Thursday, May 20, 2010

Styling: How I take one idea and spin it three different ways!

My first thought was to do a Cornrow Twist Hawk, but I know that this daughter likes to see her hair. She always complains when I position the bulk of her hair in the back so I shifted the cascade of hair to the side. She's also always asking to wear her hair down, but her hair is very fine. Sometimes I worry that her braided styles look sparse. To give her the illusion of having her hair down I designed a second cascade in the front. Now we're both happy. She gets to feel like her hair is "down" while I tuck it safely up. The cascaded twists also makes her hair look much fuller.

This daughter also likes to wear her hair down as much as possible. She's mature enough to be satisfied with twisting her head to see the cascade to the back as long as I give her a nice side bang to enjoy.
Head Mocha Girl is game to try new things, so I go all out by giving her a Swooped Cornrow Twist Hawk. She gets bored easily with her hair so I made the twists small enough for her to gather several different ways to change up her look.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The Rat Tail Comb of all Rat Tail Combs!

You know I would NEVER use the comb part of the rat tail comb to detangle nappy hair on the first pass. I have seen people use them on nappy hair once it's already been completely detangled. I've never tried it on my girls. I do, however, frequently use the tail end to make my parts. Up until now I've been using the comb on the left--which is completely made of plastic. It makes satisfactory parts. It's also good for prying apart moderately small to big braids. I'm always looking for a hair pin or some other sharp item to remove knots and tiny braids. No more! The metal tail is the TRUTH! Not only does it do a better job on unraveling the braid/twist stitch, it's excellent on those knots. It also makes great parts. My only concern is my tendency to absent mindedly rake the tail too hard across my daughters' scalp while making a part. I have to be super careful with that metal tip. I cringe at the ramifications of making a mistake. Can you imagine?

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Managing Hair Time With a Young Child

Hair time can be a nightmare when we're working with really young babies and active children who'd prefer to be elsewhere. I was really overwhelmed with my first. Whenever I asked other mothers what worked for them, I was told to wait until my baby was sleeping to style their hair. Unfortunately my daughter always woke up the minute I started manipulating her hair, and if you're anything like me, you'll take a messy head over missed sleep any day.

I've used different methods at different ages. Below is a list of suggestions to consider while grooming your baby's hair, followed by older children. When picking a style always have a realistic expectation of how long your child is physically able to sit for the style. Expect some interruptions. You may have to break the styling session up into several segments. Try to avoid waiting until you have to be somewhere in a short amount of time before moving to style your child's hair. How much maintenance does the style require? Will you be touching it up in several hours or can it last a week or two? Also factor in the added time it takes to add beads, barrettes etc. to decorate the style, if you like. Personally, I've been relying more on part designs and colorful headbands to jazz up my daughters' looks. They are quick and easy to use and cause no damage to the ends of their hair. Once you've chosen a practical style you like, try the following:

Babies 12 months and under who aren't walking yet, and babies under 18 month who will accept being temporarily restrained
1. At this age your grooming session should take no longer than 20 minutes at a time--MAX. This means it may take you several sessions to get from removing a style, washing (if the hair is dirty), detangling and grooming your child's hair. You must plan for this in advance.
2. Once you've chosen a style you can finish in 20 minutes, have your child sit in a high chair or bumbo seat--so that they can't move away from you, but you are able to move all the way around their head. I'm assuming your child is able to sit well, because I don't do much styling beyond adding a barrette or head band to my babies before they are physically able to sit. See my post about leaving babies alone. Younger babies look fabulous with their natural fros left as is, or decorated with one or two clips or puffs. A head band to match an outfit is also a quick and easy choice, and easy to add while the baby is in your arms.
3. I offer my babies finger foods or crackers while I hurry to style their hair. I watch their tray carefully for any falling hairs. If you are uncomfortable with offering that, you can also offer one or two toys reserved strictly for styling. My babies have enjoyed measuring cups or spoons, rubber spatulas, wooden spoons, and an occassional "big kid toy" with no tiny parts like the rubix cube. I watch them carefully to make sure they don't stick anything sharp down their throats. Offer the toys/snacks one or two at a time. If you offer too many, your baby may be overwhelmed or become quickly bored--leaving you with nothing more to offer. Expect interruptions--try to keep your expectations low. Take this opportunity to laugh and get silly with your child. None of this has to be perfect.

At this age I do big corn rows--no more than a total of nine on their head. I do four to eight big afro puffs. I try to plan for a style that can go at least three to four days to a week.

Mobile children 18 months to 7 years
In my house we mainly watch television on the weekends. Occassionally we'll break this rule for sickness, a special treat or schedule event like the Olympics or March Madness. This means my kids are riveted when I do offer them a video. As a result, I have been able to turn our grooming sessions into something my daughters really look forward to. They especially love the fact that whoever's hair I'm styling gets to choose the video we watch. At about 18 months of age my babies will sit still for a video. This means I can get through taking down a style and putting a new one in at once. I still choose quick and simple styles though because children this age spend much of their time rolling around the floor in play. They muss up their styles with a plethora of costumes with head dresses. We don't want to be too concerned about them ruining a style we spent a long time to create.

Check out my styling session with MG3 and how I manage to keep Mocha Baby entertained.

If you don't want to offer videos, I've also been successful with coloring books, pop up books, play dough and cutting projects. Small children can sometimes entertain themselves for long stretches by cutting a sheet of paper into tiny pieces--if you don't mind the clean up.

Children 8 years and older
By the time my daughters are eight and older they are vested in the styling process. They will sit for as long as I like if they really want a style. Having gone through the different grooming stages from their infancy, they already know what to expect. They can read a book as well as enjoy a video to pass the time. They are also much more carefully about preserving their styles. At this age, I am happy to invest the time in doing small twists, braids, corn rows and combo styles.

With some practical planning and flexibility we can all stop dreading grooming sessions. Things usually fall apart when we're trying to do too much too soon with not enough time and resources. I hope you find these suggestions helpful. Please leave a comment if you have more suggestions to add.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Cherish your daughter first...

...and the hair will follow.

We recently had a really hot day, and as I was helping my four year old tie her scarf to her head I stopped myself. We were both sweaty though she'd just had her bath. What was I doing?

"Are you done Mommy?"

"You don't have to wear your scarf tonight," I decided and leaned over to give her a kiss and a squeeze.

I encourage my girls to tie their heads at night to prevent their sheets from drying out their hair, and to help preserve what moisture I worked hard to put in. I try to make sure they keep their heads covered year round no matter the weather, but on this particular hot night my actions felt ridiculous. My baby was hot. We release much of our body heat from our heads, yet I was covering hers, to preserve her hair---but what about my baby?

Mocha Girl Three's hair is important to me, but she's more important than her hair. I know there have been many times in my life I denied myself pleasure, to preserve a hair style. For example, I can remember wasting half of a school trip to Six Flags, watching my friends go on the water rides while fretting over my press and curl. Thank God my best friend declared she'd rather deal with her nappy hair than miss all the fun. My hair was tightly shrunken when we left the park, but I had a goofy grin on my face, and a heart full of warm memories.

I want my girls to take good care of their hair. I like to make a style last as long as possible, because my time is limited, and I have so many heads to do. Yet I'm prepared to break all my nappy rules if my girls aren't enjoying their lives. My daughter came into the kitchen the other day and stood at the window watching her sisters squeal as they ran through the sprinklers.

"Aren't you going out there?" I asked.

"No," She muttered.

Something in her voice made me stop what I was doing and give her my complete attention. I stared intently into her eyes.

"I don't want my hair to shrink."

Suddenly, I was that little girl at Six Flags all over again. I wasn't remembering the experience, but I completely understood where my daughter was. Strong emotion stirred my heart.

"Get yourself out there," I said, while placing a hand on each of her shoulders and moving her towards the sliding doors. "So what if your hair shrinks? Who cares?"

My daughter looked uncertain as she turned back to face me. She hesitated another moment before her face broke into a smile. She rushed through the door with a squeal. I released a slow breath, and smiled.

I'm not saying we never do what's uncomfortable, but I pray for wisdom. I want my daughters to have a healthy relationship with their hair. It shouldn't be something that stresses them out. I don't want them to believe they have to suffer to be beautiful. In all things balance is important, and nappy hair care is no different.