On Tuesday, Buzz started daycare with shabby looking double strand twists in his hair. His mama called it “crazy hair” when we saw her on Saturday but also said “it’s not that bad.” By Tuesday it was looking even more crazy. His day care is 95% black people working there and attending so I was feeling pretty embarrassed when I dropped him off. I told his teacher that I know it looks bad and I have an appointment on Friday for him to get new cornrows done. That night, I unstyled it so I could wash and moisturize it.
Wednesday, I put his hair in a ponytail against his wishes. But what were my options at that point? So off to day care with a pony tail. (Side note: ponytail was suggested by his mom if I couldn’t style it.) When I picked him up in the afternoon, only a tiny bit was still in the ponytail and the rest was all crazy wild and free. If that wasn’t bad enough, immediately upon seeing me he dropped down into the wood chips in the playground and rolled around. Yeah, wood chips all up in his crazy hair. Ugh.
So another bath and detangle and moisturize session that night. Getting the wood chips out of his hair was NO FUN AT ALL! Since the ponytail didn’t work out and he was scheduled to get cornrowed on Friday, I sent him to daycare on Thursday with an afro. Not a cute afro. A crazy wild, my-white-foster-mom-has-thrown-in-the-towel afro.
He could not have cared less. (Thankfully?) However I was feeling guilty. I went on to Target to run some errands. First stop: boys section to look for a hat for Buzz. I picked up a few in the toddler section…a blue and white striped conductor style one that I decided was too small, a straw fedora that was too hipster, a Spiderman one that Jason vetoed via picture text.
Finally I saw some adjustable hip hop/skater style hats over in the bigger boys section. I was on the phone with his case worker at the time and Ali was trying to open a bottle of allergy medication so I just grabbed one. I also found his hoodie sweatshirt on clearance. He only has one hooded sweater that fits and he loves it; especially with the hood up. I couldn’t resist this one with eyes, horns and teeth—even one good tooth! Oh, how it made me smile. I laid them out on the chair in his room and hoped he’d like them.
His crazy afro didn’t look any worse at the end of the day when Jason brought him home. No wood chips, Thank God! His immediate reaction to the hat was that he wanted me to take the tag off. He likes it! I thought. He ran off to go outside with Jason and Ali, hat in hand. I convinced him to let me put it on him and took some pictures so he could see how cute he looked. It lasted for a few second before he took it off and started running around the yard with it. He was swinging it around by the tabs in the back and smacking it against the driveway. He hates it! I thought. I’m not gonna lie. It hurt my feelings. It was a gift and he was treating it like trash. A few minutes later it was lying in the dirt and he was off doing something else.
After dinner we went to the playground. Again I was able to convince him to put the hat on when we got out of the van. It was mostly black folks at the park—can you tell this white mama is feeling self-conscious about not doing well with her black foster son’s hair? Again, it was on for a few seconds and then he handed it to me. I wore it for the rest of the park time so I could have my hands free to take photos. He hates it, I’m convinced. Thankfully, I didn’t hear a single critical comment about his hair.
Twenty minutes after putting him to bed that night, from where I was sitting in the living room I could hear him creeping down the hallway. He was looking down at his feet trying so hard to be quiet that he didn’t see me standing there waiting for him. He had put his bare feet into his sneakers—wrong feet, unlaced—and he had the hat on backwards. He looked like he was about to leave on an adventure (which is totally not funny because of an incident a few days prior…). Instead of scolding him, I said “I like your hat!” He likes it!
I got him back to bed with a snack. (He was looking for a cup of milk when I asked him what he was doing up). I agreed to sit with him for a while as he was getting settled. He snuggled up in bed…with his hat. Oh, he really likes it!
Jason got him up the next day to take him to some appointments. I was already at work so I texted and asked if he wore the hat. Jason said yes. He had been wearing it since he woke up and he loves it. My mama heart is so happy!
Disclaimer: (Because yes, I still have an ego…) I’m fully aware of how important hair care and style is within the black community. I have a whole slew of appropriate black hair products and have done a lot of research. I’ve gotten pointers from friends and from his mom, as well as product from his mom. It’s not so much a matter of not knowing what to do… it’s a matter of not having the time and energy to do the “practice, practice, practice” that it requires to get good at styling black hair. I fully intend to get good at doing it myself; but sometimes you need to know when it’s time to outsource. I’m feeling pretty good about the style I eeked out last week in my first attempt. This week it felt like there were so many other higher priorities. That is why I scheduled someone to put his hair into a longer term protective style for us…however he was not willing to sit for a styling.
don’t you think making him wear a hat so you don’t feel embarrassed is kind of mean/send a message that he should be ashamed of his hair?
Yes, that would be mean. However, I’ve never made him wear it. I’ve just offered it and he’s free to say yes or no. He’s often wearing it completely on his own choice and he’ll hand it to me when he doesn’t want to wear it anymore. I’ve never put it on him without his permission or told him he has to wear it.
I am so very appreciative of your honest, heartfelt, and loving approach to the calling to be a foster parent. It is humbling and inspiring to be able to follow your family as you navigate showing love, disrupting your family’s usual flow, and appreciating the cultural differences between you and your temporary kiddos. Your love for them is palpable and I thank you for sharing it with us all.