Managing Mondays: Dreds or no Dreds

Managing Mondays: Dreds or no Dreds

Over a decade ago I was doing a bunch of reading on adoption. I was flying through books trying to be educated on every area possible. I knew we would be adopting from Africa, so I focussed on transracial adoption books. At the time we were open to a boy or a girl. The more I read the more I was convinced that a boy would be easier.

This is not for the reasons you may think. The most compelling reason I had to adopt a boy and not a girl was because of hair. Article after article, chapter after chapter focussed on a black woman’s hair. It was a huge status symbol, it could make or break a black girls self-esteem. It was difficult to work with and especially if you were a white woman you would be judged by all black women on how your daughter’s hair looked.

More recently the film documentary “Good Hair” by Chris Rock focuses on the extreme lengths that black women are willing to go through in order to look a certain way. A common ideology in the American culture is that the straighter the hair, the prettier the woman. On the contrary, a woman wearing her hair naturally (with no chemical processing) is viewed as unkempt or unprofessional. Black women are willing to spend thousands of dollars on their hair, even if they cannot afford to do so. That was way too much pressure for me so the decision was fairly easy; boy.

I, who could barely braid my own hair, knew that this was way beyond me and having boys who could keep their heads shaved was perfect. One less thing to worry about. One and a half years after John and Christian have joined our family, Christian decides he wants dreds. I consult a few friends, the internet, and give it my best shot. They actually turn out great, but not without substantial time and pain for both Christian and I.

It gets to the point where he will not let me touch them, but he is not willing to keep them looking nice. Fight after fight, hours of forced time together as I would twist and goop his hair was wearing on us both. The summer before his eighth grade year he cuts them off. We have discussed the fact that it will be next to impossible to grow them again and have it look as good. “I am never doing dreds again” he says emphatically.

Fast forward to Christmas vacation this year and he is once again fighting us about his hair. “I want dreds again, I want a flat top, just cut it I don’t care.” Back and forth we went. Finally the decision is made that we will dred his hair again. It is new years day, Christian and I spend about nine hours (with breaks) doing his hair. My back hurts, my hands are tired and Christian head is in pain. It still does not look how we want it to, but I am done, he is done. We put a dew rag over the twists and the one hundred bobby pins and say we will deal with it in the morning.

In the morning Christian is up and cranky. He did not sleep well with his head all in pins and wanted them out NOW. I took them out, and we review that it will take a while for them to look like he wants, it cannot just happen in a day, bla, bla bla. He goes to basketball practice comes home and I can tell by his face and comments from his dad that he wants them out. Inside I am screaming bloody murder, my fingers are still stiff from yesterday and now on my last day of vacation I must spend more time taking out what I went to so much trouble to put in. Did I not try to avoid this by choosing boys?

Christian looks at me with his big brown eyes, “Mom I don’t want you to have to undo what took so long yesterday, we can leave it.” I know that he means it, he would suffer through much embarrassment and poor self-confidence because he did not want to put me to any trouble(any more that is.) I sigh, look back at him and say the right thing. No Christian, I want you to be happy, I want you to be confident and proud of how you look. If you want to take them out, let’s do it, and then let’s get you that flat top.

Post Script: Scott my amazing husband has alway cut the kid’s hair. He has worked hard to do a good job, and for a man with no hair, has done an amazing job. Scott has supported the kids and continually gone out of his way to make sure they looked their best. Even though this task was on my shoulders the weight was carried by both of us. Thank you Scott.


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