Tag Archives: Self-Love

Black Beauty

Hope was home for the recent holiday, and while she was here, she decided to cut her hair. Hope had decided some time ago that she regretted relaxing her hair and wanted to “go natural” again. After about 7 months of growing it out, we snipped off the relaxed ends and basked in the glory that is now her little Afro.

Ok, so maybe I basked; Hope seemed beside herself with shock, anxiety and the ever present teen worries about how others would see her.

When Hope came to home nearly 5 years ago, she had a lot of hair that I lovingly nurtured right on down to her shoulders. It was not chemically treated. I twisted it, coiled it, braided it, did all kinds of things with it. Hope was really proud of her hair; she got a lot of compliments. She learned to really embrace how her naturally curly, coily hair looked.

Hope has thick hair. It’s not just that each strand is thick; there are also a lot of strands. I swear when I first started doing her hair, I thought I was wrestling a carpet!

As she got older, and I shifted more of the burden of doing her hair to her, things got…difficult. My daughter’s care-taking abilities didn’t produce the same results, and eventually she decided that she wanted to relax it.

I hated the idea. I wanted her to love her hair and to learn to properly care for it. It had been years since I’d given up relaxing my own hair, and there was a part of me that took it really personally that my daughter wanted to relax her hair.

I had failed to promote the beauty of our hair.

I had failed to foster a sense of pride in our hair in its natural state.

I had failed to cultivate a sense of beauty that didn’t adhere to Euro-centric beauty norms.

I had failed to get her to love herself.

In spite of these failures, I also support one’s ability to wear their hair however they please. So, I asked her hair dresser to relax her hair.

Oh there was lots of hair swinging. There were smiles. There was hair flipping. Hope’s hair grew and then…all the things that happened before the relaxer happened. Poor maintenance; lazy care, heat damage, split ends and breakage. There were a couple of heavy “trims” that took inches off.

And I was spending a small fortune getting her hair done.

We ended up in the same place as before, which made me feel as though my prior failures had been confirmed in this hair relaxing exercise.

Then one night I was watching hair videos on YouTube when Hope said she regretted relaxing her hair. She thought it would be easier, but it wasn’t.

I still have teeth marks on my tongue from where I nearly bit it off so as not to say, “I told you so!”

So she begin the journey to grow her hair out with the first major development happening during her fall break.

I’m delighted that she grew her hair out and that she wants to embrace the fullness and textures of her natural hair. That said, I know that rocking a teeny weeny Afro (TWA) is a shock at first. You see all your other features and you can feel weird about them.

Is my forehead really that big?

Were my ears so noticeable when my hair was longer?

I swear my acne was not this noticeable with bangs.

My nose is big.

My skin is so dark.

My teeth are big.

I need earrings to distract from this.

I don’t like the way I look.

People will make fun of me.

I’m never going to look like Becky (No, you’re right and you’re not supposed to.)

It’s all so loaded. Helping her reframe her thoughts about beauty is hard. Helping her think about the fact that six months from now she will have a lot more hair is hard. Helping her believe that she doesn’t need to “fix” anything is hard.

Self-acceptance is hard at almost any age; it’s especially hard at 17.

I think she’s stunning. Her chocolate skin is dark and creamy. Her almond shaped eyes sparkle. With the hair away from her face, her acne quickly faded. I finally was able to coax a pair of small, classy earrings on her. With her militaristic posture and figure I’d kill for, I think she’s an 18 out of 10.

But to hear her tell it, I’m mom so none that counts.

Understanding how oppression shapes even the way we see our beauty is exhausting; really, it is. Teaching that…it’s not only exhausting but also infuriating. I silently rage thinking about the fact that my daughter questions her beauty because kinky coily hair isn’t universally seen as gorgeous. I cut my eyes at the folks at her school who looked perplexed like they weren’t sure to compliment Hope when she returned rocking her afro. I nearly cried when she cast her eyes down when she saw folks see her hair for the first time.

Hope is gloriously gorgeous. She already doesn’t know how lovely she is; the short hair is a radical change that makes her glow. She doesn’t believe that though.

That’s not my fault even though I feel like I failed in instilling that.

It’s all of our faults. That nearly exclusive white standard of beauty is so embedded in our psyche that our brown and black kids hardly know and appreciate African diasporic beauty when they see it. And that makes me sad and mad, really mad.

I look forward to the day when my daughter looks in the mirror, smiles at her reflection and turns on her heels to go knowingly, purposefully slay us all.

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Better

Ahhhhh, this week has been…good.

Sometimes I find myself crawling to Friday evenings. I’m tired, worn out and emotionally drained. This week, I’m happy to report, I only felt tired and worn out.

I wasn’t emotionally drained!  In fact there were many more moments this weekend when I thought, “THIS is what I thought life would be like as a mom!!”

I haven’t had a week like this in a while. I needed it. Hope needed it.

Ahhhhh. Inhale…exhale.

So what was different about this week?

I colored. I colored a lot. It really is meditative; it is calming and my tolerance for everything is a bit higher when I color. Of course, I’m coloring so much that I’m worried about my healing hand…repetitive movements are probably not all that great post-op for carpal tunnel. #whatever

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I was in bed by 10, 10:30 at the latest. Sleep is restorative, and Yappy is a precious cuddle bug.

I worked out everyday. Fitbit challenges have me going hard daily! I’m hitting 5-6 miles of steps a day.  That’s definitely contributed to good headspace.

I felt good after seeing friends and family over Thanksgiving.

I realized that I’m not alone on this journey.

Hope and I stayed away from meat this week after she announced her desire to go vegetarian recently. I didn’t eat much meat before Hope came along, so two years of hardcore carnivorous behavior has wreaked havoc on my body. ABM’s bod was much happier being more plant based and Hope LOVED my veggie cooking.

And finally Hope, Yappy and I had quality, real bonding quality time this weekend.

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Family movie night featured Max. Yappy is a fan. 

For once, I took care of myself and committed to meeting my own needs. know that every week won’t be like this, but dang it; I feel like a new person. It’s a powerful reminder that we parents need to practice routine self-care. The absolute bonus was getting a peek at the life I aspire to; it was totally dope!

The other bonus I discovered was that Hope’s behavior was dramatically different after pulling back on the meat. I hope that it continues; I hope it’s sustainable. It was dramatic. She was more focused, more thoughtful, more motivated about school. She was a bit more mellow. Hell, we may never eat meat again! (Hahahahah, just joking, I like bacon way too much.)

One of our weekend movie nights was Inside Out; I wish I’d gone to see it in the theater. If you have or know an adolescent and have any curiosity about the mayhem going on inside their heads emotionally, this is the movie for you. Today we talked a bit about how Hope felt when she moved here to be with me, when she started a new school and just day to day emotional upheaval. Being a teen ain’t easy; being a teen who’s a former long-term foster kid, now adoptee ain’t a walk in the park either. I can’t pretend to get it, but I feel a little closer to getting it and that’s important.

I’m optimistic. I’m going to keep plugging away and hoping that things will settle down for a little while.  It’s nice to have a little less drama during a time known for lots of it.

 


Hairy Times

So last night we took out Hope’s braids, and today she stepped out as a full blown naturalista! OMG, she’s so adorable I can barely stand it! It was another 5+ hour ordeal, taking out the braids, detangling, cleansing, conditioning, blowing drying, paddle brushing and dry twisting. Around hour 4, my back was killing me, and I must’ve started huffing a little when my girl said, “Thank you for doing my hair. No one has ever taken the time to take care of it like you. It feels so good when you do it, not like [former foster mom].”

I nearly started crying; then I woman’ed up and kept plowing through. The truth is, I love having my hands in her head; there’s a special bonding that happens when I do her hair.

Look at these lovely blown out locks…

Hope'sHair
As I began to twist her hair, I could tell she was getting anxious. We took a break so she could get her silly putty, which she uses to cope. After we were done, I sat down next to her on her bed and asked her why she was so anxious.

“Suppose I mess it up? Suppose it doesn’t look like yours? I can’t do anything right, so I’ll probably mess this up too.”

Oh dear, self-esteem, self-worth meltdowns before bed. My sweet Hope has so much healing to do. Good Lord chile, you can’t mess up the dry twist out!!

So we had another chat about it just being hair. #pagingIndiaArie #Iamnotmyhair It’s beautiful if for no other reason than it grows out of your lovely head. It will grow. It is and will be lovely. It will be coily and sometimes kinky and you’ll learn all about yourself through your hair.

“I don’t know what I really look like…you know without braid weave. I am excited about seeing what I look like. But supposed I don’t like it?”

Yeah, ok, so it took me a while to like my hair after I went natural. It made me see myself differently.

“I want my hair to be like yours…you know without the gray. #justalittleshade

I smile, yeah, I know…without the gray. #justalittlesideeye

It will be beautiful, I tell her before tucking her in.  So, fast forward to this morning with more anxiety.

“I’m sure I messed it up.”

Hope, how could you mess it up when all you did was sleep with your cap on?

“I dunno, but I know I messed it up.”

Sigh.  Of course her hair was lovely. I’m jealous actually. Her thick hair embraced those twists, gave off a shine, great definition and is super moist.

She scrunched her nose as she peered into the mirror, turning side to side. I got out the pick and fluffed and fluffed. I got a sparkly headband from my stash and popped it on her head. She smiled.

“It’s so short. Is it nappy? Is this an afro?”  It does appear shorter—shrinkage! No, it isn’t nappy, but there’s nothing wrong with it being nappy. No, this isn’t an afro.

“Hmmm. I like it!”

She didn’t just say it, she declared it. But then she said she looked plain, so I suggested that we style her for our trip to the bank and to the Peeps store. We pulled out all her little jewelry, picked some earrings, a necklace, a ring and some bracelets.

She was blinged out. #happyandyouknowitclapyourhands

“Yeah, I need to be sure to put on a few things when I wear my hair out.”

I smile.

It’s rainy here today, so I told her that it might look different in an hour (or 10 minutes..sigh!), but it will be fine. I told her that her hair would look different tomorrow too, as the hair stretches.

So we head out and bump into our neighbor who raved and the concierge who raved. We talked about how free her head and hair felt.  She enjoyed her hair, her new look.

I know we will have more anxiety about the hair, but today was a lovely hair day. Just awesome. Hope saw herself today and liked what she saw today. She didn’t “mess it up.” She felt good about herself.

Hope was successful today.  I love this kid.

ABM&Hope


Hope & Whole Self Love

Hope doesn’t like her hair; she says it’s too short and too nappy.

She doesn’t like her nose; she says it’s too broad. 

She doesn’t like to smile with her teeth showing; she says it makes her lips look too big and her teeth are crooked.

Hope says her cocoa brown skin is too dark; she wishes she were lighter.

Hope is enamored by lighter skinned women of color who have looser, wavy curls.  She says they are pretty.  She is not light, and her hair has tight curls, so she’s not pretty. 

She says she’s ugly several times a day.

Sure, some of the critical, self-doubt is normal for kids her age, but I fret that she hasn’t heard how beautiful she is much during her short time in this life.  Her smooth skin is such a lovely brown shade.  She has beautiful features that would look so lovely with long or short hair.  She could rock a teeny, weeny afro and look divine.  Her large almond shaped, brown eyes are so gorgeous.   Her full lips give her such a beautiful countenance. 

She doesn’t need to be light, and she shouldn’t want to be either.  

One of my goals during this visit is to make sure she sees the variety of women of color in the DC area.  I point out beautiful afros and dark skin and say, “Wow look at how pretty she is; she reminds me of you.”  I encourage her to moisturize her lovely skin (she seriously will allow herself to develop scales) so that it glistens and shines like a cocoa bean.

There’s something particularly painful to me to hear her say she doesn’t like the features that are most associated with people of color.  Such features often are a part of our core racial identity.  I had parents who told me all the time how pretty I was.  My dad still does.  He liked my hair relaxed, and he likes it natural.  Honestly I don’t know if he really likes either of them, but he has always, always told me that I was pretty.   He has always said my brown skin was beautiful.   I might’ve had lots of problems with self-esteem over the years, but loving my brown skin, African American features, and various hair stages has never been a part of my low self-esteem story.

When I got to college I met girls who really struggled with developing into young women of color.  They did all kinds of things to appear lighter (whiter) in every way—skin, hair, some plastic surgery.  It was so….extra.  The self-hate was so real, and it was deeper than just this awkward discomfort of adolescence.  Hating the skin you’re in is bad, so bad.  It’s bad on a good day.  I don’t want to imagine what it’s like to be an awkward tween, who’s been bustled around foster homes, who’s experienced all kinds of crazy ish, and to hate your brown skin and kinky hair on top of everything else.  It makes me sad.

So, I will continue wearing my hair natural; I may even cut it low for her.  I will try to take care of my skin.  I will point out other naturalistas.  I will show her all the colors, all the textures, all the diversity that the African diaspora has to offer.   I will tell her she’s beautiful.  I will get her cute brown girl T-shirts.  I will take her to events that affirm her existence as she is.  I will hold her hand as I lead Hope to a healing place on this issue and many others.  I will promote whole self-love as much as I can.  For me, this is a real part of the ABM journey. 


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