It's Saturday evening and that means my daughter, Arsema, and I are getting ready for our weekly hair sessions. After a warm bath full of giggles and a lot of splashes (because Daddy gives the baths) we head down to the living room armed with creams, combs, clips, and hair ties. I grab the remote and let her choose a movie. This week it's Mary Poppins - something I'll enjoy too.
As I start the movie I open the laptop to show Arsema the pinterest board I made full of hair style ideas and she scrolls through the pictures while I detangle her hair. Once she chooses her style we rub a curl cream into her hair together before I start making parts and putting in clips. She watches the movie and munches on a snack with her ankles crossed, sitting quietly.
As the white mother of a beautiful black daughter, hair care has been a steep learning curve for me. I want my daughter to love her hair and be proud of the springy black curls that cover her head. I want to be able to care for and style her hair in a way shows I understand that her hair is different and I celebrate her unique beauty.
So I reach out to my friends of color to ask questions. I research and watch YouTube videos and learn. While I already knew how to do braids and pigtails I expand my technique to include cornrows, twists (flat and rope), and terms like "co-wash" and "protective style" and "sleep caps" and "twist out."
When she was just 8 months old I started looking for ways to style her hair, make it fun, and help her learn to sit for an extended length of time. We started with two little puffs and eventually worked our way up to braids. At first I would get one row in before she'd crawl away to something more interesting. I'd wait a few minutes and bring her back for another row. Her style took took ten times longer that way but we giggled, played, and snuggled our way through it. By not getting frustrated or forcing her to sit longer than she was able we kept it a positive experience.
Learning about my daughter's hair has been meaningful and fun, but the true gift has been our weekly hair sessions. Every week for an hour or two we bond and continue to create a special mother-daughter relationship. She loves being involved in the process by choosing her own style off the pinterest board. We chat and sing songs and talk about the movie while I work. We take breaks every so often to wiggle and giggle and hug. She has my undivided attention while I put in the time to invest in her.
The style is finished and she runs to the mirror to inspect my work. A huge smile spreads across her face as she turns her head to the left and right to see every angle. She reaches up to softly feel the braids and turns around to grin at me. "You are so beautiful!" I tell her and she nods, agreeing. Day by day, week by week I try teach her positive body image.
I'm not an expert by any means - my parts aren't always straight and my braids aren't perfect. Someday she may ask to go to a professional and that's okay. For now, I'm soaking up each weekly session. These moments are precious to me because they are regular opportunities to bond with my daughter, show her that she's worth my investment, and reinforce in her heart that she is important, beautiful, and unique.