“Baby girl…time to do pretty hair!”
“Yay! Yo Gabba Gabba? We watch Yo Gabba Gabba?”
With the promise of Yo Gabba Gabba secured, Evelyn comes racing into the bathroom, her hair a halo of fuzzy curls. I start the bath water and add in ridiculous amount of bubble bath. I strip her clothes off and, if she asks (which she usually does), mine too. I make sure we have her Darth Vader bath toy and that I have a large hair pick and cup for rinsing. As she plays, I give her the weekly shampoo and then work on getting out her tangles. I take a full handful of conditioner and work it into her curls until they are sodden and white with unrinsed hair product. I section her hair and start at the edges with the pick, carefully untangling knots and picking out pieces of frizz.
Sometimes she flinches or cries out “stop dat!” if I tug too hard but mostly she is content to play. As the bubbles melt and the water cools, I make my way around her head until the first stage of “pretty hair” is done. I’ll call in my husband and he’ll get her dressed while I dry off and set up my hair care spot in the basement. I queue up a new episode of Yo Gabba Gabba, maybe grab a snack for Ev, and get my comb, my leave-in conditioner, hair clips, tiny rubber bands, a towel to dry off my hands when the get too slick with hair moisturizer.
Ev comes downstairs and settles in my lap or between my legs. I section her hair and get to the work of doing tiny braids or twists, careful to make sure I keep each section detangled and damp. I measure out time in Gabbas: twists take two episodes, tiny braids four. While I braid, she sometimes tries to escape but most leans against me, idly stroking my legs or picking at the polish on my toenails.
When we are done it looks something like this:
It took me awhile after her baby fuzz grew out to figure out a good system for doing her hair. There were times I washed too much and other times when I didn’t wash enough. I tried to use a brush when what I needed was a wide tooth comb. I attacked rather than coaxed out tangles. But now I’ve got the hang of it, I think. This has me wondering what the relationship between me, Evelyn and her hair will be as she gets older.
I know what I want for her: to think of her hair as it grows out of her head as “pretty hair”. I want her to think of having her hair done as getting out tangles, doing twists or braids or puffy pigtails and making sure it has enough moisture, not as something that requires chemicals or hot combing. Maybe she’ll want that when she gets older but I hope she doesn’t grow up to think that “flat hair is better” (something that her 6 year old brother says and that breaks my freaking heart).
As a two-year old, she is physically connected to me all the time. She loves to snuggle, to be held, to claim the prize spot in the room (my lap). I know that as she gets older she’ll likely want to pull away more. I wonder if doing her hair will be our physical bond as she gets older. Will she still lean against my legs at 6 and 9 and 12?
She’ll have to learn to take care of her own hair at some point and I wonder if I’ll be able to teach her or if I’ll need to call in the reinforcements of my female friends who are African American or mixed*. Maybe we’ll learn together. Maybe she’ll teach me.
(*side note: I heard a story on the radio this week about transracial adoption and I heard an African American man who was adopted by a white couple say that his best piece of advice was that “You’re first black friend shouldn’t be your kid” and it both made me laugh and made me grateful for some dear friends of mine who have already helped me understand things about my daughter that I didn’t know.)
I suspect she’ll never really understand how beautiful and lovely I think she is but maybe she’ll feel it in the care that I take of her curls.