I had to cut off Kembe’s hair today. I did not want to do it. At all. And I am stupid sad about the whole thing.
I am similar feelings when I cut of Jafta’s locks. I also had a little crisis when I cut India’s hair. I’m just sentimental about hair for some reason. Over the years, I’ve seen all of the little boys from Kembe’s orphanage have their hair cut shorter, but I really wanted to keep Kembe’s hair long. It’s just how I have always known him – he’s had a lot of hair since he was born and it was always in braids in Haiti. The braids were harder to upkeep, and I was familiar with doing locks because that’s how I kept Jafta’s hair. When Jafta first came to our home he was still a foster child, and in that three year period we were not allowed to cut his hair, so locks were a perfect solution. I loved them on Jafta and I loved them on Kembe. The difference is, I cut Jafta’s when he was four because he really, really wanted me to cut them. Kembe seems pretty ambivalent about the whole thing, so I can’t even comfort myself with the idea that I’ve sacrificed my own preference for something that my child wanted.
Here’s how it all went down.
Kembe is a hair-twister. He always has been. Even as a baby, when we would visit we noticed that his “tired pose” was to suck his thumb and twist his hair. He twisted his locks a lot. The thing about lock maintenance, though, is that they can’t be over-twisted. It causes them to break. Kembe has really fine hair to begin with, and he was always twisting in the same place, but I didn’t really think anything of it.
A couple days ago, I walked into his room and noticed something on his floor. It was one of his locks. There was another one on the bed. He had basically twisted them right off while he was sleeping. There was a big patch of shorter hair right in the front of his head. I had a talk with him about it, and asked him to try not to do it, but he told me that it helps him sleep. I asked him to try really hard but I knew it wasn’t realistic that he would stop. I had a sinking feeling how this would end.
This morning, I found two more locks on the floor, and now the patch of short hair was pretty significant. And right in the front. It was almost like a dreadlock mullet. Cutting the rest off was really the only option.
Oh, my heart.
I know there are bigger problems in the world, and bigger milestones to be sentimental about, but I’ve just been sad about it all day. I’m not sure what to do now, either. Like I said, his hair is really fine and pretty sparse. Now that I’ve combed it out, it just looks fuzzy and uneven and awkward. (This picture was prior to combing). I’m tempted to start over again, but locks are really high maintenance at the beginning. Another reason why this was such a bummer – they had finally matured to a really low-maintenance hairstyle. Summer is approaching and it’s not the best time to have to be shaping new locks. Plus, it’s likely that this situation would just repeat itself eventually.
To be honest, I’m a little sad too because I took a lot of pride in his locks. White moms of black children have a big learning curve when it comes to hair, and from the get-go I was determined to make sure my boys hair looked good. I became a researcher of black hair. I tried every product, read every blog, familiarized myself with the socio-political aspects of natural hair, went to the barber’s and the loctician’s and absorbed it all like a sponge. Jafta’s locks were initially maintained by a professional but eventually I took over, figuring out new techniques and getting affirmations and questions from adults with their own locks because of a Youtube instructional I made. That felt like a big accomplishment as a transracial mom. I loved that I locked up Kembe’s hair all by myself. I even loved the weekly ritual of twisting them.
Anyways, Kembe is still as handsome and charming as ever . . . and I’m sure I’ll get used to his new do (and the fact that he looks so much older . . . RIGHT?). But tonight, I’m a little sad.