Dear Adri, You have always been precocious and intelligent beyond your years but today you…
August 7th, 2013
Today I found you in the bathroom after school wetting a comb and running it through your hair. When I inquired you replied “Mommy I’m wetting and ‘flatting’ my hair so the children at my school will think its beautiful”.
After I regained the ability to speak and asked you some more about it I discovered that a particular straight haired girl told you that your hair was not beautiful because it was not straight. This is not the first time that this girl has been mean to you (and others), but usually you are a bit sad, tell me that so and so was mean to you (recognizing it as mean and not true), and move on. This was different.
You spent 30 minutes wetting and combing your hair until it was perfectly straight and “beautiful”. You then got in the bath and sat. Perfectly still. Sat and asked every 2 minutes if your hair was touching the water. If it was still straight. If it was still perfect. If it was still beautiful. You are 4 1/2 years old. You did not play. You did not splash. You did not blow bubbles or practice your swimming. You sat.
Trying to hide the welling tears in my eyes and catch in my voice I told you that hair is beautiful curly or straight. Long or short. Red or yellow or brown or black or grey or white or blue! That curly or straight hair doesn’t change how smart you are. Curly or straight hair doesn’t change how strong your body is. Curly or straight hair doesn’t change how kind you are. Curly or straight hair doesn’t change how funny you are. That just because this little girl doesn’t realize that hair different from her own is beautiful doesn’t mean she’s right. We have to help teach her that.
I told you that my favourite thing about hair is how fun it is to do our hair in all different ways. How mommy liked to make her hair straight one day and curly the next. Change it’s colour, length, up or down style. That hair is SO much fun all different ways. That your hair belongs to you and what you do to it is your decision and the only person you should change your hair for is YOU! If you thinks its beautiful (or funky or classy or edgy or fill-in-the-blank) that’s what matters.
I pray desperately that even the tiniest bit of what I said sunk in. And I dread raising 2 girls in this world. I don’t know how to give you the strength and confidence to navigate such cruelty when I never had those tools myself. I can’t even fathom what those tools look like to a 4 year old. You’re just a baby in so many ways and you shouldn’t need these tools. I hope looking back on this post when you are grown I will see how far you’ve come and what a strong, confident woman you always were and continued to be. That it didn’t get you down or make you question your worth.
And your sister. She’s just 4 months – truly a baby with just tiny wisps of hair. Will she think they are “straight enough?”