lucky today to have a guest post! This is Deborah's story of her teen's hair. We are very interested in how all we do with our girls' hair and everything we try to teach them ends up playing out once they begin their journey to young adulthood. This is our first teen story. We hope more will come...please feel free to email us with your story!

Mama Deborah writes:

Hair has never been a big deal to me. I have very straight hair that I keep long. I have it cut maybe 
once a year. I consider myself part of the headband club. As in wash it, comb it, stick in a headband and you are good to go. When our family was matched with two children from Liberia we were ecstatic and then it settled in that we were having a girl. I knew that hair was about to become big at our house.

I did the best I could to prepare. I bought a book. I asked the only African-American woman at my church to bring over her daughter and show me some things. However, when my daughter came home, I was still ill-prepared. Her hair was braided in such a tight braid I could not even get it out myself. Her hair really needed a wash, which I did right away, but then I was sorely unprepared. My first attempts at hairstyling left much to be desired.

This learning curve might have been a little bit easier to handle had my daughter been much younger, however, she was 11 years old when she arrived. We jumped right into varying cultural attitudes and the great hair battle. The hair battle was nothing like battling with your typical American teenager, however. Her attitudes about hair had less to do with style and more with her not wanting to take any responsibility for her hair at all. She was eleven years old and had never combed her own hair. If I asked her to comb out her hair she would take a comb and attack her hair fast and furious – you could just hear it ripping. Just getting her to stay awake while I braided her hair was difficult. If I insisted on staying awake she really wanted to play. I let her have activities, books or whatever, but she would be moving all over and I just couldn’t follow her and braid at the same time.

I was trying to learn how to do hair that I had never experienced before, and she was overwhelmed with all the things that were happening in her new life and new family. This battle was heating up and it wasn’t pretty. We finally made the painful decision to cut her hair short. In Liberia women are not known to wear their hair natural or to have it cut short. She was very distressed at first. I knew it was right when I saw the hair fall on the floor. It was so dry and damaged that starting fresh was the best thing we could do.

She came to enjoy her short hair when she received so many compliments on it. Everyone loved her new “do” and thought she looked very mature. I think we both enjoyed the break from the heat of the battle. Even though she liked the short hair, she told me that when it grew out, she did not want to cut it again. So, we were really just taking a break.

During that time I kept reading and learned some valuable lessons from the new hair that was rapidly growing in. First of all, I found out I was washing way too often. Now I wash about every 4 weeks and then I use a thick conditioner only. I use pure coconut oil for daily “greasing” instead of other store products. I also try to limit our marathon braiding sessions. For instance, I will often braid only a portion of her hair at a time. Or, if we just washed her whole hair I will put in a very simple style and wait a week to braid something more complicated. This way I braid every week or two, but only rarely do I do all her hair at once.

My daughter has always been enamored with long flowing hair. Having a large family (6 children so far) we can not be paying for professional hair styling for all of them. Therefore, we do our best to maintain our hair at home. Any specialized hair, such as permanents or straightening, means the child has to pay for their own. We don’t necessarily prohibit getting the hair done, but using their own money seems to discourage it.

However, I do try my best to help my children enjoy their natural hair. I tried locking her hair, thinking this would give her the flexibility and “flowing” effect she would enjoy. However, I was never satisfied with the tiny braids that I had started. During our down time, I learned to do yarn braids. She really loved having long hair. It was very time consuming for me to put in, but I tried to plan ahead, knowing they would last longer than our usual braiding. I had the braids completed the day before Thanksgiving and didn’t have to do anything to her hair until after Christmas. What a time-saver for the holidays!

We have all learned a lot in our hair adventures. Mary is learning to be more patient with someone who did not grow up braiding hair. She was most surprised with yarn braids and she loved them. I have learned that less bling is better for a teenager. I used to put multi-colored clips and bobbles and I realized that the older she was getting the more out of place it looked. Many times she would quietly remove them and never put them back in. Now I will usually use colored rubber bands if they are not too bright. I even bought small bracelet charms and attached them to the ends of braids; a lot of times she just wants plain black rubber bands.

Two and half years after arriving at our house, we have finally struck a good balance with hair. It seems almost absurd that hair took over two years to not be a major issue, but Mary had never been anywhere where anything was expected of her in this department. I had never seen hair like Mary’s and at first felt as if I would never get it right. Once I learned how to properly care for it, it became much easier to style and then I learned to relax. Even though Mary is a teenager, I have chosen to take most responsibility for her hair. She has so many new things to learn in her life here that I don’t want to enter this battle field again. The most important thing I have asked her to do is to keep her do rag tied on at night. Slowly, I see her beginning to try things on her own. Combing the back out gently or even putting in a few braids by herself. Mostly, I have tried my best to let Mary know that I value her the way she is designed by God. I love her natural hair enough to learn how to do it, even in the midst of a big and busy family.

Thank You for your story, Deborah! We think Mary's natural 'do is awesome and looks very healthy!

How about you? Do you have a "teen story" you'd like to share? Have you allowed your teen to relax her hair if that is what she wants? How has it worked out? We will ALL be the moms of teen girls eventually (yikes?!) so we want to hear. Please email us!


  1. Wow! You have come so far! That last 'do is beautiful!

    ~ Karli from Curly Hairdo Ideas

  2. Great Job mom! You have taken the time to learn how to properly care for you daughters hair and that is a wonderful thing! Her hair looks healthy and lovely!


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