For most of my life, my hair was manageable even though I wasn’t particularly adept at doing it. I’d hear people talking about “Jewish hair,” and I didn’t get what the big deal was. Yes, my hair was thick, but it was wavy–I could let it curl or brush it to a reasonable level of straight. Easy as pie. Easier, even.
Then I had a baby. When she turned one, we thought she was growing her first curl. “How cute!” we told each other. And while we were right, we were woefully unprepared.
It wasn’t long before we had a little girl with lots of hair–and mega curls. I loved it. Her curls were perfect. People began referring to her Jew-fro. My sister-in-law would say hi by boinging her curls. I would style her to get cute shots and show off her adorable hair. Without realizing it, I’d begun to include her hair in her identity–she was my curly girly.
The problem was that I had no idea how to deal with her curls. I barely had a handle on my waves.
Initially, I took whatever conditioner I had on hand, and soaked her hair in it. Then I used a paddle brush to slowly go through sections (bottom to top, first-timers!), detangling her hair as gently as I could.
That worked, but I was running through a ton of product–and not thrilled with all the potentially damaging ingredients in the conditioners I was using.
As she got older, her hair was growing longer. Now she didn’t just have fun boingy curls. She was also the girl with the long hair.
Long curly hair, however, is very prone to tangles. I tried sectioning her hair, twirling it, and tying her into a head wrap. Verdict?
Beautiful, but she didn’t want to spend the time. Her younger sister’s hair didn’t even need brushing because it was so straight; she didn’t want to be stuck with me working on her head for an hour.
One day it dawned on me to check out the ethnic hair aisle. [Aside: Yes, that’s a silly name for a hair aisle because every human on earth is an ethnicity, but there you have it.]
I found my saving grace: Queen Helene Princess Curl Silky Twirls Conditioner. I went from using a handful to a dollop, and brushing was much easier. Most nights it took 5-10 minutes instead of our previous grueling 40-60, and her curls looked great.
As she grew older, however, she didn’t always want to bathe or shower when it was convenient for me. She didn’t always want to sit down to brush her hair when it was still wet.
We began fighting about her hair regularly. It was now down to her tush when brushed, and a 15-minute operation under the best of circumstances. She would scream and I would get frustrated and threaten to cut it. That usually worked, because her super long curls were so much a part of her that the thought of a trim made her cry.
In short? Our nights were pure misery.
The cycle went on for hours. Her hair would tangle worse and worse each night until she finally gave in and let me fix it. Some days her hair was gorgeous, and some days she went to school with a rat’s nest on her head.
Things hit their worst this past year after Passover.
For 4 weeks, she wouldn’t let me near her head–at 4 feet tall and 110 pounds, I couldn’t make her stay like I did when she was 2. Her bun slowly dreadlocked. I spent the next 2 weeks fighting a losing battle to save her hair because I knew how much it meant to her.
Finally, my husband pulled me aside and said I needed to let her cut it off.
Avraham took her to the salon while I waited anxiously at home.
Just the previous week, she had come home shrieking with tears running down her face when her little brother got a trim. The hairdressers spent almost two hours untangling what they could and cut what couldn’t be salvaged.
She came home with shoulder-length hair–and to my surprise a huge smile on her face. She was thrilled and I was thrown for a loop. I was the one holding on to her identity as the curly girly with long hair?! I took a deep breath and told her she looked beautiful.
Her hair will always be important to her, but it’s not as much of her identity as it once was. She takes pride in her ability to do her hair by herself. The times she needs my help she’s more likely to come to me because screaming and fighting is no longer part of our nightly routine.
Her plan? Grow her hair out again, but when she’s older and more ready to take care of it at absurd lengths. As for me? I’m going to try to remember to just chill out and enjoy my kid, no matter the hairstyle.