We have not really experienced significant criticism although we get the occasional rude or uninformed question. In our earlier days, we did get people giving me suggestions on how to care for her hair which was a little unsettling to me especially when the advice came from complete strangers. It also made me feel judged in a way I had not experienced before. We lived in some pretty open minded, diverse places from Seattle to different cities in Europe so I think families of all kinds are more common.
I find myself aware when people look at us and stare for longer than normal. I wonder what they are thinking. Leyla has a way of winning people over that seems to defy explanation which may be why the criticism isn’t common. The most frequent reaction people have when they see her is to smile broadly. She is such a joyful, energetic child and seems to bring that out in others.
How do you handle these circumstances, or how do you respond to the naysayers?
I generally assume people with questions are genuinely interested and answer openly and honestly unless it would be awkward for my daughter. The inquiries that still floor me as the ones like: Q: “How did you pick her out?” “It’s a referral process, there is no 'picking.'” Or Q: “Does she need to wear sunscreen?” “Ah, yes. All skin can burn without protection.”
As she gets older, she leads more in how these interactions work. She is quite open about where she is from at a general level. She is selective about when and to whom she wants to share more details. Those conversation are reserved for people she feels connected to in some way.
Leyla doesn’t like it when people make her the center of attention or want to touch her skin and hair. We had a girl at a birthday celebration ask loudly, “Why are you brown and your mom is white?” and she looked at me to answer. My response was, “The same reason that you and your mom are the color you are, we were both born this way.” I didn’t think we needed to have a public discussion on transracial, international adoption at a 5-year-old party. The smile Leyla sent my way as she continued to eat her cake confirmed my answer worked for her.
What is your daily routine for caring for your daughter's Type 4 coils?
Our daily routine varies depending on the hair style. If she is wearing it loose, we wet it and condition every morning and then work to get knots out. I am just learning to braid more. So if we choose a braided style, I will do her hair Sunday night after a bath and keep that style for the week. I usually put extra leave in conditioner before I begin styling. Then I use a spray-on version throughout the week as needed. We are just learning to use beads and snaps. It’s a fun exploration for us. My daughter returns the favor and likes to style my hair at night while I am reading her a story. She tells me the same things I say to her, “I am sorry it hurts a bit. I am trying to be gentle.” And she loves to make my hair look “fancy”–which to the rest of the family just looks “crazy” with lots of clips.