I held high hopes my daughter Auriana’s 2-year-old sisterlocks would grow into lengthy, kinky hair awesomeness by high school. Those hopes were shot down quick—real quick.
My now 7-year-old naturalista begged me to lock her hair at age 5 because she wanted to “look just like mommy.” Flattered and proud, I did. Two years later, she begged me to chop it all off. Wait. What?
I tried to convince her that her locs were beautiful and would only grow longer. Nah. She wasn’t buying it. Her frustrated facial expression showed it. So one evening during spring break 2017, I reluctantly snipped her tresses off and down to a teeny weeny afro. She smiled the entire time in pure amazement as my heart dropped.
It seemed like it took forever to cut her locs, but it actually happened in a matter of minutes. And when I was done, she rubbed her head in freedom, joy. Confused, I started washing her curly, baby hair head, and she shouted from under the faucet: “Momma! That feels so gooooood. Keep rubbing it.”
After a deep massaging shampoo and drying, I managed to offer up a quivering Wednesday Addams smile in support, but what just happened was killing me. I don’t know why I was trippin’, though. Almost eight years prior, I big chopped my hair to start my locs without ever looking back.
…she is Black beauty personified, with or without long hair.
Then it dawned on me why I was truly saddened by the situation: I didn’t want to deal with the backlash of “short” hair—from family, friends, her peers, the public, no one.
When I chopped my permed hair and sported a baby fro right before having Auriana, a few family members thought I had gone crazy and people in the community couldn’t stop shock-staring at me. I hated the feeling and refused to subject Auriana to all the negativity, especially when she was super enthusiastic to return to school a few days later.
I had to act fast so she would know—and continue to know—she is Black beauty personified, with or without long hair.
First: I had to set the tone.
I wanted to reassure her (even though she has enough confidence for the both of us) that this big chop experience was an adventurous, fun transition.
We jumped in the car and went to one of those mega beauty supply stores up the street from our home. I let Auriana have a field day picking out headbands, scarves, and clips to accessorize her perfectly shaped crown. I also racked up on natural hair conditioners and creams to moisturize her curlicues. When we got back home, we held a mini fashion show in the mirror that tickled her pink.
Second: I had to do some research.
I went social media mad, researching short natural hairstyles to reinforce Auriana’s new, bold look. Instagram, Pinterest, and Facebook provided nonstop inspiration from toddlers to teenagers donning cropped afro coifs of various hair textures.
Constantly showing her images of similar hairdos on children her age helped us both realize she wasn’t alone during this particular hair phase.
Third: I had to reassure our decision daily and honestly.
Genuine compliments go a long way. They were something I loved receiving from my grandmas as a kid and still do to this day. Phrases like, “Grandma’s baby is so beautiful” and “Look at that smile,” meant so much during my childhood.
In the mornings, afternoons and nights, I consistently tell Auriana similar words to remind her that natural hair equals natural beauty—that she’s a beautiful being no matter what. Follow that up with fuzzy kisses, tight hugs, and zippy tickles, and she’s ready to conquer the world.
By the time Auriana got to school that upcoming Monday, she became a rock star of younger Willow Smith proportions. Her peers adored her short, curly hairstyle. When I shared creative photos with family and friends, the positivity and support overflowed as well.
I will never forget sitting on my bed in a sunken state after Auriana’s big chop, thinking about everyone else’s two cents. Auriana sashayed up to me with newfound credence, grabbed my face, looked directly in my watery eyes and said, “Mommy: It’s just hair. It will grow back tomorrow.”
I chuckled and said, “I know. Thanks for reminding me baby cakes. You’re awesome!”
And she’s right: It’s. Just. Hair.