As a white mom learns about her black child’s hair, both come of age.
By Annie Kassof
I knew nothing about African-American hair care when Tasia*, my first foster child, was placed with me at age 2. I fell in love with her, and I adopted her, even though that wasn’t my original plan. Her adoption was finalized last year, and I now know a lot more about her hair. I love doing Tasia’s hair, especially now that she’s six and willingly sits still. She likes it to look good.
I want to be known, among other things, as a white mom who knows how to do black girls’ hair. When I’m alone, I’m just another Berkeley mom. With my black daughter and my multiracial foster kids in tow, I’m self-conscious. I imagine that people notice and remember us. There’s a part of me that wants to be seen as Superwoman. It’s not enough that I care for flocks of kids with no partner to help me. I’ve now demonstrated that I can also do hair, at least well enough for Tasia’s school friends to notice: “Your mom changed your hair again?”
There’s a beauty salon nearby that we drive past all the time.The sign in the window says “Braids and Styles; Children’s Hair; Walk-ins Welcome.” Tasia’s been asking to go there: “I wanna get my hair done perfessinuly.”
My daughter has been exquisitely patient as I’ve learned to style her tightly coiled, medium-length hair: first, making symmetrical parts with a fine-toothed comb and holding the sections together with her hair elastics with the colorful plastic balls—we call them “hair balls”; next, braiding or twisting, then securing the ends with butterfly or flower barettes. I can do French braids, passable cornrows, and hair extensions….