I AM NOT MY DAUGHTER'S HAIR
By KAREN MARIE MASON
I’ve watched my daughter go from precocious child to confident teenager. I’ve watched her take near perfect direction and instruction, and give the same to others. I’ve watched her listen keenly to my advice and adhere to it. And now, she gives me advice. Good advice. Our relationship has blossomed from mother-daughter, to best friends, back to mother-daughter, and along each step, we've always been each other's protector. She's listened carefully to my thoughts about the boys in her life, and I shake my head and laugh when she warns the men I date that I'm her mother and you better bring her home at a reasonable time. Last night's date responded with an, “Oh, she'll come to like me. I laughed to myself. Wrong. None of them know my daughter Kenya. She has never liked any of my choices in men (friends or otherwise) and I’ve never agreed with hers either. For sure, at any time, our roles reverse. Completely.
And yet I often forget that she will turn 20 in July. My little baby has blossomed into a beautiful flower come into her own. And now she makes her own choices regarding what to wear, what to eat, where to go and, most difficult for me, how to wear her hair.
Kenya has worn her hair natural from birth. Or should I say, I have kept her hair natural from birth. At first, I kept it covered with turbans and the like. At that time, I adhered to the more strict interpretation of Rastafari: modest dress, head covered, etc. Then later, I platted it, chiney bumped it, pony tailed it, and my favorite, let her wear it in two afro puffs. Though I have worn locks on and off for the last 20 years and would have loved for her to do the same, I didn't force it on her. She decided on her own to grow her natty, and grow they did.
Even when I no longer had locks, Kenya Jordana’s hair flourished. I was proud. She took care of her locks and had it conditioned regularly. So imagine my dismay when she hesitantly asked me one holiday she spent home from school if she could trim them. Lord have mercy, I screamed on the inside. But out loud, what could I say? She was 19 years old. They were her locks. Not mine. So I choked out, If that’s what u want to do
I thought it would end there. But no. From there she went on to perm it, and now she's got extensions. Each time she changed it up, I acted as if she were changing up my hair. I showed great dismay and spoke with even more disappointment. I complained without end about the perm not agreeing with her. And I made disparaging remarks whenever I could squeeze them in under the false guise of advice.
So immature. Who's the mother here anyway?
And yet, being the mother that she is to me, she would hide her disappointment and keep on plodding. She would try not to freeze-frame my negativity and hold strong to the decisions she'd made for herself. Just today she told me, “Mama, I’ve been natural all my life. Let me see what else is out there. I’m not you. Let me be me.” She added: You are more attached to my hair than I am.
You know, she was right. She and I both know that a perm may not have been the best thing for her hair. But she accepts her decisions and stands firm. No hiding. Head erect. Damn. That's my girl.
I love her independence. I love the way she meets her challenges head on. She doesn’t run from adversity but embraces it and turns it into increased confidence and a greater sense of self. She has manifested everything I hoped for her to be.
So what the hell am I upset about? It's not my hair. In fact, I've worn my hair just as nappy and unkept (though clean) as a sista could the very antithesis of how Kenya likes her hair. And she's never asked me to change it, cover it over, or even uttered, I don't like it all things I've said to her. She let me be me.
It is this I keep in mind as I learn to let up a little you know, release from my spirit the things I can’t control (like my daughter's hair) and allow my baby's spirit to grow, just as I've allowed mine to. After all, as India.Arie says, “I am not my hair.”
Relax, Karen Mason. Breathe and give thanks for the flower that continues to bloom before your very eyes.
About our MyBrownBaby contributor:
Karen Marie Mason left her rapidly rising career as a music industry executive to become a stay-at-home/home-schooling mom when her daughter, Kenya, was a young child. Kenya is now a second-year honor student at Howard University; her mom now manages recording artists, hosts a radio show, promotes shows, is active in her community, and is finishing up her first book about motherhood. She blogs about motherhood and her life at Honor Music Group.
That was a fantastic post! I have patiently watched as my daughters have colored, cut, curled and straightened their hair. I TRIED at the beginning to have a voice, and then I realized they were using THEIRS.
you rock, momma Karen.
Great read! Kenya is wise beyond her years. Congratulations, Mom.
Love this Karen! I haven't seen you in a while, and the last time I saw Kenya, she was announcing her college options to UFJ! Both mom & daughter have been, and remain such an inspiration to me! Big up!!!
I read a wonderful testimony. there is no greater love relationship than that between mother and daughter. I have three wonderful adult daughters.A 20 year old grand daughter.We have the warmest sincerity for each other even in the diversity.(Not my daughter Hair)that brought back memories. filled my heart with profound appreciation,to know that there are still many sisters (moms) out there who treasure there “brown sugar babies”…and know that their lives have value. I love the site,need the site, and YES! I want it. Full of spirit.Best wishes for you and your daughter.
This strengthened us all thank you!!
As a white mama to beautiful brown babies. I feel your pain! having the hair, growing the hair, keeping the hair from falling out, to perm or not to perm, to braid or not to braid, curls or not…..It is DAMN hard to do the right thing and just when I think I have it all figured out because the salon say’s “wow, for a white mama you do a great job at their hair.” The baby comes home from school and tells me the teacher told her she had to wash her hair everyday! WHAT?
Wow…much props to you Karen: even though my daughter is months away from 3, I intend to keep her hair chmical-free. It would bother me if she were to go the opposite direction, but if that happens, I hope to handle it with the same grace and acceptance that you’ve demonstrated. Great post!
ooooo Karen, I loved this post. I have a 2 year old, and while I wore a perm until I was 25, its been 12 years and some change of me being natural. I’m wondering what my daughter is going to want to do, when its her turn to decide. And at what age I’m going to let go and let her make those types of decisions about her hair…woo Lord, I’m not ready…thank God I have some time…that Kenya is so fantastic…I’ve watched her since her mag and she’s just an incredibly talented and gifted individual…job well done…jd
That was GREAT. Loved every minute of it and fell in love with the message of acceptance that you presented. You know, that’s one of the best things about black hair… probably hair period, that when the hair is already healthy you can have the freedom to try different things and put it through some stuff and it will continue to be healthy. If you cut it short, it’ll grow right back. My hair is proving to grow way too fast for my low maintenance lifestyle, I will be opting for the clippers like Brittney Spears did by the end of the year, I’m sure of it.
If Kenya is into the perms now, she always has the option to go back natural. To clear away the sleek and brink back the kink =)
Wonderful post as always! I did the reverse of Kenya. I waited until the day before I graduated from college to cut all of my hair off and go natural. India Arie’s I am not My Hair is one of my favorite songs and makes me cry every time I listen to it. It just reminds me of the struggles my sistas go through with just being who God made them to be. Great job raising Kenya, Karen! And Sandi, don’t you listen to that salon or that crazy teacher.
I got a good chuckle from this. MY middle daughter has long beautiful soft curly hair…when she cut it I almost cried. I often wondered what difference it should make to me. When I read this story it was nice to see I wasn’t the only mom attached to her kids hair lol
Amen! That was a hard lesson for me too. My daughter wanted her hair cut very short. I kept telling her that it was “too short”. But too short for what??? For me??? So, being that she is a cosmetologist and I’m not, I bit my tongue. She is wearing her hair in a pixie short cut and she gets many compliments all the time.
It’s a lesson well learned for us both. There is beauty in your daughter’s choices. She loves it and is confident and she is not her hair! Great post.
Look at my Kenya Jordana all grown up. Queen Momma Karen you are doing and will continue to do a wonderful job. I loved reading this…it’s so powerful. Uh hum hum hum..Aunty Delphine needs to approve both of your dates!!! LOL!…
My Kenya Jordana is all grown up…I can’t believe it’s been that long….I love this story..so inspiring and powerful. Queen Mama Karen you are and will continue to do a wonderful job!!! Ummmm hum!!! Aunty Delphine needs to approve both of your dates..
I need to get myself down to the ATL soon!
Love ya both.
This is such a wonderful post and it hits close to home. I have been natural (with a few black slides) since I was pregnant with my daughter who is now 6. I always think about how I feel if as she gets older, she decides she wants to perm her hair or something. I mean, it’s not *my* hair. I just care for it until she is old enough to be able to. *sigh* Guess we’ll cross that bridge if/when we come to it.
I completely get this one. It’s kind of weird I guess, but I’ve felt the same about my son’s hair in the past. He was the kid who had hair long enough that when I corn-rowed it as a 9 year old his braids hung to his neck. His dad wanted to cut it off because people thought our son was a girl when he wore corn rows. I realized that I was really attached to his long corn rows with ‘hang time’ on his braids after I told his dad that he’d better not cut our son’s hair. LOL! He got it cut and I grieved because I didn’t have anything to braid anymore. Now he’s 16 and over the past few years he’s gone from growing it out back to a short cut. I tried to persuade him to grow it back out, but he gave me one of those 16 year old looks and said “Mom, I got this.” And you know, that’s really the way it outght to be. Thanks for sharing your story! ~denise
While I only have a wonderful sin, he has had from birth thick dark hair and I feel very attached to how it is so like mine. When he asked several years ago if he cout get a buzz cut I said no and have continued that to this day. He is almost 17 now and I have to let it go. This post is so helpful in that journey. Thank you.
Opps, meant son, not sin. but that is kind of a funny mistake.
Great post! It was rather ironic that I ran across this post because I go to school with Kenya and she always gives me great advice on my locs.
I am currently going through this. My daughter (first child and only girl) and I transitioned back to natural three years ago and just the other day she announced that she bought a perm. At first I took it as an affront to my example as a mother, for somehow not instilling (by example) a strong enough value for the beauty of her natural hair. She complained that her natural hard was "hard to care for" and expressed the desire for "easier maintenance". While my counsel to her was one of a unbiased presentation of the facts on the surface, deep down I was seething at her decision and screaming from the depth of my spirit for her not to relax her hair.
My daughter will be twenty in less than thirty days and is the new mother of my first grandchild. She'll be married before the end of the year, a working woman and part-time college student. Of all the decisions she has made, and is going to have to make for her life from here on out, I had to realize that how she chooses to wear her hair is the least "important" and simply a form of momentary self expression. I also had to realize that all her choices are now hers and hers alone, and no matter how much I want to mother her I know she needs the "unmothering" space of independence now to become her own woman. not a mini-replica of me.
No matter how my Adah chooses to wear her hair, I have come to the place where I realize her choices are not a reflection of me, but her trying out her wings as a woman and a mother. I may not like all of them, the same way my mother didn't like all of mine, but I love her and that is what's most important.
This was a wonderful post, Karen (which I ironically happened on while looking for images to accompany and open letter to my father) and I thank you for sharing, giving me and mothers like me the reassurance that we are not alone.