20 06/06/2012 parenting Kids

His Crowning Glory Is My Hell

I’m talking about my son’s hair here.

(Okay, perhaps hell is too strong a word… but what a pain in the ass it is to manage.)
During the winter months I can get away with washing it only once a week, but now that this kid is running every place, kicking soccer balls, playing tag, and basically sweating his way around the neighbourhood, it requires more frequent washing.
I especially notice it when he comes over to hug me, with his head right under my nose. It’s not exactly rank, but it certainly doesn’t smell like shampoo. But he’s a boy, after all – they rarely smell like roses by this age anyway.
The hell of it is the hair-washing mush be done during the final stage of the day, and the hour is usually around 8 PM. We’ve done the homework. I’ve made the dinner (perhaps the first of two) and now I must kneel on a folded towel next to the bathtub to lather up this massive ‘fro, rinse with the hand-held shower head, and then begin to work two huge handfuls of conditioner into his hair. Like, close to half a cup’s worth. This will take close to an hour.


Yes, an hour. On my knees, I said. (I know. I could weep for my own self right now, and you should feel tres sad for me.)
The shampoo part is okay – we use the lather to make long white beards, or to make giant horns on the top of his head. Or mohawks, which are always excellent.
During this very long and drawn out time, we have various conversations. When he was younger, I used to ask him to sing me songs from school. As he became more reluctant, I would begin singing something, screwing the words up on purpose, and he’d start laughing and correct me… eventually, he’d sing the whole thing in his soft little boy voice, and I dared not even breathe, as not to make him lose his place. The songs in French were always my favourites.
As I work in the slippery conditioner through the matted up tiny ringlettes, he’d wince and squint his eyes as I’d pull – of course, I never want to hurt him, but all those little knots are impossible to bypass. If I cut out every one of them, he wouldn’t have any hair left.
Now we tend to have conversations about school-related things… we talk about what kinds of things happened on the playground, or about how his math test went. Sometimes we conjugate verbs. I test him on his spelling. And his timetables.


The other day he said, “There’s something in the news, I think, about some guy? Some guy who I think cut up a person? And I think he mailed some of the pieces somewhere?”
I don’t like to lie to my kids, but honestly, there are days when I just don’t have the strength in my weary bones to get into such details. Especially not at 9 PM. Sleep is suppose to follow this activity…
“Um, whaaaat? I don’t know, I’ll have to check the news… I didn’t hear anything about whatever that is… um… so! Popsicle, darling?! Here, have a cookie…”
Deflection still totally works, yo.
I play music on the iPad for him… whatever he wants. Anything to help pass the time. He asks me if we’re nearly done. I say,  no, not nearly. He asks if we’re halfway done… not quite. We’ve got about 40 minutes to go, I figure.
And we chat. And he winces. And he yawns… I yawn too. I need to stretch, but I really can’t take a break – it’s hard to get back into it once I’ve stopped, so we just power through. Chit-chat. Negotiate stuff. Breathe together. Be together.
By the time we’re all done, his head is heavy with conditioner, and full of fat little ringlettes. And I looooooove rinsing it out – it’s so bloody satisfying.


We’ve discussed cutting it, and he really doesn’t want to. Though, he does look pretty cute without any hair, what I wonder is how he’ll manage to take care of this hair on his own? I didn’t have brothers, and I don’t have many black friends… black-hair textures range in kinkiness from one person to another, so I’m not sure advice from a friend would help much anyway. 
Maybe he’s just destined to spend some time in his mama’s chair every week, getting his hair did. Kinda like a weekly blow-out appointment, or something? Is that what other black males have to do? Is this one of their plights in life?!
God only knows how many countless hours black women spend in hair salons working their ‘do’s… chemically straightening the kink out of their locks… hours upon hours upon hours…
I fell out of that trap a few years ago once I started cutting my hair this low, and I have never looked back. (That’s a whole ‘nother story for another time, my friends…)
I suppose though it is back-breaking for me, there are worse things than getting to spend a bit of time with Oliver, even if it’s not a favourite activity for either of us. He’s a lovely boy – it’s nice to have his full attention this way. A captive audience, as it were.
And when he’s all towelled off, grinning in the mirror at his wet, bouncing curls, he is pleased. He’s happy about the way he looks, and that’s all I really want. He doesn’t want to cut it, so I will endure the hell of it all, just for him. It’s part of the job, I reckon.
And, I believe it’s worth it.
What do you do for your kids that you wish you didn’t have to?
  • Armywife

    I do feel for you , and your son.
    In my family it is not appropriate for ladies to cut their hair untill they are old enough to vote.
    I spent all the warm months at my grandma’s trailer, and my brother used to spend hours combing, brushing, relaxing and then plating my hair.
    By noon I’d have it down, in a giant rats nest, and in the pool. We’d repeat this process everynight before bed.
    Sometimes more if someone was coming over.
    I look forward to this ordeal with both my daughters. I know I spent a great deal of time listning to stories and songs that my brother (who’s much older) would softly sing to calm me.
    I hope my son will also do this with his sisters as he is almost 8 years older. To me it says love, patience and the sign of good parenting πŸ™‚

  • Erin Little

    Beautifully written Tracey. You really convey how special this time is in spite of it’s “pain in the assness” (yes that is a word). Like Sara, I will never complain about bath time again (until tonight when we do baths). His hair IS gorgeous, yo.

  • Chantel

    Okay I am not a black woman but back in my coaching days I coached a beautiful National level gymnast who was black. I had to deal with her hair when we would be travelling to competitions and staying at hotels! OMG! It did take at leasst an hour do do her hair and holy crap if I ever got foam bits in her hair from the pit – lets just say her mother would be ready to kill me lol!
    You are a great mom – the things we do for our children!

  • Carlyne Fournier

    That is such a nice article Tracy… I luuuuuuv washing Mabelle ‘s hair (she’s 5). She has very long and curly brown hair but once wet, it become sooooo long down her back. We play hair dresser every time we wash it. The only thing that takes an hour is when she desperately wants to long like mama and have me straighten it the flat iron!

  • snikks

    Tracey: I actually use all 3, the shampoo, masque & oil treatment.
    I wash her hair with the shampoo once a week (maybe twice if its really hot & sweaty) & condition (put on & leave on while she plays in the tub) & put the oil through when I’m “styling” her hair right after her bath. Then basically, every other day I “wash” it with just the masque…ie. I wet her hair down & put the masque on & leave it on while she has her bath, then rinse out & use the oil treatment each time.
    I know that Trade Secrets carries it, but if you have a beautician friend, there are supply places that carry it for less.
    Hope that helps!

  • Tracey

    And which product do you recommend? The hair masque? I have NO idea about these things… HALP!!

  • Tracey

    I’m going to check out that link – thanks! And yeah – it’s the parts they sleep on that fare the worst. I just rehydrate each morning with a spray bottle of water, and sometimes a little dab of lavender oil behind the ears and at the nape during LICE season. *shudders*
    This boy’s mama is Jamaican too… πŸ˜‰

  • Tracey

    I certainly hope so, Charles – thanks!

  • CharlesKiddell

    That child will grow up well balanced.

  • snikks

    I have the same issue with my Missy, so I totally feel your pain (in my knees & back!!). Her dad is from Jamaica & I have naturally curly hair too.
    A hairdresser friend of mine (with mixed children) recommended “DermOrganics”. It has a shampoo, hair masque (conditioner) & oil treatment. It contains Argan oil, is certified organic, never tested on animals, contains no alcohol and is vegan. It also smells AMAZING!! (I use it myself too!! Tee hee!) Here is the link to their site: http://www.dermorganic.com/
    Although I still need to do her hair (in braids or twists) because it doesn’t stay in once she sleeps on it, it is easier to manage and has grown a lot since I started using it.
    I wish I could leave hers down like you do with his, but it matts too much to do that.
    He has gorgeous hair & is very lucky to have a Mommy like you that takes the time!

  • Tracey

    Oh, I hear you, lady. I never feel like I have the patience for the task, but it’s worth it. I mean, I GUESS. This kind of hair does take so much time though…
    Fortunately, Madame’s hair has far less kink, and can still be dealt with (with some wincing and pulling) with a normal amount of conditioner – she’s still young though, and I wonder how the texture may change with time. DNA is so freaking weird, man.
    I’m glad not to be dropping beaucoup l’argent in the salons anymore either – the clipper comes out every other week for free, and I couldn’t be happier about it!

  • Tracey

    Dedication, indeed! It’s really cool-looking hair though… he wants to keep it. I guess I have to. I’m glad YOU don’t have to though, woman – lucky duck!

  • Tracey

    Oy, the poo… I’m happy I don’t wake up to those packages anymore either, but I’m still wiping Madame’s bum after potty. She recently tried her hand at doing it herself… put paper in the garbage can… all over porcelain… *takes swig off of bottle* I’m still working on blocking out the whole sordid memory of it. I’ll actually take wiping over dealing with a bathroom in that state ever again, thanks.
    And I can’t believe more parents aren’t depressed too!! πŸ˜‰

  • Tracey

    Yes, that’s exactly it, Jen – the insights of their quiet sides can be so amazing – it’s cool to know what they think about. Soon, he’ll just be grunting at me most of the time, I’m sure.
    Oy, the lice… but I can imagine the “enjoyment” of the one-on-one time with your boys.
    And if this is the hair-washing, can you imagine what it was like trying to get lice out of Oliver’s hair? Finger-combing it with conditioner takes an hour… that lice comb? Impossible. *head hits desk* At least I know we have no choice but to shave it, should it ever happen again…

  • Tracey

    Holy crap is right, girl. Man, my back hurts just thinking about this. Thanks for feeling my pain. *sniff*
    I’ll bet you looked adorable with your shaved noggin, Sara – I wanna see pics!!

  • DesiValentine

    I’m in the same place with my daughter’s hair, right now. A few years ago I decided that this whole chemical/flat-ironing/hot-combing/blow-drying thing just is not my bag, and have kept my hair trimmed to a nice tidy length ever since. (And the part where I can cut it myself with electric trimmers, and save myself about $90 a month is also kinda nice.) So far my Bug is happy with his hair close and tight, too. But my daughter? She has beautiful red/brown kinky, ringletty hair, and it takes TIME to maintain. (Mostly because I tend to avoid the grit-your-teeth-and-bear-it approach my mum took to my hair.) But it really is a good time, most of the time. I mean, occasionally I have absolutely zero patience and the process seems like one more crap job on top of a day full of crap jobs and I am sorely tempted just to cut it all off. But the older she gets, the less time we have that is just ours, you know? I think I’ll be a little sad when she gets big enough to take care of her hair by herself πŸ™‚

  • Jenn W

    I can’t even begin to imagine having to do this with both of my children (who *thankfully* do not have the extreme kinkiness that my hair has) as well as myself. I applaud you for sticking with his desire to keep his hair lovely, long and natural like this. I know from personal experience, that those curls take some serious dedication. Huzzah to you, girl!

  • Julie

    well, i suppose having a whole hour with your undivided attention is pretty great! maybe that’s the real reason he won’t cut his hair πŸ™‚
    i, for one, am glad i don’t have to deal with the poo anymore. sure, you do it without thinking but for 5 years (and longer for those of you with more kids) the first thing i saw 1st thing in the morning was someones dirty butt staring up at me. you get up, you go to the kid’s room and change the bum. that’s how you get greeted. no flowers, no fresh coffee, no smiles…i can’t believe more parents aren’t depressed!

  • Jennifer

    What a fantastic story, so beautifully told, Tracey. Your boy’s locks are so very, very special, made even more so now that I know the effort that you put in.
    About six years ago, my boys both got lice towards the end of summer. Ugh….I don’t wish that on my very worst enemy. However, I do look back with fondness (!) on the hours of one-on-one time that we spent while I combed through their hair every night searching out any living creatures. It’s so rare to get that undivided attention from busy boys, and when they grow comfortable and let their guards down you get some amazing insight into the quiet sides of their lives.

  • Sara

    holy CRAP!! Never again will I complain about Will crying during his two minute hair wash (which truth be told I know maybe do once a week…). God Tracey – I feel for you. My hair is obviously not as tough as Oliver’s but my mom used to shave me every summer like a sheepdog. She just couldn’t deal with the maintenance of the sweat and swimming pool hopping etc. He is so lovely!

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