Guest post from adoptive parent and author of Brown Babies, Pink Parents, Amy Ford.
I remember getting the call. You know the one. The call to say there is a child for you. I received my call at work, sitting at my desk with a client on an ordinary day. I picked up line one at the prompting of my manager who said, “You need to take this call.” It was my partner, Kim, and she was crying. It took a minute for me to register the words she was speaking, though I had dreamed of this moment many times. “There is a baby for us! She is 6 months old. She is healthy. She can be here tonight. Oh, and she is black.”
What do you think the first words out of my mouth were? A few logical guesses would be, “Oh my goodness!” or “I’m finally going to be a mother!” or “I love you!” or “I can’t believe this is FINALLY happening!” No, the first thing I said in response to this life-changing news was, “What will I do with her HAIR?” You see, I grew up in South Mississippi. While I was not part of the African-American culture, I witnessed it every day and I KNEW how big of a deal hair was in this community. I KNEW I did NOT KNOW what I was doing when it came to styling and maintaining black hair. And for a girl, no less! Could I learn?
The answer was yes. Yes, I could learn and I did. Fortunately, my first baby was bald as a cue ball when she arrived in my home that same evening. This gave me time to begin the study of black hair. As her hair grew, so did my knowledge. And believe me, I made many mistakes! But how else could a white mother learn to comb the hair of her black daughter? I watched videos. I brought pizza for the African-American teachers of the day care and later, the preschool, in return for staying late to teach me. I reached out to other moms. I searched the internet. And I practiced. The thing I was terrified of doing was walking into a black salon. I feared the perceived judgment. I feared being told I was doing something wrong. I feared finding out how much I didn’t know. But you know what? My fear does not serve my children well.
Fast forward 15 years. I now have three African-American daughters, each of whom have very different hair and preferences of styles. Looking back, I am so thankful for the kindness of strangers and friends alike who taught me how to care for my children’s hair. I no longer feel guilty for not knowing how to comb their hair in the beginning because nothing in my life experience to that point had prepared me to do so. I no longer feel afraid to walk into a salon in which I am the minority. The salon is where I learned. The salon was my school for African-American culture as well as hair. I learned and you can too. When my children look good, they feel good. And kids who feel good, do good things. I know this as a parent because I have watched it happen, but I also know this as a human being because I have experienced it myself. I walk a little taller, stand a little straighter when I have a new ‘do! Don’t we all need that?
Adoption Advocates is teaming up with Amy Ford and T&J Hair Designs for a Back-to-School Hair-A-Thon. Foster and adoptive parents can sign-up for a personal session with a stylist to learn how to style and care for their African-American child’s hair. Appointments are free, but tipping is encouraged.
This Hair-A-Thon will take place on Sunday, August 20, 1:00-6:00 p.m. Call T&J Hair Designs at (737) 200-9002 to schedule your appointment.