Recently there have been a popular trend among African American women and women of color to “go natural” especially after the movie “Good Hair” by Chris Rock premiered in 2009. I’ve decided to do a series on my natural hair journey, highlighting the deeper issues that surfaced during the process.
In February of 2011, my almost 4 year old daughter came home from school and said that most of her friends had white skin and straight blond hair and that she wanted it too. My heart skipped a beat, sunk and then rose up into my throat. My husband and I have always told our daughter how beautiful, unique and very special she was because God made her perfect. But as I began to reiterate on how beautiful her brown skin and her coiled hair was, she turned to me and said “Mommy, I know I’m beautiful and I know I’m special. Maybe my hair doesn’t have to be blonde, but I wish it was straight like your hair?” I thought about going the route of telling her that Mommy’s hair is relaxed and that when you’re older, you can have your hair relaxed also. But instead I felt a personal conviction. I knew that I was not prepared to put chemicals in my daughter’s hair and I wanted to be careful about the type of message that I was sending her about beauty and self acceptance. I simply said, “Baby, I have hair just like yours and I’m gonna stop straightening it so that we can celebrate our curly coiled hair together”.
I made up my mind that I was going to stop relaxing my hair and get reacquainted with my natural texture. When I decided to “go natural”, instead of getting a retouch, I got my hair braided. I had no idea, however, what “going natural” entailed. I was in for a rude awakening; the details of which I will talk about in part 2 of my Natural Hair; Don’t Care” series.
While I chose to respond by going natural, I am in no way implying or suggesting that moms who choose not to go natural or even choose to relax their child’s hair is sending the wrong message. I believe that building positive self esteem first begins with laying the foundation that we are a reflection of Christ’s image. Because issues of inferiority and low self esteem can surface at such a young age, it is imperative as mothers that we are our daughter’s first role model. This conversation with my 4 year old reminded me that I have an awesome opportunity to be a positive example to her; to help her develop a healthy sense of her worth by immersing her with positive attention, encouraging words and exposing her to positive images that looks like her. I am also reminded that I have the responsibility of resisting the temptation of complaining about my appearance in her presence. So whether your hair is natural or straight, building positive self esteem is a step by step process that begins at home.
How do you respond to your child who wants to look like their friend? What are some ways you help boost your child’s self esteem?