After I gave birth to my daughter, Callista, I was not prepared for motherhood or being the mother of an bi-racial child, but the biggest obstacle was what to do with her hair. I suppose other people would think that I had bigger things to be concerned with, like how to deal with a child who has a different shade of skin than both my husband and myself. However, every day, I had to figure out a way to take care of Callista's hair. At first, it was this short fuzz, but by the time she was nine months old, her hair was long enough and thick enough so that I had to think of how to arrange it.
My daughter inheirited my soft, fine white-person hair and her father's tightly kinked black-person hair, the worst of both. She has soft, tightly kinked hair that is difficult to comb out. I also did not know that I should have sent her to bed with her hair done up and take it out, comb it, and rebraid it in the morning. It took me a while to figure that out, and sometimes it got hopelessly tangled anyway. I used to give her a towel to scream into when her hair was a mess.
I tried cutting it short, and thought that it looked adorable. We picked out little barrettes or bows and put them in her hair. White people did not comment on that, but many black women would stop and lecture me about making my daughter look like a boy, comments that still bother her. Callista is a beautiful girl and always has been, so those mean comments were aimed at me, to put me in my place. I felt out of my element and insecure until I decided that my kids are brown, not black and not white. Who says that they have to wear their hair a certain way?
My son, Toliver, has hair that is a little more wiry than my daughter's. It was easy to cut it short when he was younger, and I learned to do it myself with a pair of clippers. When he got into high school, he started growing out an afro and still has it. It looks great on him. Since he attended a predominantly white school, kids were not used to having someone with an afro, and his hair is soft to touch. Toliver was constantly picking it out because kids would not stop touching it and making 'dents' in his afro. I never observed white kids touching other white kids' hair. Some of the people on my side of the family had a problem with his afro, and asked when he was going to cut his hair.
Once Callista got a little older, she grew her hair into what amounted to an afro but tied a scarf around it close to her head, so it was pulled tight around her face, making a 'ponytail' about four inches across at the crown of her head. Kids would not leave her hair alone, either. They liked to stick their fingers in her ponytail, where her hair was compressed together in a soft, curly mass. She found it distracting when she would be in class and kids would not leave her hair alone.
I took my daughter to get her hair relaxed when we lived in Puerto Rico, and the ladies at the beauty parlor knew what they were doing. She loved having 'slippery' hair, which is what she called it at the time. When we moved to Maine, I took her to a beauty shop where they promised that they knew how to relax her hair. They did not. The beautician burned Callista's hair off of her scalp in several places and she had to go to the doctor to treat her damaged skin. In addition, they were not going to give me my money back because they said that she combed her hair too hard. (!)
My kids now wear their hair in its natural state. Callista has short hair and Toliver has his afro. Now that they are adults, no one bothers them about their hair anymore, but Callista is still sensitive about having short hair and Toliver does not like anyone to touch his afro. I don't blame them. People forget that hair is a personal thing.