Every morning and evening a minor skirmish erupts between Baby and me over whether I should style her hair or not. Baby is now 15 months, and she has never been cool with it, even though her hair is very soft and generally easy to comb. In the past, she would try to squiggle out of my lap, crying incessantly as I tried to part her hair and twist the sections into what I grew up calling ‘Chinie bumps’. (These days, people call them Bantu knots.) Although Baby is biracial, and her hair texture is fine and downy—still very babylike—managing her mane is not a snap. If I don’t twist it or spray some detangler on it occasionally, it will become very knotty.
Hubby didn’t always make it easy. Sometimes he would come into the nursery or our bedroom, just to see ‘what the ruckus’ was all about. Baby can be a real Daddy’s Girl sometimes, so she would occasionally look up at him, pout and squeeze out a huge teardrop or two. And once or twice, she reached her chubby arms up to him, awaiting rescue. He would make comments that made hair combing sound like an ordeal. ‘Oh! Here comes the comb!’ or ‘It’s almost over.’ I would patiently explain that if I didn’t twist her hair at night, then come morning her hair would be twice as knotty and the real battle would ensue! Despite her protests, and Hubby’s remarks, I kept working on her hair. I began to use a moisturizer from Just for Me, just a dab at night to make twisting it easier or so her brush wouldn’t get snagged in her hair in the morning.
The other day she did the funniest thing on the changing table just before bedtime. After I had lotioned her up, diapered her and tucked her into her pajamas, she rubbed her palms together and ran her hands through her hair! Could it be that she was imitating the moisturizing ritual? Too cute.
Now something has happened to make me worry: her edges are thinning out. At first, I hoped that she was passing through a phase where her hair was changing from slick and downy to thick and wavy. But it’s hard not to notice the change, especially in photos like these.
How long would this hair loss continue? Hubby took up arms against the “chemicals” in Just for Me, going online to research the ingredients and asking me over and over if putting “that stuff” in her hair was necessary. As it turns out, the information he found verified that Just for Me is safe for kids. But I wanted to halt the thinning (and hopefully grow a thick head of hair like her mom), so I went looking for answers. Her pediatrician said she might be passing through a phase, but that we could consult a dermatologist if we were really worried. Another black mom told me that her daughters also had delicate edges, and that sometimes using hair bands and wool hats in the winter also tugging and shedding on that delicate area. I also found an article on the Naturally Curly Web site about common mistakes that women make while managing biracial childrens’ hair. Some of my missteps were in that article, like washing Baby’s hair too often and using mineral oil (initially to clear up her cradle cap) for too long. I re-read the “Just for Me” product labels and sure enough, the moisturizer contains mineral oil. So, I’m now on the hunt for hair care products infused with avocado, olive and jojoba oils, which are also formulated especially for babies and toddlers. I’ll probably end up using Curly Qs’ products, because I’ve seen good reviews about them in a couple of different places. Hubby, bless his heart, remains wary about commercial hair care products for babies. He would probably be just as happy if I let her hair lock up if doing so would ensure peaceful bedtime and morning hair rituals. The only problem with that is—we are not Rastafarians!
And anyway, I think Baby and I have come to a nice understanding on this issue. The other night, after I got her into her p.j.’s, I lay her on her tummy and began to twist her hair. She didn’t try to scramble away or howl for the whole neighborhood to hear. She just lay there quietly while I talked to her, working as quickly and gingerly as I could, until I patted the last twist into place. Then I picked her up, gave her a final squeeze for the day and set her in her crib. She smiled up at me before I walked away and turned off the light. Part of me gloated, saying ‘Ha! Take that skeptical Hubby!’ But the bigger part of me simply enjoyed the ceasefire.
* Quick note: There is a new Web site in the blog roll, called Beads, Braids & Beyond. It follows a mom of two biracial daughters (and I think the mom herself is biracial) as she manages their hair. She is a hairstyling artisan and comes up with quite a few creative looks. (I mourn for my daughter at times. The best I can do at the moment is pigtails, because I’m all thumbs when it comes to cornrows!)