Adventures in hair

I think it is about that time for the typical transracial adoption post on hair. Let me tell you, this boy has got a lot of hair. He was born with a full head of hair and it’s been growing ever since! Here he is at just a few days old. I don’t think my nephews had this much hair until they were 2 years old!

Now, his hair did thin out a bit in the first two months. And certainly in the back he lost hair where it always rubbed against something while he slept on his back. But his continued to lengthen and the curls would get tangled up. People started asking when we were going to cut his hair. And at first, I was all into cutting his hair. We talked about it frequently, but just never managed to get it done. One weekend we had absolutely decided to get it trimmed. And then that happened to be the weekend he was sick so the haircut had to wait. But something changed for me that weekend. I took the delay as a sign that maybe we needed to figure out another solution. Instead of just cutting his hair as the answer, I wanted to figure out how to define the curls and take proper care of his hair.

And so began our experimentation. Now, my brother in law is Black and my nieces and nephews are mixed race. So you would expect my sister to be of some help in taking care of his hair. But her advice didn’t seem to work at all. And she kept saying we should just cut it or braid it. I am open to braiding it eventually, but now when he is so young, I want to keep it loose. And part of me is afraid the braids will make people think he is a girl. So we tried different products. And I went online searching for advice. Following this guidance, one night we tried a new combination of shampoo and conditioner. The trick? We didn’t wash out the conditioner but used it as a leave-in conditioner and then combed his hair with it in. And then I tried to make “doodles” with his curls. I’ll be honest. I really had no clue what they meant by these doodles. It is supposed to help define each curl, but, umm, hello. He has like 10,000 curls. No way will he let me spend that much time messing with his hair. Even if he loves splashing the bath water. So I tried something out and put him to bed, waiting to see what might be the result in the morning.

And we loved it! His hair was detangled yet compact. No out of control frizzy hair! We were convinced this was the solution!

And then we took him to daycare.

Now let me back up and explain the daycare situation in regards to his hair. There are two teachers in his daycare. One teacher (who is Asian) was always telling me how the other babies loved to touch his hair. She was impressed that it was so soft and was impressed that we kept it so soft. She loved his hair. The second teacher (who is Black) had a very different impression of his hair. Now she never said anything directly, but was one of the people who was always suggesting we get it cut or commenting on his afro in less than glowing terms. I got the impression that she was gently suggesting we figure out what to do with it.

So when we took him to daycare that first day after I thought we had solved his hair problem, I was hoping this teacher might notice. And she did. But then made a more obvious statement that we need to keep working in this area. And she recommended specific products this time.

We pressed on. I think that now we have actually settled on the best solution for his age and hair now. We might need to change it in the future if his hair changes or as he gets more patience for us working on his hair. But it works for us and, as you can see, it keeps his hair looking more controlled. And we can effectively detangle it.

Here’s what we do: We use just a regular baby shampoo and rinse it out. One trick I learned is that the goal is to wash his scalp and not the hair itself. The hair gets clean by the runoff from the scalp. This gets everything clean while avoiding a completely tangled mess. Then we use a coconut milk based conditioner that is designed for adults and don’t rinse it out. We get a nice big glob of it and run it through his hair. First we finger comb the major tangles out and then we use a wide-tooth comb to comb it out completely. By the time it is all detangled, the conditioner is well worked into his hair. And that’s it. There is no “doodle” as I could never figure out really what that meant without creating more tangles. We gently pat the towel on his head and let his hair air dry. The next morning, he has nice, relatively defined curls.

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