On top of my skin being a whole shade lighter, my hair is dead straight. And with media, magazines and friends sporting this same look, sometimes the curls can just feel too much.
If only she knew, I kept saying to myself… to others. She is the object of so many admirers when we go out. Her hair can attract comments from strangers everywhere and yet she doesn’t want unique hair. She wants straight hair.
My daughter’s journey doesn’t end there. I made it my mission not just to subtly show her curly haired role models but I point them out everywhere we go. Beautiful white, black, brown skinned women with short, long and all types of textured curly hair. Her books, music artists and the shows she watches all sport curls. I talk to her about being unique, about having the confidence to be different, to be proud of how God made her. And to be more than just her curls. To be unique in every way because it’s better to be a leader than a follower.
Today she told me in no uncertain terms she doesn’t want straight hair.
Otherwise she’d be like everyone else. She said she likes her curls and can’t wait to be able to grow them and twist them and try out new hairstyles. She said she likes herself the way she is.
I smiled and knew she is beginning her journey to understanding and loving herself. Curly hair and all.
There is no prouder moment for a mum than when your daughter can look in the mirror and say she loves who she is. My daughter is ultra sensitive and, I’d like to think, mature for her age. So perhaps it was an early internal switch that just happened at the age of 5. And perhaps she was already on this journey without any intervention. But for any girl, all girls, it’s so important for them to know, love and accept who they are.
I swore I’d never be that Mum. The white mum whose kids’ curly mixed race hair looks like the Mum has no clue and her only attempt at ‘doing’ her daughter’s hair is to brush it– down.
Three daughters later and with all three sporting completely uniquely textured hair, I quickly learned that wash, brush-and-go would not work with my girls’ curly hair. Three daughters later and with all three sporting completely uniquely textured hair, I quickly learned that wash, brush-and-go would not work with my girls’ curly hair. A mountain of research, plenty of questions to friends and family and a motto to ‘learn as we go’ is the only way we’ve gotten this far. Now, with a 3 step routine every morning with each daughter, it’s gotten slightly easier but no less complicated.
So, I feel your pain. Not the pain at having curly hair. Truly, I love their curls. I love how it looks, how it feels and I love that each one is unique in how her hair falls- a lesson I am constantly reinforcing. Curls are amazing.
But what I don’t love is how little I know about how to do it. I have straight hair and before having kids, I’d never heard of co-washing, could never imagine sleeping on satin pillowcases and putting ‘oil’ in my already oily hair was the last thing from my mind. So I’ve done my homework and then some. But if you love your kids, you’ll only want the best and time is nothing when it comes to doing it right. We’ve now gotten it down to a 20-30 minute routine, depending on how cooperative my girls are and the hairstyle they choose. (I definitely hate braids).
So here I am offering some helpful tips– not as an expert but as a person who has scourged the internet for the best websites that can help all of us parents that start out with no clue.
Figure out their hair texture.I figured out early on there is a whole school of thought about curly girl hair type which, once identified, can open up all sorts of doors in terms of products recommendations and what would likely work on your child’s hair. So, to identify your child’s hair type, check out these sites:
2. Follow naturally curly hair blogs.There are so many out there! With so many helpful articles, blogs, styles and tips for toddlers, girls’, boys’, long, short and all kinds of curly hair. Here are the best I’ve come across:
For morning routine tips and knowledge from other parents who can sympathise, visit: Curly Nikki
This Mama of biracial kids features curly girl hairstyles of the week and regular hair tips. Visit: Weather Anchor Mama
3. Get tips! I’ve gotten so many helpful tips from blogs and articles I’ve read online about hair care. From co-washing to leave-in conditioner, to wetting my daughter’s hair every morning to activate the curls, start with these and you’ll feel like an expert in no time. The best part is that they’re not written for hair experts but cover the basics and give real, non-judgemental advice.
From detangling, hair regimens, and top styling tips for doing toddler hair, the UK based (hurrah!) British Curlies has it all. Not one to miss!
One of our mixed race mother bloggers from over the pond, De Su Mama often features curly hair tips from a mum’s point of view.
5. Try different products. Although we all wish it was just about the amount of research you do that equals success, it is actually about trying, trying and trying more… And, then, just because it works on one child’s hair, it may be different for your other child. Because it will depend on the season, the weather, the thickness, length and curl size of each hair type- not just their hair texture. For reviews and recommendations for different curly girl hair products, go to:
6. Ask around. Nothing beats a recommendation from a friend or someone you know. Every time you see another child with curly hair and you like what you see, ask the Mum what their hair regime is. Mums love talking about curly hair as do curly haired girls themselves I’m learning! Particularly if the child has hair similar to your ds or dd, make sure you ask them what products they use, what kinds of hair styles they do and what hair dresser they go to (it’s not every black hair dresser that can do mixed curly hair and the same goes for upmarket European hair salons- they may be expensive but curly hair has its own rhythm and texture).
7. Finally, and most importantly: Embrace the curls!
“I embrace my kids’ curls through praise and curly hair education. It is important to me that they love their hair, so I constantly tell them how beautiful and amazing it is. I never speak negatively about their curls or allow myself to show any frustration when I’m doing their hair. I make it a point to teach them about the products I’m using and why I am using them, as well letting them help me add their conditioner and styling products in anticipation of them one day managing their curls by themselves.” – See more at: Curly Genes: Meet Two Moms Who Embrace Their Kids’ Curls
Those words were uttered by my oldest daughter followed by floods of tears on her way home from school. “Why can’t I have a ‘flat’ bum Mama?”, she asked through sobs.
I can’t tell you how much pain I felt in that moment. My daughter is four years old.
I mean, I knew it was coming. I have three daughters. Indeed, body image and consciousness sort of go with the territory. But I expected it later, much later- when we’ve put in the groundwork. When she knows that yes, she may be curvy and more shapely than the stick thin models she sees in magazines and online, AND she is beautiful.
In that moment, I panicked. I didn’t know what to do. You see, to a 4 year old, most 4 year old girls, their most important role model is their mother. It’s why my little one tries to play house and mama to her babies and tell off her sister, and plays kitchen and… the list goes on. Her mama who has ‘vanilla’ skin, a ‘flat’ bum (much to my dismay), and straight hair. In other words, I look nothing like her.
I thought about the millions of pounds men and women spend on bronzing their skin, on adding volume and curls to their hair and, more recently, to inserting bum implants to achieve the curvaceous figures sported by the likes of Beyonce, J-Lo and Shakira.
But I couldn’t really say all that. Talk about too much information.
I just had to hold her. And validate her. And tell her over and over how beautiful she is. All in the middle of the street as I promised to buy her a new P.E. kit that wouldn’t accentuate her derriere.
A friend of mine pointed out angrily, why do we even engage? Should it matter? Because when we do, we’re just reinforcing the point to our daughters that looks matter. Why are we talking about their beauty and how they look at such a young age. Her boys never look in the mirror and strike a pose or ask, ‘how do I look Mama?’ So why do mine?
I stopped engaging in the nature vs. nurture debate a long time ago, beaten as it were by nature. I was a tomboy and wanted my first born, whatever the gender to follow in my footsteps and love sports- most of all, football. As God would have it, I have the most girly girl daughter you could have. From a very young age, she was choosing pink, asking for princess dress up outfits, posing in her tiara and insisting on wearing high heels. Whether or not she was pre-destined to be like that I can’t answer but I can say that I did fight it tooth and nail.
My Suzy Q will never have a flat bum. I don’t think she’ll take after her Dad and have a stick thin figure either. But she needs to know that she is beautiful. She absolutely has to. I will never forgive the magazine and advertising industry for letting my daughter doubt her sense of self so early on in her little life. (I have to admit, I unashamedly resorted to showing her pictures of Beyonce and Shakira in poses from behind).
But I know now, I have my work cut out. I can never slack. Exposing her to as many amazing strong black female role models that look like her is important. Not just because she’s a girl but because she’s black and mixed and deserves much more than the world has shown her at 4.
At at time when parents are spending more time than ever with their children, if you were ever in doubt, here’s the reason why we need to be there for our daughters at every moment, no matter how old they are.
If you’re looking for resources or books that reinforce a healthy body image for your sons or daughters, check out these books:
A mama blog for all things parenting and mixed heritage kids