Because it’s always about the hair…

So, I’m switching things up for a moment, because this blog is as close as I’ll ever get to a scrapbook and so I’ve gotta document this for the record (and for me ever feeble mind).

So, redirect your attention away from our more recent lofty topics of religious life and the pondering of vows and prayer and an intentional life…and let’s have some girl talk.  Let’s talk about  hair! Because, if you’re a girl, and if you’re a girl of curls…well it’s ALWAYS about the hair.  Right? Right!

Now, having five kids with curls of all types, we’ve been talking about, learning about, practicing, doing, and stewing about hair for, oh….almost fourteen years.  That’s right.  So, some might say that I’m an old hand at this…meaning a ‘seasoned pro.’  Um, literally, I AM an old hand at this.  But, I am no hair gal/pro. I’m just a mom.  A white mom even, which can well be considered a handicap.  And I’ll take all the “cut me some slack” points I can get, ok?  One of my daughters, in particular, has had an intensive hair journey, complicated by her, um, complications…. but even so, we’ve done just about every hair style that I can think of, short of color or wigs (and that I will leave to her purview when she’s geriatric)….

She’s gone from baby puffs, to baby twists and braids and clips and bling…to bigger girl ponytails and plaits and bangs and press and freestyle and on and on….

Some of  you may remember when we loc’ed our Sarah’s hair.  That was a big decision; made for many private reasons, but mostly because her hair was breaking like mad and it was the strongest safest way to get her hair to grow, and not have to fuss with her about it.  It let her be her without fooling too much (read: beyond her ability to deal) with her head all the time  And it worked!  The locs grew and looked terrific.

But, eventually, she became a preteen and wanted to conform a bit more, fit in, not be different.  So, since she already had that “feeling different” thing pegged/built in (being an African American girl w/ a half white family), I felt it was only fair to let her enter her teens on her own terms.  Now, most of the time when you step away from locs, you CUT them off.  You go back to the TWA (teeny weeny afro).  The big chop.  Because, all that hair, it’s, um, LOCKED together.  But the big chop….that was not on her wish list. A tough gig for a middle school girl.  So, I took them down. It was a job.  You can read about it here.

Then she wanted to do the press and curl thing.  So we did.  Every few weeks at the ever wonderful Mary’s hair salon.  Then she turned 13.  And you know, that’s a Teen.  Capital “T.” Yeah, makes me shiver too.  But, that meant that she wanted to flip her hair, do it herself, pull it back easy for sports, and so on.  So. I caved. I let her get the perm.  And, of course, she looked beautiful (tho I missed the locs at this point).  But, she always looks beautiful, because she is.  But, sooner rather than later, her poor fragile hair started breaking.  My heart started to seize because all those years of growing with locs and then taking them down and not cutting, the babying the hair….gone in an instant.  You don’t spend over 40 hours taking down locs to be happy when that hair breaks off.  Sigh.  Her hair is just too fragile to perm.  And IF, IF, she could manage it and baby it and take extra tender loving care of it…then maybe, maybe, she could perm it.  But she can’t.  And, before you swing your fingers to point at me, asking why I don’t do the hair care for her….she WON”T LET ME.  It’s that teen fussy thing, ok?

So over this past spring I just delayed, on purpose, the touchup of her perm.  Then I started talking to her about growing it out.  Her sister had already long decided against any more perms (though she can manage her own hair, easily, with only occasional braids from me).  Finally she agreed that she wasn’t happy about the breakage and didn’t want any more perms and maybe it was best to ‘go natural.”  And so, that is now the next step along this lifetime hair journey for my sarah.

She chose to go natural.

She is transitioning.  NO.  She WAS transitioning.  All summer.  But transitioning hair is incredibly fragile too and at the line between permed and growth it just wants to break. It’s super hard to manage.  The different textures fight with each other, in styling, in care….and the hair loses.  We limped along through the summer with lots of protective braiding and conditioning and just being easy in the summer.

But, finally, sweet Sarah, who resisted the big chop for many weeks, said, “Mom, you can cut, it, if you think I have enough new growth.”  So.  We measured.  We checked with mirrors.  And, then, we both took a deep breath and I…snipped.  Slowly.  Bit by bit in front of the mirror.  Every cut, she okayed.  “Here?” I asked.  “Yeah.”  She said.  And that is how our Sarah got her second, but better and longer, big chop.  But her big chop this time had just about 3+ inches of growth.  And it wasn’t a teeny weeny afro at all! It was a small to middle size beautiful afro.

I swear her hair sprang soft and smiling in thanks.  She did too.  She found her earrings, she found her headbands, she put her hands through her hair…and she smiled.  A few days later, she even said to me, “I think my hair looks good.”  It does sweet Sarahbird.  It really does.

My daughter.  She is strong and brave and all about the fashion….I think she rocks her afro and looks simply gorgeous.  She has amazing beautiful hair, naturally.  And that is the way it will stay…..(fingers crossed against teen crazyness)……

>Loc Out!

>So, we finished the take down on Sunday.
It was a JOB!
{I’ve been quiet on blog….been working on hair!}

It took over forty hours of work, thankfully I had great helpers in Emmy and Marti.

But it was exhausting for us all.  On Friday I had to send her to her first day of 5th grade in the midst of the process – can you say “Bad planning?” I can! But I think we did ok on making it still work for the day.

These locs had been put in and maintained by several different people over the  years. Thus we had palm rolled, microbraided, and latched locs…sometimes all three in one loc.  Plus of course the standard “locking” of hair growing together and dead hair etc.

We went through bottles of conditioner and olive oil, with a little bit of detangler thrown in during the takedown.  And still it was SO dry and not what any girl or mom shoots for with the hair.

After it was all out, I DEEP conditioned it several times, as it was just so very dry.  It will need more deep conditioning this week too and some babying to get it back in shape.
Happily enough for her, Sarahbird has crazy thick hair, it’s fragile but she’s got a ton of it so even with the expected breakage and loss during the takedown and the natural shedding of hair over the years, we saved literally years of growth, so it was worth it.  
Instead of a teeny weeny afro, she now has this:

So, now I get to loosen up my rusty hair styling skills.  I mean, they are rusty in a big way, it’s been over four years since I had to style in a serious way and then I had little girl heads to do.  Now it’s a preteen, so we are kind of in that in between zone: not a baby or little girl but not a sophisticated teen yet either.  This is gonna take some creativity and research both.

But she is staying natural, her hair is a glory.
It’s thick, it’s hard to work with, but it’s glorious and it’s lovely to be able to see her bone structure and fine lines of features again.

(Ok, she was so tired here, just wanting to be done with it…so looking pensive; 
and being that kind of mom, I still wanted a pic…..)

Sarahbird is ecstatic with her free hair, her head is lifted higher.

(So many sisters, but a happy crew post hair 
– excuse the mess – we were all so happy to be done.)

And that, right there, is worth the effort.

>Take down

>The locs, I mean.

Yup, after years, like four, we are taking down Sarah’s locs.
It’s a bittersweet transition.
It’s been long pondered discussed contemplated researched stewed over.
By both of us.
But, Sarah has wanted her locs out for more than a year…..even though some days she wanted to maybe keep them too, as they were getting long enough to pull up and that was fun.
So the idea of going back to  her natural hair (not that locs are not natural, of course they totally are, but her non-locked hair) has been pulling at her but the idea of having to go back to a teeny weeny afro has not been so appealing.
Because going from locs to non-locs is a drastic change, and often requires just cutting them off.
That’s the easiest quickest way, to be sure.
Now, Sarah’s hair grows like wildfire, and she has a LOT of  hair.
But even so, no eleven year old girl really wants a teeny weeny afro.
So we researched and consulted, talked and thought about it all, for a really long time.

Now, locs are a commitment.
All the way around.
A commitment to put them in, grow them, care for them, and a commitment to take them down.
It is a big decision; not like we can just change our minds if we don’t like it after all.  Thus the hesitation.  Also, we originally went with locs because some med she was on made her fragile  hair extra triple fragile and locs were the strongest hairstyle we knew.  And they were.
I think she looks great in them!
But an eleven year old girl doesn’t want to look and feel so different.  And it’s easy to say, “just teach her to be strong, how unique and special she is!” Yeah.  I know.  We do, we are.  But even so, sometimes it’s nice to just be normal too.  Especially when  you’re eleven.  Sarah already goes to a school that is different than her sister, because of some learning needs.  If she wants to blend a bit more, finally, to sport a hairstyle that is less radical…I think it’s her call.  It’s her hair.  Ultimately, it’s just hair.  (Now, don’t flame me, I know the politics of hair, I really do, but really, it’s HER hair, and I’d like it be just “just”  hair for once for her if she wants that).  

Sarah gets to have her hair, her choice, now and as she grows.  She’s entitled.  Period.

Yesterday, after going to school to meet her new teacher and see her new classroom (We are both very excited, love the new teacher, it’s gonna be a good year, starts tomorrow!)…..Sarah said, “Could we try taking down a loc or two and see if that would work, not cutting?”  
I said, “Sure.

 So, we did.
And it worked.
Ok, it’s not easy, it’s laborious, and time consuming and you have to go slow and be gentle and extra patient.
It makes your fingers cramp after awhile.
It makes her backside sore after sitting awhile.
We take breaks.
Emmy is helping because she is a good egg and likes doing hair too, so we are taking turns.

After researching how others have done it, and some trial and error, this is how we do it:
We turn on the tv (critical…).
We get the tools, here (simple).

We soak a lock or two in this concoction (conditioner, water, olive oil).
And then, we pick out the lock, slowly, from the bottom up, with this comb/pick – combing the free hair as we go.  Now and then we have to snip the very bottom tip of the loc off to get the untangling going, but then, it’s just the job.
We are managing to keep a good bit of the length; though without the loc itself holding the length out, it pulls up when dry of course. 

We will give her whole head a good DEEP condition once we are all done.
It’s gonna take a few days, though we are kinda hoping for a marathon today (including the good start of yesterday) because it would be wonderful to be done in time for school tomorrow.
We will see.

A new school  year.
A new grade, a new start…new hairdo.  Fun!
Make no mistake: no matter what hair, she is still and always will be my beautiful girl.