It’s her distinguishing feature. Something that sets her apart from her crowd of sisters. A compliment getter almost every day…well an attention grabber at least. It’s blonde and curly and wild. It’s unruly. And noticeable. And people tend to love it or …
Women stop me in the grocery store, at church, and reach out their hand to touch the halo of curls and frizz. Some in disbelief that something so beautiful could exist right in front of them. And others in astonishment that parents would allow such craziness in public. I know the second types from their comments. Their suggestions on product (Seriously? She’s four!), on when to brush and when to not (wet vs. dry) and of their stories of some other child whose mother had “a hard time controlling her hair” as if once every twenty years you run across such a parent (not so subtle there). Sometimes I think these strangers forget she can hear. She’s always standing right in front of us. And usually I think they forget I DON’T CARE!! (Oh wait, they don’t KNOW me, so how could they forget that?)
When we’ve tried to tell her that her hair looks “crazy”, as a way of saying, you want it to look nice, and combed and acceptable. You don’t want to stand out too much because …well …we’re not really sure why except that we’re prone to conformity. Her response is simply, “I want trazy hair!” Arms crossed, ready for a fight. In a sense, you can’t convince me crazy is not good. I like my hair the way it is. End of story.
And so we go with trazy hair. Because she’s right it is completely her. And why would we want to tell her to be anything less than who she is? I don’t want to overstate here, but when we tell her she needs to conform in the hair management department, what are we saying about her? Don’t draw attention to yourself. Change this part of you so you don’t stand out. Tone it down. Tone YOU down. There is something about girls and “wild” that makes us adults nervous. And I don’t want her to begin the self-quieting now. Research tells me she’ll likely be fighting that tendency, or at least that messaging, the rest of her life.
And quite frankly at our house we choose our battles and hair is not at the top of the list. Those dealing with respect, character and obedience are. I don’t have enough time or energy to wrestle her down to snap a barrette into her curls that she’ll only take out 2.6 seconds later. I realize there is a touch of obedience there, but I’m not much of a high maintenance mom in that way. No big hair bows on my girls or matching dresses, or pressed anything. I realize it’s an easier battle for me to give up than many moms to start with. I just save my armor for the stuff I really care about.
But most importantly we let the hair go au natural because Gracie is right. Why shouldn’t her hair be crazy? Why shouldn’t we celebrate what makes her unique and stand out in a crowd? Why fight her on something that seems so surface when she’ll have the rest of her life to be fighting those battles of imposed beauty expectations?
I’m not as progressive as I sound. I want my girls to behave and be nice. And the reason I’ve even needed to think so deeply about hair is because despite my best efforts I care what other people think about my kids, about my mothering. So all of this is really for me. To remind me, the mom, that each girl is uniquely created by the one who knows her best with purposes for her. Wild and crazy and all.
So after a little self-talk on my part and Gracelynn’s stubbornness making itself known through crossed arms and hiding in her room from the hairbrush wielding parents, these are the things I tell her about her hair. Because really she is absorbing these hair-connected messages about her very self.
Your hair is …
like no one else’s.
and completely wonderful.
Alexandra Kuykendall is the author, The Artist’s Daughter: A Memoir. While she spends most of her days washing dishes, driving to and from different schools and trying to find a better solution to the laundry dilemma, she manages to snatch minutes here and there to write about the quest for purpose in it all.