Children's Hair Care Doesn't Come Naturally Tell Me More intern Taylor Harris talks about how hair care has always been a source of debate among black women. And now that she is married and someday looking forward to having children of her own, Harris admits that she has no idea how she will care for their hair.
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Children's Hair Care Doesn't Come Naturally

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Children's Hair Care Doesn't Come Naturally

Children's Hair Care Doesn't Come Naturally

Children's Hair Care Doesn't Come Naturally

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Tell Me More intern Taylor Harris, pictured at age 9, struggles with how she will care for her own children's hair. Family photo hide caption

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Family photo

Tell Me More intern Taylor Harris, pictured at age 9, struggles with how she will care for her own children's hair.

Family photo

As long as black women have had hair, they've been talking about it. Curly, pressed, Afro'd, braided, twisted, permed. Give us a strand, and we'll give you an adjective for it. Our hair seems as much a part of who we are as our skin.

Yet even though my hair has always been with me, as familiar to me as the freckles that dot my face, it has taken years to understand it. My hair is long, somewhat fine, and frizzy with soft but tight waves. It doesn't fit in a box.

I have memories of my mom washing my hair, then blow-drying and detangling it. I'd flinch and yelp. I was beyond tender-headed, just as my mother was as a little girl. In fact, she was able to do my hair with ease because it resembled hers, just with the added waviness of my dad's hair.

But my husband posed a question to me the other day that got me thinking. He asked, "When we have kids, will you be able to do their hair?"

I looked at his shiny, black bald head and wanted to make a smart remark. But sarcasm aside, I answered, "I don't know."

In old pictures, my husband's hair is coarser and fluffier than mine. If I gave birth to a girl with hair like his, I wouldn't know if I should add oil instead of mousse, and, if so, what kind of oil.

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And then it occurred to me: No matter how progressive we've become as a society, a mama is still judged by the hair of her children. If a child's hair looks unkempt or wild, people will say, "Girl, what is she doing to that child's hair?!" No one will say, "Look at that child's hair! Where is her father?!"

Now, for all those fathers out there ready to raise up an army of combs and blow-dryers against me, take it easy. I see you. My own dear father, God bless his thick hands, was tasked with doing my hair when my mom worked the night shift. He made a valiant effort, approaching it the way a man might trap a wild rabbit for dinner.

But seriously, while some fathers do brush their children's tresses, mothers are generally held responsible for their children's hair.

Can I just tell you? There is nothing innate about a mother's ability to style hair.

We have breastfeeding instruction, books on how to discipline your child, classes on how to breathe through the pain of labor. But is there a hair midwife? An all-knowing fairy who pops out of a bottle of Pink moisturizer and says, "I'll show you how to tame that"?

Last time I checked, even a health care overhaul won't pay for an omniscient black hair pixie. But I might very well need one.

Maybe I'll social network my way into assistance. A mom on Facebook recently posted: "So I need some major advice on what to do with my daughter's hair or where to take her HELP!"

Well, don't worry about me. I'm not losing sleep over what my children's first-grade photos will look like. But I am aware of the expectation that I will style my children's hair most of the time. And I will take the job seriously, because their hair will help shape their identities. I hope that whether I'm slicking back a quick ponytail with mousse or rubbing Kinky-Curly into their natural locks, my "hair time" with them will be a time of bonding.