My mother and I are similar in so many ways but also very different; she has a 4c curl pattern while mine is 3c. Needless to say, doing my hair was challenging--not for her, but for my tender head.
I am the daughter of parents from two different racial backgrounds; my father provided for us while my mother was the homemaker.
Thinking back to those days, I don’t know how she did it with five kids, three being in diapers at the same time. She cooked, cleaned, took us to school and sports practice, and made many of our clothes. She is the ultimate multi-tasker and meanwhile, I struggle to keep my plants alive.
As Mother’s Day approaches, I like to reflect on the lessons my mother has taught me. Some of them have been life lessons on things like how to be an independent woman, while others have been as simple as how to style my hair. At times, I’m sure she struggled to understand her children's hair, but that didn’t stop her from passing down what she learned along the way.
Lesson 1: Detangling
My mother and I are similar in so many ways but also very different, one being our hair textures. She has a 4c pattern while I have 3c. Needless to say, it was challenging--not for her, but for my tender head as she ripped through my tangles and told me to "shut it!"
My sister and I feared the comb. What’s a wide-toothed comb? That didn’t exist in our home. If we were attending a birthday party or had to take a school photo, we were in for it. Luckily for my brothers, they kept their hair short--except for that brief Kid N’ Play moment a lot of us had in the '90s.
Lesson 2: Protective Styling & Moisturizing
During this time, there was no such thing as lightweight curl creams or gel. All I needed to know was hair oil. “Grease ya’ scalp, gyal!”, she would tell me in her thick, Jamaican accent. The coconut oil of that time was not the organic virgin, unrefined coconut oil I use today. It was full of petroleum and mineral oil but it was readily available. Throughout this period, my mom gave my sister and I protective styles. Her traditional style included 4 sections of two-strand twists or braids. The look wasn’t complete unless we had bubble elastic hair ties and plastic barrettes on our ends. Our hairstyles were so tight, they gave us mini-facelifts.
Lesson 3: Product Junky-ism
As I got older, the styles changed and so did my mother’s hair. Her short Afro transformed into a shiny, Jheri Curl. The hair oil didn’t disappear, but new curl products had appeared in our house. The selection started expanding and made their way right into her bathroom. Care Free Curl Snapback Curl Activator gave all of our curls that desired shine but caused major shrinkage. Let’s Jam Shining & Conditioning Gel plastered our edges down and Luster’s Pink Lotion moisturized our hair. My mom was the ultimate product junky and that was a trait that she had proudly passed down to me.
Now in 2016, a regular comb isn’t used to detangle my fine curls.
Those extra-tight protective styles would destroy my edges today and most of the harsh ingredients from her old-school hair products aren’t found in my cabinet. Although I’ve had to modify the techniques and products she used, what I’ve learned remains the same. I may use a wide-tooth comb and massage my scalp with natural oils but those lessons are still valued. Even my refusal to stick to one product as my cabinet overflows with half-used curl creams. All in all, she did the best with what she had and just like my mother I plan to pass these lessons on.