Tonight I got together with my friend Amie and we talked, nonstop, for almost four hours! All about adoption and the challenges surrounding it, and about raising our black sons. It was so cathartic and rejuvenating and now I feel momentarily light and free, having dumped all my brain baggage at the coffee shop. We agreed that it should be a regular event.
Having my mind thus decluttered, I want to write about something that is important to me but was less important than the things that were piled up in my mind. I want to talk about Small Sun's hair.
For a mixed race family, or a family that has adopted transracially, hair is an important factor in helping to raise a confident child. Any mom who is out in public with a child whose hair is disheveled exposes herself to criticism, and that is magnified when their is a difference in the mother and child's race. When a white mom is out with a black child and the child's hair is unhealthy, unruly, inappropriately styled, or unkempt, she may be judged as not knowing how to care for her child's hair by both the white and the black community.
We didn't cut Small Sun's hair until after his first birthday, in keeping with a common practice in black American culture. In that first year his hair was long and soft and moved in the breeze. Now his hair has a thicker texture and his curls are tighter. I have been cutting his hair relatively short for awhile now because it looks very neat and handsome that way. His hair is not coarse enough to hold braids, but has several different curls textures so it can look a bit wild when it is longer.
The Captain and I both love his long hair and we would really like to grow it out. However, no matter how healthy and cared for it is, it will still look pretty wild when it is long. After I comb it out and put product in it, it will stay neat for about an hour but if he is playing outside or wearing his hoodie, it will get crazy. It won't tangle that fast, it will just get big.
Right now I am choosing to keep his hair short because I don't want to look like the white mom who doesn't know who to do with her black child's hair. I don't want Small Sun to look uncared for and I don't want to look neglectful of his appearance. Also, I think that letting his hair grow out would accentuate his ethnicity, while it is understated with short hair. I think if his hair was long and lovely it would draw more attention to him than he currently has. I don't know if that would be best for him right now.
So this is my question to you all - what would you do? Would you disregard the fact that some people might think his hair is too wild, and disregard the fact that most black families (judging by the children in our neighborhood, church, etc) would not let their sons have long hair that wasn't confined in braids? Am I doing Small Sun a disservice by keeping his hair short when I like it long, or am I doing him a favor by giving him as low a profile as possible in our high-profile family?
Do you have ideas for hairstyles for a boy that work well on medium-texture hair? If I had a son with a fine texture to their hair I would feel comfortable letting them grow it out to chin length, even if that is not a style many of my peers let their boys wear. We like funky style and value individuality. I'm just not sure how that works when you are making choices FOR your children and when there are numerous cultural expectations that all happen to coincide on my son's head.
What do you think?