One of my greatest gifts is that I get to be the great-grandmother of the most beautiful and amazing girl in the whole wide world and to me, she is my Little Missy!
Although for various reasons Missy and I have not spent a great deal of time together, as a dedicated practitioner of living from within I have come to know her Spirit, and that is priceless. Now I could go on with this story, as grandmothers typically do but this discussion has a different agenda. The intent is to bring awareness to an action that is detrimental to the self-esteem of Little Missies of color across the board.
As women of color, we are the only culture that completely ignores the flawless beauty and diversity of our natural hair in exchange for a synthetic version that looks nothing like our own. Not only does this practice devalue the natural beauty of black women’s hair overall, but the real tragedy is the message that it sends to our little girls. To start, as evidenced by the joy and playfulness our children bring into our world, they innately know that their essence is beauty, joy, love, and light. They know that their hair, as with everything else about themselves is perfect until we teach them otherwise, and we do a good job of that. Further, without even considering the array of possibilities inherent in their own precious locks, we take our little girls, who are usually unhappy to the point of tears, and force them to sit for hours in hair salon settings designed for adults. These children that are perfect in every way are obliged to give up their playtime and their search for adventure while the hairdresser adds the artificial weaves, long braids, extensions, or whatever is called for at the time, which may very well include numerous smaller braids; with or without extension, and with the addition of hard plastic barrettes or beads.
In addition to the obvious, the next problem is that this conglomerate of plastic usually extends down into the child’s face, oftentimes covering their eyes, and it does not get better. Typically, this intricate work stays in place for two weeks or more. Naturally, after such extended periods without care, not only does their hair appear unkempt, which of course it is; the children are forced to contend with the discomfort of the beads if added, as well as the noise that they produce while trying to sleep, but consider this. While any reasonable adult would be horrified at the mere suggestion of having their comfort sacrificed in a way that is unkind at best, they seemingly have no frame of reference or concern for that unnecessary discomfort imposed upon their child. Even though this is an unconscious act, and not the parent’s intent, the damage to their self-esteem, not to mention their hair, remains the same.
There are no redeeming qualities in having our children grow up believing that they are not enough simply because their hair is not long, and or straight. It is through the love of the parent or caregiver that children learn to love themselves. When we put forth the effort to attend to a child’s emotional and comfort needs, they thrive. However, when the way a child looks, which is a grown-up idea, is more important than how they feel, they hurt. Even worse, because they do not have the language skills, or the authority, to express those feelings they must do so in silence, and consider this. With fake hair being their only frame of reference, which for all practical purposes is no exaggeration, how will our girls even know that there is such a thing as natural hair for black girls? Further, and of equal importance is that we deprive them of their unique creativity with their hair, which is a waste of monumental proportions. If we were to remove the shackles (which is clearly another form of slavery); from this synthetic disaster that we pass off as hair, the levels to which our girls would excel in an arena with so much diversity would defy the imagination of the best of us. So the question becomes are we willing to take those life-defining skills away from them, and if so why?
As a final note, for now, I believe that it is time for us to take a closer look at the emotional needs of our children. Towards that end, I would like to make two suggestions. First, I encourage you to read (also on audio) Chapter 22 of this book, Living from Within, entitled For the Love of Girl. Second, and this one is even more powerful, listen to the interview at the end of this blog with author Rose Rock; Chris Rock’s mom, who offers some eye-opening, totally on-point insights on parenting. While there are many to choose from, two stood out the most for me.
First, she dispels the myth that today’s children are different. She points out that children are the same as they were in the forties; it is the parenting that is different. The second is that despite what children say, they want and need love and structure. Every child wants to feel that they are loved enough to have food on the table at a regular time and prepared for bed by 9:30.
Please take this information as “food for thought” until we meet again.