I think about hair often.
Lately I’ve been thinking about how the community of adoptive families can be so helpful and supportive. We all want the best for our kids. Yet, when it comes to transracial adoption, talking only to other White moms about hair can sometimes give a new parent incomplete or even over-complicated ideas about hair care. Still, other times, the advice is accurate but not age-appropriate. We “try our best” but, in some cases, our best is simply insufficient. We need more tools. More resources. More help.
In February, I joined an online hair care group specifically for transracial adoptive families. I deeply appreciate the thorough instructions and patient advice directly from Black women in this group.
– I have learned I am doing some things well.
– I have learned I need to gain more understanding (and practice) on some other things.
It’s been stretching but SO GOOD for my daughter’s hair! Prior to joining the group — I watched YouTube videos, read natural hair bloggers, bought all the books. I would receive many compliments on M’s hair, but — secretly — I felt that I did not have enough knowledge to earn those endorsements.
Plus, basic hygiene is the role of a parent. I don’t like getting praise for doing M’s hair well. It’s what I should do!
I have more to learn (particularly related to culturally-appropriate styles and accessories), yet I have made progress in the last six months.
Most importantly, I have learned that daily care (and styles) need not be complicated.
We have tried to focus on healthy hair using the L.O.C. method (layering liquid, oil, and cream). Unfortunately, in the past year, my hands have started to react to oil. I originally thought it was just coconut oil but I seem to get teeny tiny blisters on my palms with olive oil and avocado oil too. They itch, feel dry, and eventually open. I’ve been wearing gloves (tried latex, vinyl, and nitrile) while doing her hair but haven’t been able to completely eliminate the issue. Plus, I don’t feel like I can stop using the products because they work so well for her.
I even started a hair journal to try to narrow down the cause but I haven’t had much success. (I abandoned the hair journal a while ago.)
The natural hair movement has done a lot to empower women to stop chemically altering their locks. In the beginning of our journey, I sought advice from these experienced women who were giving tips to other adult women transitioning their hair to its natural state. I made a big mistake when I transferred that advice given for adult women to my care of a child. It seems obvious now. But I did not understand what styles were age-appropriate for a toddler. To complicate matters, many mainstream advertisers feature African-American girls in afros only. (But loose hair is common for older teens only in most regions.)
I have tried to keep styles simple. I really have. But I find that puffs get dry and so tangled, and her edges get broken and thin when it’s merely smoothed back over and over. So, I prefer flat-twists: they hold all day (or three!) and I can put them in quickly and they are protected / moisturized AND (most important) she experiences less breakage. For now it’s what works.
Our goal is healthy hair.
I want my child to love her hair. To learn to care for it herself. To know that she is wonderfully made.
We are still on this journey. Still learning. Still taking advice (with more discretion!) for her sake.
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Elaine and her husband, Joey, are licensed as an adoptive family and foster home in Ohio.