Monday, April 27, 2009

hair

so i finally learned how to braid. it was one of the goals i set for myself at the start of winter. i figured i had plenty of time on my hands that i needed to learn how to do it. people have lots of feelings about african hair, myself included. one friend who is a social worker told me that as a case was going before a judge where the birth mother had too many drug problems to care for her child who was entering the foster-care system. the mother's chief reason she didn't feel her daughter could be taken care of by the white foster-mom was because she wouldn't possibly be able to take care of her daughter's hair.
i have issues. i realize this. i obsess over my girl's hair. i worry that if it's not done properly that i will be judged by strangers on the train or people we pass on the street. why in the world do i care? transracial adoption is such a BIG issue, an article i read today even said adopting outside your race is 'cultural genocide' and so i wonder if i feel all this internal pressure because i'm a white lady, or if other moms feel this, too. i gave up on hilina's hair for awhile because she pitches such a fit and when it was wild and crazy i got SO many compliments on it from, you guessed it, white people. i have such boring straight hair i love her curls... but when i started 'doing' saida's hair i got so many compliments from friends who are you guessed it, black. i'm just thinking out loud here, wondering about the differences.

i knew it would be different than caring for my hair. i knew if i basically did the opposite of what i did for my own, namely, taking the oil out, i would be heading in the right direction. i guess what i wasn't prepared for was the cultural stigmas surrounding african hair and how it's taken care of. if it's long or short. straightened or natural. braided or 'down'. on the bus i'll look across the aisle and see white kids coming from the playground or school with their hair in haphazard pony tails, looking like it hasn't been brushed in days. you almost never would see a black child out in public like that. is it because it requires so much attention to make sure it doesn't get damaged?
anyway, i just never thought i would feel so insecure about it. and judged. and proud when it looks good. i'm not sure if the judging is in my head or actually exists, probably some of both i imagine. i just don't want my girls as adults to look back at pictures of themselves as kids and think, lord what was she doing to my hair?!?!?!? even though i say that about my mom (thanks for the bowl cut, mom!). i just want to be able to answer that i was doing the best i could, and for me that involved learning how to braid.
parted into triangles and braided
i was just playing around here in the back trying to braid braids into each other.

these little barrettes at the end of the braids can be picked up at any african hair braiding place for cheap. i think they work great at the ends of braids. trouble is keeping them from judah...
i joined one of those yahoo groups for african hair but i felt too embarrassed to ask any questions so if anyone has any questions ask away. i'm no expert but i've sampled my fair share of product (carol's daughter - totally overrated!) and dropped enough braids to offer a little advice if anyone has a question.

15 comments:

Meg said...

WOW WOW WOW. You SHOULD be very proud of yourself. Your girls are so lovely as always!

Life in the Bend said...

Their hair looks great! I can totally relate to your angst about hair. I think I agonize about that more than any other aspect of my parenting!

Norah HATES having her hair done, so I consider it an accomplishment if there's anything resembling a style. I'm curious about the products you've liked. I like Do-Gro oil and have found that Carol's Daughter Hair Milk isn't strong enough - though their Loc Butter is great for Atticus's hair and for Norah's when I put braids in.

anna and ben said...

For me, the hair milk was too strong for not really conditioning it if that makes any sense. My friend sent me a recipe for flax seed gel to use when I braid and that is working well. You can even add a drop of lavendar oil if you want it to smell nice. You can look at a video of the results on YouTube if you look for homemade flax seed gel. It's by the heiroine or something. I like it because hilinas hair is curly so it works well on BOTH.

Angie Wells said...

The braids look great. We are waiting for our little girl from Africa and I will admit, one of my biggest fear is the care of her hair... I can't wait until I get my chance to drop some braids.

Anonymous said...

Hi,

I am delurking myself. I've been reading your blog for awhile and love to read about your family. You are quite the inspiration for the woman (me) with two kids who dreams and fears a third. I used to live in BKLYN too so it looks so familiar.

RE: The hair thing. Your questions, doubts, fears, etc are totally legit, but don't be afraid to voice them. In fact, pick up the book, Hair Story: Untangling the Roots of Black Hair in America by Ayana Byrd and Lori Tharps. It's an easy read and really explains why Black hair is such a big deal. You can order it on amazon or head over to Barnes& Noble. No style tips, but you'll totally get it. Any White mom with Black kids should read it and then pass it on. Black moms with White kids should read it too. (that was a joke.) But seriously, don't be afraid to ask questions.

The braids look great, btw.

RANDY AND KIM FOREVER A FAMILY 7/10/06 said...

I think the girl's hair looks fine. Adopting out side of your culture is perfectly fine. I get looks too with a chinese little girl. I am also learning to braid super straight fine hair that has no dividing point.

Xander and Alana Cole Faber said...

Hi, Anna! I'm so glad you wrote about this. I'm nervous about it as well, probably for all the same reasons. I do think Hilina's hair looks great without braids, but I like Saida's braided better than not. I know I'm white, but to me it just seems like the hairstyles you've chosen fit them. Plus I think it's a way of showing their individuality, and as long as people can tell you've put some thought into Hilina's hair (scarves or headbands or barettes), I feel like it should be fine. But you should do what you think is right. You're the mom, and you're the expert on your kids. Besides, when Hilina is a little older, if she really wants braids, she'll let you know. (Now please copy this and send it back to me next year when I'm freaking out over my kids' hair.)

Jen said...

Oh God couldn't have said it better myself! (I've missed visiting for a while but am back and enjoying all the totally cute photos!!)
So, the hair is the constant worry isn't it? I knew it was going to be big I just didn't know how big...and I don't mean the maintenance (that's so big) but the cultural norms and looks, questions, etc, I get. And, it's for a lifetime. But, like you, I'm starting to get better at it. I haven't mastered the type of braids you did, cornrow type, but I'm working on it. Any hints? I'll have to find some of those snaps you have. Even small ponytail holders don't work at the ends of those tiny things. I use carol's daughter mostly and found the hair milk good for daily dressing but i use the healthy hair butter or loc butter when doing braids to hold in the moisture. The flax gel, does that condition and hold hairdos or one or the other? Right now I'm trying to find something that will keep the braids for at least 4-5 days. Healthy Hair Butter comes close but I'm open to any option that will allow me to do a sitting less frequently.

Take care and hugs to you all!

Cloverland Farm said...

i'm looking forward to hair angst. less than 5 weeks until we are "in the zone." looking forward to seeing you guys at the picnic in prospect park on may 23. bring the whole clan!

Cloverland Farm said...

http://festival.sundance.org/2009/film_events/films/good_hair

Margot said...

Delurking to say that your blog has been a godsend to me as we waited for our referral, and now that our daughter has been home one month it's great to get your perspective on hair. I echo the others in saying that your children's hair always looks wonderful. Right now we are in the tiny curl phase but I am gearing up for braiding soon!

Anonymous said...

Hi,
I just stumbled on your blog and the timing is perfect to be reading about hair. Congratulations on mastering the braids!! I am very impressed!

I am a NY white mom of three girls, two Ethiopians age 10 and 8, and one Chinese, age 3. We have spent more on hair products than on the roundtrip tickets to Addis...

My kids know I can't braid, so the closest I am allowed to their hair is to spritz it each morning. We use Curlzbiz products and so far so good.

I have left public places in tears because of the comments that some African American women have made about their hair. People can be so insensitive! Guess it's time to get that book one of your commentators mentioned...

Peace to you and your dear family,

mb
journey2believe.blogspot.com

lff said...

Congrats on learning how to braid! Lately, I've been feeling the need to learn too; I share your feelings about being judged as a white mama for how my biracial daughter's hair looks. And, like you, I feel proud when I know her big curls look healthy and properly cared for. I'm just getting a little tired of barrettes and pigtails...

drmimi said...

Ethiopian Heritage Camp is sponsored by African Cradle- mainly for families with children adopted from Ethiopia. I have attended in the past as my son's father is from Ethiopia.
Hairbraiders and hairbraiding in abundance! No need to be shy there.
www.africancradle.org

Laura said...

http://theeyesofmyeyesareopened.blogspot.com/2009/05/moisturize-moisturize-moisturize.html