In case you missed it somehow, Ryan and I now have a crazy cute 2 year old foster son. He’s been with us for almost a month and we’ve got some semblance of a routine down at this point. In my classroom we talk about how people are light skinned or dark skinned; this generally comes up when someone asks how come I have blue on my eyelid and we talk about how that is my blood because, let’s be honest, I am super light skinned. AAAAAAND you can see though my skin. To my veins. On my eyelid.
Which leads me to the plot line of this story which is that I am white and our kid is dark black.
Now, I teach inner city and have for years. I know all about lotions and oils and ashy skin and fixing beaded braids and reattaching barrettes and retwisting hair. What I do NOT know about is what to do with a little black boy’s hair on a daily basis. So I asked my African American friend Rene who I’ve worked with for years.
Me: “Rene. I have to ask you a question. You know I’ve got this cute kid now. I don’t want to be the white mama with the cute black kid with jacked up hair. WHAT am I supposed to be doing with his hair?!”
Rene: (Hits me) “GIIIIIRL! You cut it!”
Me: “Rene. Aren’t I supposed to be putting stuff in it?”
Rene: “Well you need to put some kind of conditioning cream or moisturizer in it. And brush it! Otherwise it gets all balled up!”
Me in my head: It is starting to ball up. That would explain that.
Me to Rene: “What kind of moisturizer?”
Rene: “Just any kind.” And then she walks away laughing and muttering, “Girl, you’re crazy.”
So I pick up S. from daycare and decide that I’m going to go into an African American hair shop and ask for someone to help me un-nap my kid’s hair. Coincidentally, last week’s Grey’s Anatomy dealt with the same conundrum:
We went to the hair shop on the way home from daycare. Unfortunately, when I went inside all of the workers were Middle Eastern men. I asked them anyway and one guy took me over to an aisle that was honestly like 20 feet long and said, “This is what you want.” Which was not helpful at ALL as I still had no idea what I was looking for and, at this point, was pretty sure there were about 20 different varieties of whatever I needed even if I DID have an idea of what to get.
Fortunately, there was a lovely black woman in the store too. Channeling my father, who once asked an Amish man what the best part of being Amish was, I walked up to her and asked her what I was supposed to do with this cute kid’s hair. Like the Amish guy, she could see I was asking from an honest and, let’s be clear, fairly desperate place, and she totally hooked us up. PLUS, she said that her parents used to do foster care when she was younger and left us with, “Be encouraged,” which was just about the nicest thing she could have said.
Rest assured, that baby is asleep upstairs now with shiny, nourished hair, freshly brushed. No baby of mine is going to be walking around nappy headed. Heaven knows he’s got enough to have to sort through without his white foster mama throwing jacked hair into the mix.