“Mommy, I want to get my hair cut short like yours.”
That sweet, beautiful statement from my daughter, 7, is far more complicated than it sounds.
My daughter has been saying this for awhile now and I’ve continually resisted. While I’m flattered that she wants to be like me, this could be the beginning of a lifelong, love-hate relationship with her hair that many of us women struggle with.
I have flashbacks of getting bad haircuts as a kid, being called a boy and trying to pull the hair out of my head to make it grow faster.
My daughter’s hair is currently just a few inches above her elbows. It’s thick, straight and shiny, the type of hair I’ve always dreamed of having while instead I’ve struggled with curly, coarse locks. The idea of chopping it off to around chin length makes me shudder.
As superficial as it sounds, hair is an inevitable topic that comes to play with adoption. Before I was matched with my daughter, I was briefly on a waiting list for a baby from Ethiopia. Some form of cultural sensitivity training is a common requirement with interracial adoptions. Like many of the classes required for adoption, you go in assuming you don’t need them, but inevitably leave feeling enlightened and grateful for the experience.
Prospective parents are often offered classes on how to style African American hair, if that’s something they are unfamiliar with.
I had to smile during a first season episode of “This Is Us” when Mandy Moore’s character was at a pool with her adopted black son when she was approached by a kind, African American woman who offered help with how to take care of his hair. Moore beautifully conveyed her character’s feelings of confusion, borderline resentment, followed by ultimate gratitude for the advice.
New adoptive moms can relate. Any ignorance is particularly frustrating when the desire is so strong to establish that bond and show the new love in your life that Mommy knows best about how to take care of her little one. That’s not always the case, especially when it comes to something like cross cultural hair care.
That scene was set a couple of decades ago, before there was such an emphasis on cultural sensitivity training and hair care classes for adoptive parents were common.
Although I was prepared to go in that direction, hair was not a major focus during my adoption prep, as I soon learned my daughter was in India.
When I was cleared to pick her up at her orphanage, she was four years old… and to my surprise, she had hardly any hair.
I learned that’s the case with most children at orphanages in India. Overworked caretakers shave the heads of all the kids. In addition to making life easier, another main reason is because lice is so prevalent and the lack of hair obviously prevents it from spreading.
After my daughter came home, she lived with her crew cut style for awhile and then had the inevitable growing out phase, which seemed to drag on forever. She never complained about it, but I couldn’t wait for her hair to get longer.
Flash forward to three and half years later and she has the most luscious locks you’ve ever seen. Strangers in stores stop me to compliment her shine. No products necessary. One of my favorite things to do is to brush and style her hair. She is truly my living doll and I get to play dress up with her.
Now this: “Mommy, I want to get my hair cut short like yours.”
This tugs at my heart so deeply because I know the sentiment behind it. My daughter is desperately searching for similarities between us. It’s not always easy to look differently than your adopted child. I don’t even notice our skin color- as far as I’m concerned we are connected through our hearts- but other kids do notice superficial differences…. and then my daughter does, too.
I always tell her she has the most beautiful brown skin I’ve ever seen, but that doesn’t matter because it’s different than her mommy’s. She hears other kids being told they resemble their parents. A seemingly innocent question from a peer can trigger a sore spot.
So with that mind, how can I ever NOT agree to allow her to flatter me by trying to replicate my haircut? Yet… I can’t imagine cutting off and discarding that beautiful hair.
I asked her today, “How would you like to donate your hair to people who don’t have any?”
She looked confused and replied, “You mean, like Uncle Don?”
Nope, not my bald brother.
“There are kids who are sick and lost their hair,” I explained. “They would be so happy to get a wig made out of your gorgeous hair.”
Her eyes lit up. The idea of helping sick kids is now almost as appealing as looking more like her mother.
I love my sweet girl more than I can ever express.
Time to make a hair appointment.
For information about hair donation: http://www.locksoflove.org
To see my other posts about adoption: http://www.suddenlysinglemomblog.com