25 August 2008

Napptural Hair - Halp!

So for 6 years I've been struggling with all forms of hair maintenance for my little girl. We've gotten advice from family, friends and strangers everywhere (mostly unsolicited), plus lots of judgment and critique for the way we've kept or un-kept Emi's hair. When Emi was born, her natural mom knew instinctively that I would need to learn to braid. I brushed this off because her sweet silken hair was so much like mine, I thought, only a little curlier. Braids were something in the far off future IF she wanted them. So for a little while I got away with using Tate's Conditioner, a mild leave in lotion with no yucky additives to bring out the natural curl. As her hair grew, the texture got thicker and coarser and I discovered Carol's Daughter products [I {heart} Carol's Daughter!] when Emi was a year old. I had Lisa Price's AWESOME products sent to me from Brooklyn and used them religiously to keep Emi's hair healthy and manageable. Today, 5 years later we are still faithful users of her wonderful products.

I loved to put her hair into 2 afro puffs most of the time and sometimes I plaited her hair, but at the end of the day, she looked like Pippy Longstocking. When she was 3 yrs old, her daycare teacher braided her hair into 8 pretty braids. I found out that when I braided her hair, I was braiding up instead of down so her hair would curl up. Lesson learned!

I got the hang of braiding and even decided to braid her hair into tiny little "strands of yarn" braids which I later found out are hell on earth to comb out. I got a lot of help from my husband with combing out these braids with a rat tail comb when needed.

But this past 6-8 months have taken their toll on our daughter tresses. We were spread very thin with extra time after work and Emi's activities were factored in. I washed her hair in braids/dreds and conditioned it, but I didn't make her sleep in her sleep cap and we were LONG OVERDUE with a whole head comb out. Months overdue.
After we returned from our family trip to FL, we decided to tackle combing out her hair. Carol's Daughter's Khoret Amen or Tui Hair Smoothies were the BEST at helping with this endeavor. And we were successful in combing out quite a few of the locs, mostly the ones framing her face. The braids/locs on her crown and nape were so tangled and matted that after 2 days of us combing out her hair and making her scalp so very tender, we all decided to cut her hair very short.

No problem until we got to the hair salon. This would be Emi's first salon visit and the first haircut given by anyone other than us (we trimmed the braids down twice during our efforts to comb out her hair). The stylist recommended we go to a barber to buzz Emi's hair to a more even level, then she could put a relaxer on her hair to give it some length. She saw the helpless look on our faces and started evening out what we had butchered. Emi started freaking out when the longer twists were cut off to blend in with the rest of her hair and caused the stylist to cut a little deep in one section.

By the end of this session, there were many tears from all of us and the stylist didn't charge us. We agreed to come back in a few days to have her remaining hair relaxed so she didn't "look like a boy". It was very devastating and we felt so bad. I washed the remaining sand/debris from her hair that evening and massaged some sweet smelling lotion and oil into her tresses and they felt healthier than they had in years. She looked adorable!

She went to her first day of First Grade at first sporting a head band, then later removing it and telling the class that she got her haircut and basically let's go on to the next topic. She held her head high until a friend of hers later said that her haircut made her look like a boy and made her cry. Kids are so blunt. I cried at work off and on thinking about how my baby girl was doing in school and later reminded her that she was going to get her hair relaxed and she'd have loose curls and more length.

She asked to straighten it and I told her we could do that temporarily when her hair was relaxed. For 3 days we talked about the game plan of loosening her curls for more length. Saturday came along and the stylist applied the relaxer leaving it on for only a short while before Emi started feeling the itch/burn. Then she tried to comb her hair a little and Emi begged her to rinse the relaxer out. The stylist rinsed her hair and tried to blow dry it straight (we saw smoke when she was doing this!) but Emi was too tenderheaded (thank God) and we were just happy to have her hair trimmed more evenly...something that also caused more tears.

The whole experience was traumatic and I wish we would have not taken Emi back to the 2nd visit. I was upset to learn that the stylist straightened her hair vice just relaxing it. She said to keep "grease" on her hair to keep it from drying out. Straightening and grease are 2 things I've avoided for Emi's entire life, only natural products and natural styles from the beginning... Wish we would have gone with the texturizer at home instead ... hindsight is 20/20, right?

I have been feeling like a failure because the "easy" style she has now, that she seems to like is totally against what I've tried to preserve for 6 years. I was hoping that we'd have the option of a short healthy afro. Maybe we will have some natural curl left in her hair once we wash it because the relaxer was not left on for the length of time that the stylist wanted. I hope. I do not want to be dependent on someone with a different view on nappy hair care (i.e. get rid of the naps!) who also stands to benefit from us having to visit her every 4-6 weeks for touchups.

Last night in her bath I rinsed her hair a little and thought I saw a little curling (I hope). Emi asked why she smelled the stuff that the stylist used on her hair and I explained that she smelled the burning from the chemical and the blow dryer (another thing we've avoided). I showed her how to brush her hair with her boar bristle brush and then I put her hair into 2 cute ponytails. One to cover the short almost bald spot where Emi moved while the stylist was cutting. I know we will get through this, but I feel bad for not keeping up with Emi's hair and worse for letting a stylist take over and put us past ground zero with her natural hair care. Right now we are planning on just using the natural hair products on her hair and see what happens when the new growth comes in....

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