Who Does Your Son's Hair?

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An investment in knowledge pays the best interest. ~ Benjamin Franklin

Like most mothers who are expecting, adoptive parents spend a lot of time preparing themselves for their new son or daughter. They read books, blogs, magazines, take classes, talk to other adoptive parents, you name it. Some adoptive parents try to cover not only the basics of child care, but also a whole range of posibilities; a child with special needs, a child of a different race, a child with trauma.

Of course, no matter how much time we invest in knowledge, nobody can cover it all.In my case, it was hair care.

Barbershop pole, Image Credit: Shutterstock

Okay, I know it’s a delicate subject, but I’m going to dive in anyway. My son Jed is adopted. He is African American, I’m Caucasian. I have a problem managing my own hair on any given day and usually go to the default pony tail. There, problem solved.

Well, at least half solved.

I know there are many Caucasian adoptive parents out there who were in the same boat I was in with Jed; clueless. I knew African American hair is different than Caucasian hair, a little education goes a long way, and I could have used a little more education.

So, here is how this first came to my attention, because honestly, when we were getting ready to adopt, hair was about the last thing on my mind. We were in the foster parent training class watching a video of a young African American girl, maybe 13 or so, talking to the camera about her experience of being adopted and thinking about her birth mother. The camera then cut to her adoptive parents, an older Caucasian couple. The subject matter of the video had nothing to do with anyone’s hair, but when it was over and the social worker asked the class if anyone had comments about what we had seen, a prospective foster parent in the class who was African American spoke up immediately.

And she was mad!  She explained that hair is very important in the African American community, and that a child whose hair is not properly cared for stands out like a red flag to other African Americans. She even voiced concern that when this young girl in the video grows up and sees pictures of herself as a child, she would be upset with her parents for not knowing enough to properly care for her hair. She said she was insulted that the state was showing a video of an adopted African American child who clearly didn’t get proper hair care.

This was a big surprise to me, since I hadn’t noticed the girl’s hair in the video at all. The social worker then informed the class that the state foster care program offered free classes on caring for African American hair and she highly recommended looking into them if an African American child were placed with us. Well, I made a note, right then and there. I didn’t want my future children resenting me for something I didn’t even know about!

Flash forward.  Jed has African American hair, but he’s a boy, so… nothing to worry about, right?

Jed likes his hair short. I like it short too because he has these big beautiful light brown eyes that really stand out when his hair is short. And, let’s be honest, a buzz cut is great for any busy kid who hates showers. So, I bought a clippers and started giving him a buzz every couple of weeks. Wow, he looked great!

Then one day an African American friend of mine asked where Jed got his hair cut.I proudly told her that I cut it myself, and waited for the praise I was sure to receive.

She laughed and said, “I knew that.”

Well, come to find out that I was buzzing his hair okay, but I wasn’t really finishing the haircut by giving him a line. For those of you who don’t know (and that was me), a line is basically trimming around the edge of the hair in a line across the forehead and all the way around. You can go basic or get fancy, but without a line, it’s pretty obvious that you don’t know what you’re doing.

Jed is six-years-old now, and I just found out what a line was a few months ago. When I look around I see lines everywhere, and it seems so obvious. But I didn’t have a clue.

I wouldn’t exactly call myself an expert on African American hair care, and obviously any child with good parents but bad hair still has a lot to be thankful for. The point of this post is to bring the need to learn about it to the attention of those parents who haven’t really thought about it. Or those parents like me who thought they didn’t need to learn anything new about it.

Obviously, a girls hair takes a lot more time than a boys, no matter what hair type they have. But whether you have a girl or a boy, invest in a little knowledge by looking online, visiting a shop that caters to African American clients, taking a class, reading a magazine article.  All hair types should not be treated the same.

We try to do all the right things for our kids, so just add this to the list.



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