Figuring out how to make your daughter’s hair look pretty is often a losing proposition; it’s even harder when your daughter’s hair looks and feels nothing like your own.
African American women use a variety of techniques and products to style their hair, but growing up with straight blonde hair, Stephanie Hollifield didn’t have the first clue where to start. She’d adopted her daughter, Haley, when the child was just 8 months old. Now two, Haley’s hair had grown out and it was becoming clear that Stephanie needed some help keeping Haley’s ‘do looking polished and pretty.
When we adopted Haley, many of our black friends pulled me aside and shared with me the importance of educating myself on African-American hair care. Since then, I have consulted with salons, watched YouTube videos, and taken notes on everything my friends shared. There has never been a product that was recommended to me that I didn’t immediately go out and buy.
One day, Haley’s daycare sent Stephanie a photograph, and the mom of five was appalled to see that her daughter’s hair looked messy. Even though Stephanie had sent Haley to school with her hair freshly washed, conditioned, and styled, just a few hours later she looked disheveled. Since Stephanie had worked so hard at learning how to do Haley’s hair, she felt like a failure when she realized she still had no clue what she was doing.
Out of desperation, the mom took to her Facebook page for help:
Dear Black Friends of Social Media,
This clueless white momma is humbly coming to you to ask your help with Haley’s hair. I have asked my friends. I have asked strangers in Publix with kids with cute hair, and I’m still not getting it. We wash once a week. We do the water, leave in conditioner, oil, and hot towel every morning. We’ve tried more products, no products, less products. We are gentle as can be, but she still requires at least 6 minutes of cuddles after the trauma of her daily hair combing. I feel like it looks great for about an hour or two and then it is tangly and clumpy again. This picture is 3 hours into the day. What am I doing wrong? I have literally bought every product that has been recommended to us. I desperately want to get this right!
Stephanie was overwhelmed by the response that her post got. She received dozens of private messages, comments, and words of advice. One woman who Stephanie had never met before happened to see the post, and after sending the frazzled mom a list of suggestions, she decided to take it one step further and come over to Stephanie’s house to give her a tutorial!
Monica Hunter also lives in Georgia and has three daughters, all of whom have the same kind of hair as Haley. This experienced mom showed up at Stephanie’s house armed with a huge basket of hair supplies and got to work.
She came to my home with a basket full of supplies, hair products, combs and headbands. She gave us her time, and advice. She asked for nothing in return and wouldn’t accept my money. By the time she left I had a little more confidence in fixing my daughter’s hair, and most importantly, I felt supported by my new friend.
Haley instantly hit it off with Monica, sitting in her lap as the woman worked on her hair and explained how to take care of it to Stephanie. Stephanie was amazed to learn the sort of simple hair care techniques she never thought about before, and Monica gave step-by-step instructions that Stephanie can easily follow to make her daughter look and feel fabulous.
Throughout the styling session, Monica and Stephanie bonded about much more than just hair, quickly realizing that they have far more in common than they have differences.
Monica and I chatted about hair, marriage, friendship, parenting, education, and race issues. That day, I got so much more than advice and confidence in fixing my daughter’s hair. I made a new friend. I know for a fact that we will continue our relationship past this point. We are already making plans to invite our husbands and children to our next get-together.
After Stephanie updated her Facebook friends with the news about the styling session — along with a selfie, the second post went viral, too! She says at first, she couldn’t understand why the story was getting so much attention…
Then, it clicked. It is newsworthy, because this is so uncommon. So inspirational. In our country, where everything seems so divisive, this quiet act of kindness spoke loudly to people from all walks of life. People are hesitant to reach out to someone who may be different. Conversations are too difficult.
In these tricky times, it’s hard to know what to say. How to respond. People seem so easily offended, so we stop trying to understand each other. We cling to those who think like us. Those who share our beliefs. Those in our same political party. Those who look like us. In the process, we close the others out.
Stephanie hopes that sharing this story of two strangers coming together to help care for a child will encourage others to open up and ask for help, too. For her part, Monica says it was her pleasure to help out, stating, “You all have no clue, that little girl Haley — and Stephanie — blessed me more than I blessed them. I think this opened up an opportunity to create positivity for everybody.”
And yes, they’re already planning their next playdate.
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