Hair As Identity Menu


Happy Belated Mother’s Day!

Yesterday was Mother’s Day and I was out enjoying the day with my family! Of course, on this special day, I think about my Mother and my children. I think about many things, but one thing I want to write about today is the relationship that I have with my daughter around her hair. Mothers around the world have hairstyling rituals with their daughters[1]. One of my girlfriends emailed me a link to an article in the Washington Post by Lonae O’Neal Parker that really speaks to this topic:

I wanted to share this article with you all because it reflects just how beautiful our hair styling rituals can be. Beautiful because during hair styling we can teach our children: that they are beautiful, both inside and out; that they are worthy of the time and attention we are lavishing upon them; that they are amazing people created in the image and likeness of God; that they are smart and intelligent children who come from an amazing lineage; that they should value getting to know themselves as they will be astounded by what they can do if they take the time to harvest their talents; that time is precious and we should value the moments that we have together no matter how mundane we think those moments are; that they deserve to be treated with tenderness, respect and care. Here is a particularly touching excerpt from the article:

“As it happened with her sister before her, I will lose this intimacy with my last daughter to friends and parties and, worst of all, to boys and, eventually, men and children; to people who will come to mean more to her everyday life than I ever will again. I have been such a harried mother with Savannah, so distracted by the constant demands of husband and career and other children, and now, just as I’m looking up, my youngest daughter is almost beyond the old rituals. So I rub her scalp for the times I combed her hair hard, for the times I rushed through her kinks too quickly, for the times I yelled when I wish I had whispered. For the time I spanked her harder than I meant to for erasing an hour-long interview I had typed on my computer. I grease her hair and rub her scalp.

Let this be the hand she remembers.

In little more than an hour, our time is over. Savannah scarcely gives me a moment to admire her, this luminous little girl poised for adolescence, all mine for just seconds before she’s off to find her soccer ball, her friend Pearl and the whole wide rest of her world.

It’s okay, I console myself. Her sister still kisses me every night and sometimes asks me to roll her hair, so I know I won’t lose this connection with Savannah altogether. Our time together will merely change. I lie across the couch, weary from my labor, and my own eyelids grow heavy. Savannah comes back to retrieve something and pauses. She lays a blanket across my length and gently tucks the ends under my sides.

Drifting off to sleep, I smile. Event without a comb in my hand I think these days will never really be gone from me.” [2]

I admit, at times, I’ve failed miserably at this! How many times have I been rushed and just brushed around the edges, and slapped some grease and a bow in my daughter’s hair? Or, combed through her hair as she cried out in pain, but rather than console her, I told her to toughen up and deal with it? Oh my goodness. This article is fantastic because it gave me pause about how I treat my daughter during our hair styling rituals. All too soon, she will grow up and not want me to wash her hair or oil her scalp as she sits between my legs. I need to cherish those moments while we still share them.

[1] Image found on in waterdotorg’s photostream

[2] Excerpt copied from “Balm: By styling her daughters’ hair each morning, she was attending to something deeper than a beauty ritual” by Lonnae O’Neal Parker, published on on Sunday, January 31, 2010

  • topie

    My apologies for today's formatting issues. I think there is a bug in Blogger. Will look into.Thanks for reading!

  • Angela

    This was fairly eye opening for me. When I was little, my mom would line up the girls (there are 4 of us) in front of the couch and go from one to the next french braiding our hair so it would be wavy for church the next day. It never hurt unless we slept on it wrong and mom had to comb out the bird's nest. I really enjoy reading your blog and being able to start to understand something that I would never have known before. Do you mind if I ask questions?

  • topie

    Angela,Thanks for sharing. I am so glad that you like the blog. Of course, you can ask whatever you want to. You know me, I'll be as open as I can when respond. 🙂 Tina

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