August 31, 2010 at 1:06 pm 15 comments

We all have our edge.

In yoga class, usually in some crazy-stretchy-balancing pose our teacher says: Go to your edge. Play that edge. And my mind screams: No! I will not! The edge hurts! I’d much rather stay in this comfy spot right here. But I usually go at least a little further, a little deeper. Maybe because I follow the rules when I’m in a class, maybe because I know that, despite my protestations, it’s good for me and will probably feel good too. In any case there definitely is an edge.

There is an edge in any activity we participate in. In romantic relationships there certainly is, as in: He just pushed me right over the edge and I lost it! Sometimes the edge pops up after dinner when the dishes are stacked in the sink but one partner has slumped onto the couch instead of stretching yellow latex gloves over their hands. Sometimes an edge rears its head when a new good-looking co-worker is mentioned, or another round of advice is offered instead of a shoulder to cry on. There is no predicting where that edge lives in any given relationship but it is most certainly there.

The same can be said for parenting. I’m pretty good at pushing past my edge when one daughter wants to wear her pajamas as her outfit, when another wants to try out what its like to take a bath with her clothes on, or when another wants to save toenail clippings in a tiny red satin box. The edge is pokey and irritating but I get over it with the help of thoughts like: What’s the big deal? and in exchange get happy, independent thinking children. But lately a topic has popped up that has brought out an edge and instead of scraping myself over it I am crashing headlong instead.

In short, Echo wants dreadlocks.

The fact is that her hair wants to dread. It is the tangliest mass I have ever seen. Every day. Even after brushing. Even with conditioner. Even with de-tangler and even with routine, daily maintenance. Her hair is simply always tangly. The other fact is that she does not enjoy hair care. Clips, head bands, pig tails, braids, hold very little appeal. And even though, on occasion I manage to regal her with made-up-on-the-spot stories about a monkey sneaking in to the county fair, or about Polly the Walrus who meets his fairy godmother while walking home from school, and gently tease the knots out, she is routinely not interested.

Yesterday I even chased her around the kitchen table. A game of pursuit, in which I occasionally lunged forward and dragged the brush through her locks, was the only way she would participate in any grooming at all.

And Echo is no  fool either. When Xi, the child most concerned about appearance, looking pretty, and grooming, warns her: Coco if you don’t let mama brush your hair do you know what will happen? You’ll get DREADLOCKS!, Echo scans through the mental images she has of dreadlocks, pairs them with the idea of never having to brush her hair again and says: Good!

When I try to coach myself over the edge, even momentarily, with the question: What’s the big deal? My first response is: judgement. Although I can handle the judgement of others as they curl up their noses at my girl’s dirty face, or as they question my choice to sit down on the sidewalk and hold my flailing toddler instead of “laying down the line and showing her who’s boss”,  somehow defending her purposely tangled (by me!), hair seems beyond my abilities.

At one point, because I possess the very same knotty hair as my daughter, I considered dreadlocks for myself. As one often does when considering a new idea I went straight to google and entered “white girl with dreadlocks”. My interest came to a screeching halt. My very first  foray landed me on a blog dedicated to the discussion of white girls with dreadlocks, where readers could post their own opinions, and my oh my. I read, at most, five responses and because of the strength of those opinions, the very disgust, outrage, and repulsion that those people felt, I fled from that site like my pants were on fire.

So there is judgement to contend with, that’s for sure. But the other thing is aesthetics, or more precisely control of my daughter’s appearance in other areas. I wonder if her hair is dreaded if I will want to straighten up some other aspect of her; wipe her face more frequently or persuade her to choose an outfit other than the one she has played in for the last three days running. Will I? And if so, is it worth it?

Right now her hair is smashed up into a bun. And she might just wear a bun forever-after, or at least until she wants to brush it, or until I get more confidence.


Entry filed under: parenting principles. Tags: , , , .

Not Laser-Vision, Toddler-Vision Judgement

15 Comments Add your own

  • 1. kenya  |  August 31, 2010 at 2:48 pm

    you could ask her if she would prefer short hair.

    • 2. nataliechristensen  |  August 31, 2010 at 4:32 pm

      She wants long hair…

  • 3. Jennifer  |  August 31, 2010 at 2:58 pm

    you should chat with Farmama about it – her boys are all dreads. ( ) maybe she can help with the decision… good luck!

    • 4. nataliechristensen  |  August 31, 2010 at 4:33 pm

      That’s true!

  • 5. Christie  |  August 31, 2010 at 3:57 pm

    Have you considered those itty bitty braids that last for a long time? She might be too young to sit still long enough for it, but at least you could sell it as similar to dreads.

    But yep, it is hard when they run into deeply ingrained ideas we have.

    • 6. nataliechristensen  |  August 31, 2010 at 4:33 pm

      I’ll have to look into it. I worry that the braids themselves would eventually get so tangly that the end result would be the same.

    • 7. nataliechristensen  |  August 31, 2010 at 4:34 pm

      I’ll look into it. My concern is that the braids would get so tangly that the end result would be the same.

    • 8. Miranda  |  August 31, 2010 at 6:12 pm

      That would be a terrible idea. Very damaging and when they come out leave a bad crimped effect. Won’t last too long in white baby hair anyway.

  • 9. isa  |  August 31, 2010 at 6:12 pm

    hey there!
    my boy starts having dreadlocks – at the back of the head. hates getting brushed( as well as nail clipping etc and teeth brushing)
    he hasn’t had a nail clipped in 2 years -turns out, nails just tear and fall and he’s fine!!
    but yeah the dreadlocks part does push me to an edge.

    for now i leave it like this and we’ll see- for now i want him to have control over his body – we’ll see how it goes.
    is there any way back, also? i mean, if you/she change/s your/her mind and doesn’t like it, is the only solution to cut the hair? i wonder what my boy will say/feel if i explain him about it…

    about judgments, what is your worst fear?
    i fear that my son will get labeled and that my parenting will be judged- once more.

    good night!

  • 10. Rachel  |  August 31, 2010 at 6:19 pm

    It is difficult to contend with judgements coming out of others, and from the judgements you may have internalized about white girls with braids. I deal with some of the same issues about myself honestly, I’d like to dye my hair, dress more strangely, but I’m trying to make a career and don’t want to offend, so I’m stuck feeling inauthentic. I haven’t had to face the issue with my daughter yet, if only because she’s 18 months so we aren’t at the age of having strong opinions about dress and appearance.

    Frankly I think the fact that her hair “wants” to dread, and that she doesn’t solely want it for aesthetics- i.e. it makes life unpleasant to deal with her hair on a daily basis, all told would be an ok enough reason. Dreads have been a part of many, many cultures, not just rastafari, so I don’t think any one culture/ethnicity should be able to lay hold to it. I remember reading an article that Ariel Meadow Stallings ( wrote somewhere about having pink braids in the work place and how essentially you have to be well maintained and really put together to maintain a positive professional image. As in, if you’re “different” in some way, dirt or a temper tantrum are that much more likely to be judged. Of course, there is something to be said for being comfortable in your own hair as it were, and I’d rather my kid or my parenting be judged by somebody’s friend than let her dread up.

    Hoping you find a solution that makes everyone happy- good luck!

  • 11. Hilaree  |  August 31, 2010 at 6:27 pm

    I. Have. Always. Wanted. Dreadlocks.


  • 12. Amy McGregor  |  August 31, 2010 at 10:33 pm

    Echo is a girl after my own heart… If you really want to discourage the dreads you can give her the info of dread maintenance. Even if you go all natural you still have to pull them apart so they don’t turn into one dread (though maybe this would get her excited about the idea of a giant dread… oh dread 😉 ) Also, sleeping can be uncomfy and they can pull just because they’re forming and be sore and itchy. I loved having dreads and I let shame and judgment make my decisions for me to cut them off. Oh well- I would argue we need more LITTLE girls with dreads in this world, cause little people do everything best!

    p.s. Jaedyn had blue dread hair when she was 4- Mommy/daughter dready head?!?! You should consider it Natalie-sweetest thing ever…

  • 13. Jessi  |  September 2, 2010 at 11:34 am

    i also have very fine curly hair that likes to dread, especially in the back where i sleep on it. when i was 6 and starting kindergarten my mother proposed an idea: she was tired of having to fight to brush my hair every day and i was tired of the pain of it so…she said that i could either take over brushing duties or cut it short. i opted to cut it and kept it short most of my childhood. i have always wanted to let it dread since it does want to do that so very badly, but am not sure i’d be okay with having to shave it off to rid myself of the dreads when i’m done with them. so i continue to brush and cry a little.
    you could propose the idea of a trim to start with to help keep the ends managable and to try on the idea of a cut. i know the best thing i’ve found is to keep all my ends the same length (not a ‘v’ cut or anything fancy) and this has helped TREMENDOUSLY with my tangly hair. and i sleep now with it above my head instead of down around my neck and shoulders, this also helps in the whole tangling thing. i know she’s small but it might help.

    the corn row braids are good but only last a few days before they start to friz and you have to wear a bandana over them at night while you sleep to keep them nice as long as possible – hard for a 3 year old to do. but the scarf idea might help in general if she is open to the idea of sleeping with one.
    good luck!

    • 14. nataliechristensen  |  September 2, 2010 at 7:50 pm

      Thanks Jessi.

  • 15. Where We Are « Talk Feeleez  |  October 6, 2010 at 8:24 am

    […] on I realized her bed head was a perfect opportunity to employ some empathy. Later, when she wanted dreadlocks I was forced to face my feelings on that subject. And because her interest in purposely tangled […]


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