If you ask my mother, she’d probably say one thing that really drives her crazy about my parenting is that I don’t make my kids brush their hair. I can’t honestly say that I know the exact reason why, but I once quipped to my father, “The state of my children’s hair is not indicative of the whole of my parenting,” and he responded, “Actually, it is.” So maybe Mum’s reaction to it is along those lines… or maybe she just likes seeing her babies looking all sweet and clean.
I do, too, if I have my way, but it’s generally my parenting policy not to engage in power struggles on a daily basis (or ever, if I can help it, which I often can’t.) My rule for hair brushing is something along the lines of, “If you don’t want to brush your hair, then we need to cut it to a manageable length so it doesn’t get all matted. Your choice: brush the hair or cut it.”
(It’s important to note that I draw the line at matted hair. A few tangles, okay. But when my kid’s hair is starting to look like wannabe dreadlocks, that’s my limit.)
At various times K has decided to cut her hair rather than have to brush it every day. E’s hair is super long, but she’s okay with having it brushed. Even unbrushed, it takes a long time for E’s or K’s hair to mat. Poor R, on the other hand, has very fine hair that gets matted with the slightest friction — even a night’s sleep on her pillow will result in a mini-dreadlock right at the back of her head. She does brush her hair so it looks nice in the mirror, which means that the hair around her face is always smooth and shiny. I can’t say the same for the back of her head.
Yesterday I failed to mention that while we were volunteering in the orchard, a cameraman showed up to get some footage for a CBC documentary about urban farming. It wasn’t until I saw the camera drone hovering over R that I realized she had some really, really matted hair. The look was beyond “personal bodily autonomy” and on its way to “Bob Marley” (which is a great look for Bob Marley. Not so much for R.)
So tonight I insisted that R take a bath so that we could detangle her dreads. Using my hands and half a litre of conditioner, I was able to untangle the locks — but it took me a good half hour to do it. Then I brushed it out and braided it. I’ve decided that’s the new rule: braid your hair before sleep, or cut it short. Daily untangling sessions are just not something I want to be spending my time on.
Now R’s hair is sleek, shiny, and in a beautiful French braid. She looks so sweet that way — I think I see what my Mum likes so much about well-groomed children.
I still won’t make them brush their hair, though. If the kids’ hair indicates anything about my parenting, it should be that I pick my battles very, very carefully.