We always talk about having an honest conversation about race.
As the father of two biracial children, I can testify that one venue for that conversation is hair products for mixed kids.
One popular line of products is frankly called, “Mixed Chicks,” so you know from the jump what it’s all about.
I was talking about the Mixed Chicks Leave-In conditioner around my older brother, and he stopped me, “That’s its name? ‘Mixed Chicks?’ Wow.”
I saw a Pinterest post the other day, “Hair and Skin Care Tips for Biracial Kids: Coming from a White Mom Who’s Had to Learn!”
What hair product makers and the Pinterest blogger know is that there’s no use pretending when it comes to that tangly in-between hair of many biracial kids — it’s different. On any given morning, we may wake to find our kids’ hair anywhere on the scale from silk to shag carpet.
The grandmas cannot offer much advice on the hair front, because their kids were not biracial.
As a result, we parents of biracial kids often spend a good deal of time talking to each other about our children’s hair. We consult websites, and ask random people.
I was in Party City last year and saw a girl with hair that I’d like my daughter Helen Ann’s to look like in three years. I glanced at her parents. Black father, white mom. Check and check.
I sidled over: “What do you use with her hair?”
The answer came back Mixed Chicks.
My wife’s and my schedules mean that I often get the hectic task in the morning of doing the hair of my son, Sam, 4, and my daughter, who is 2 1/2. If you ever wondered whether God has a sense of humor, here’s your proof.
Sam is a cinch because his hair just curls nicely with a little product the previous night, say some kind of conditioner. Plus, a little boy’s hair can look a little wild and nobody much minds, and he may even get compliments. As a result many mornings I barely look at his head. I pluck out a lint ball or two and: “You good, son.”
It’s different for girls, and I don’t know why. If you don’t do something with your little girl’s hair someone else will do it for you — other relatives, usually, and in our case, day care workers. (Bless them all.) Helen Ann’s hair is more, let’s say, challenging. Without proper attention things can quickly get out of hand and suddenly she’s looking like the booking photos of James Brown or Nick Nolte.
Helen Ann’s Aunt Jasmine put me into a crash course, Hairstyling for Dummies, out of pure sympathy and so her niece would not go out of the house looking any kind of way.
I learned to part my little girl’s hair and I learned that the smaller the teeth on the comb, the better the part. I sprayed on CurlyKids detangling spray and super detangle conditioner. (Tangles being the enemy, you understand.)
Helen Ann has a say in her overall look, too. She is assertive. She has tastes in clothes.
We battled over her wanting to wear a certain pair of pink shoes every day. They are dressy and I like to save them for Sunday. I eventually handled the situation as diplomatically as possible, throwing the shoes behind the couch so she couldn’t find them.
She likes getting her hair done. This is actually a blessing because she stands or sits patiently as my too-big fingers fumble with the little twist ties for her pigtails. I have three basic setups: One Pigtail and a Bow; two Pigtails and Two Bows; or Let it Be and a Headband. Let it Be and a Headband is the easiest.
She likes to pick out her own hair accessories, and that led to one of my great parenting innovations, a clothes hanger where I attach all her bows and headbands. I hold the hanger up and she picks from them. This stands as one of my proud moments as a dad.
But a tweet I saw recently brought me back down to earth. A woman posted a picture of her husband doing his daughter’s hair and wrote he “just gave our eldest an apple cider vinegar rinse and retwist.”
OK. I feel I am quite a ways off from using cider or any kind of beverage or fruit on Helen Ann’s hair. But we’ll see. I’m sure I’ll continue to have many adventures with it, with decidedly mixed results.
Columnist Myron B. Pitts can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 910-486-3559.