Why I'm Learning My Hair and Teaching My Daughter to Love Hers

by Tanya Allen

My oldest daughter is 9 and has a mane of long, thick curls. I, and almost everyone else she meets, think they are beautiful. Unique. She thinks  they are too ‘pouffy’ and hates how much time it takes to wash, condition, detangle and style. But I see the slight flicker of pride in her eyes when she is complimented on her hair. The way she flicks it around on the odd occasion she lets me leave it loose.  But it wasn’t always this way. A couple of years ago she hated her hair. She saw how easy it was for me with my straight (relaxed) hair in the mornings. How her friends could brush their hair in mere seconds in the mirror of the school toilets during break time. How they could go swimming and not have to worry about the long aftercare process. She wanted straight hair.

I tried to tell tell her how beautiful her hair is and that she should love it. But I was coming to realise that my words meant nothing if my example said otherwise. I loved my long, straight, thick hair. Couldn’t imagine not relaxing it and getting rid of the fuzzy regrowth. I couldn’t remember what my own natural hair even looked like, having had my first perm at around 9 years of age. At 14 I switched to relaxers and, apart from the inch or two of regrowth between touch ups, never saw my natural hair. How could I possibly teach my daughter to love her hair as it is, if I wasn’t loving mine?

This question bothered me. A lot. I had my last relaxer in August 2012 and during the months that followed, I struggled, with determination, to learn how to cope with the transitioning phase. I watched hour after hour of youtube videos of other naturals and their hair journeys. Sometimes it was the only thing that kept me from reaching for the nearest tub of relaxer. That and the knowledge that it is my duty as a mother to instill pride and self worth in my daughters.

In May 2013, I went for the big chop. I wish I could say that I loved it straight away. The truth is, I was kind of shell shocked! It was liberating in a way to have so little hair to deal with, but as my hair grew and all the various textures became apparent, I have had a hard time loving it. Some days I’d want to cry with frustration as I battled to make my hair do what I wanted it to. I felt less attractive and I missed long hair that I could tie back on a busy morning. My whole image was so different to what I’d always known and been used to. And not everyone could understand why I cut off my long, thick, healthy, straight hair. At times, neither could I!

But somehow, over time, as I have learned what works for me and what doesn’t, I have grown to love the thick, unruly, do-whatever-the-hell-it-wants hair that grows out of my head. And I have shown and taught my daughter something. That it’s ok to be different. To stand out. To wear your hair as it grows out of your head and love it, regardless of what society says. Even more, I’ve shown myself. This journey started out as something that I felt I needed to do for my girls - I didn’t realize that it was something I needed to do for me too.

My youngest is only three, but the other day she insisted on wearing her hair loose instead of in its usual plaits. “I want my hair like mummy’s!” she insisted. And all day, even when it got in her way, she refused to have it put up, preferring to toss it to and fro. We both wore our afros with pride. And my older daughter is much more involved in her own hair care as we try out new products together. She didn’t like my hair after my big chop, but she loves it now.

This is what natural hair means to me. My daughters growing up and loving who they are, and me loving and accepting who I am, naturally.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Tanya Allen can be found on Instagram: Britintdot and Twitter: @tanyathinkfresh

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