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It's Not Just Hair

 
from our marketing intern, Alexis Jackson
 
All parents are aware of the steep learning curve that exists when raising a child—including everything from “How do you protect them without sheltering them?”  to “How do you get them to eat their vegetables?” 
 
This learning curve goes for adoptive parents as well; however, the questions include “How do I help them with their emotional and developmental issues?”  “How can I get them to open up?”  And for transracial adoption the question of cultural consciousness is raised – an increasingly important question in light of the fact that approximately 40 percent of adoptions in America are transracial. 
 
A quick scan of online adoption blogs and message boards, will result in an endless number of posts from parents concerned about what to name their child, where to put their child in school, and what ethnic holidays to celebrate all in an effort to establish their children’s cultural consciousness.  Learning how to groom a different texture of hair, though noticeably absent from most of these posts, is a critical part of this cultural consciousness. 
 
A few examples: Actress Angelina Jolie sought advice on how to care for her Black, adopted daughter’s hair; and many recall the Sesame Street “I love my hair” video that the show’s writers created for his adopted daughter when she expressed a desire for long, blond, straight hair.
 
Hair carries a significant cultural identity, and learning how to care for a child’s tight curls or pin straight tresses teaches that child how to take care of him or herself while also sending positive, affirming messages about that little person’s texture and cultural identity. 
 
Even today, as a Black woman raised by Black parents, I struggle with the cultural part that my texture represents.  I’m constantly trying to straighten it or put extensions in it simply because I’ve been taught that caring for my hair meant straightening it to make it more manageable.  This personal struggle has led me to seek affirming and helpful messages and videos on Pinterest and YouTube.
 
During one of my most recent “Pinterest sessions, I found this website specifically designed for White parents of Latino(a) or Black children called Chocolate Hair Vanilla Care. The White administrator whose daughter is Black wrote “Hi, I'm Rory, and I write about pretty much everything you wanted to know about my journey learning to care for my daughter's beautiful, naturally curly hair. It's a chronicle of what I do and why I do it.” 
 
'Nuff said!
 
This site not only provides step-by-step tutorials on how to care for hair, but also includes testimonials and product-reviews.  After spending just a few minutes on this site, I had learned about three new products and two new ways to increase my hair’s moisture retention—all things my parents  never taught me.
 
So, whether it’s locked, in an afro, straightened, naturally curly, or chemically processed, learning how to take care of hair is important.  And since a lot of cultural identity is coiled up in our tresses, let’s appreciate it for everything it is and teach our children, nieces and nephews included, to do the same.
Since we’re all learning, I encourage you to share your hair stories. Everything from saving a bad hair day to helpful websites on the topic is welcome!