I'll be honest. As vanilla parents to a chocolate baby, we are naturally CLUELESS when it comes to black hair. It's been an entirely new, fascinating subject to learn, and I've really enjoyed opening myself up to another culture through it. There are many different products and lines of thought on caring for ethnic hair, but there was one thing ALL of our african american brothers and sisters were in agreement on:
You don't cut his hair until he's 1.
Being as clueless as we were, we had no idea this tradition existed. As we asked around, it seems like there were lots of varying reasons and some superstitions for this rule, but basically, we were told it would change the texture of the hair from soft to brittle.
Say no more.
I'm not about to break that rule, no matter how high Jameson's hair continues to climb. (ha!) Because what's more important to me than my son's appearance is honoring and incorporating his culture into our own, and this was an easy, no brainer for us. No way were his soft little curls going to be clipped.
Until his birthday last week!
So this was the moment! Granted, I'd had an entire YEAR to figure out where we should take him when this day came, but did I have ANY idea where we were going the day of??? Nope. I'd been asking various folks where they'd recommend, and though there were plenty of capable folks whose names we were given, we both felt pretty strongly about going to a black salon/barbershop.
We've opted for black salons/barbershops not just because we think they'd do a better job on his hair, but because as a transracial family, it's important that Jameson is not always the one in the minority. We want him to have LOTS of opportunities to be in and around black culture, to gain another dimension of who he is. Being black certainly won't be his entire identity, but it will be a large one. And an important one. (Just like Caroline's alopecia doesn't define the entirety of who she is, it certainly plays a large role in her identity process.) It's also just as valuable for Marc and I to be around and in black culture, too. Whether they realize it or not, they are just as much "my" people now. :)
So the next morning, I had narrowed things down to two places in town, but this was just SO outside of my expertise! How did I know where to go, afterall?
I was a little nervous walking in the salon, as anyone would be when you enter into another cultural experience completely foreign to your own. I'll never forget the echoing sound of my boots as I stepped across the hardwood floors of the foyer and into the spacious open room of the salon.
Suddenly, I saw a salon filled with wonderful, smiling folks, all with skin as dark and velvety rich as Jameson's. Marc and I instantly felt at ease. At home.
This was exactly what we had been hoping for.
"Hello!" they warmly greeted us. "What can we do for you?"
I'm sure we were quite the sight to their eyes! Well, I'm white, I wanted to start off apologizing.... (he he!) but instead I chose my words a little more carefully. :)
"This is our son, Jameson,..."
"Hi Jameson! Well, hello, Jameson!" the place erupted before I could finish my sentence. It was like they knew my son already, in a way that I cannot. They took him in INSTANTLY. We LOVED it.
Beautiful beyond words.
"...and he is one year old today, so we'd like him to get him his first haircut," I finished. And then, the nervous, white mama in me started speaking in rapid fire, "But I'm not ready to chop it all off!, and I still want him to have his soft curls!," I nervously announced to the entire place.
As if they ALL needed to hear your insecurities over his hair, Amy.
They, however, were all very understanding and excited to be there for Jameson's big moment.
"Y'all from here?" one of the stylists asked us. I'm sure they didn't quite know WHAT to think of us! Not sure how many black-and-white families have walked through those doors before.
This is Andrea, Jameson's first stylist. She's a mom to three children, the oldest being in his twenties.
And this picture is a great reminder of why we needed to be there in the first place. :)
(I'll be honest, I was a little embarrassed taking him with his hair so out of control like that. I'm sure I was confirming every stereotype in their mind...)
As Andrea started working her magic, this is what ensued. The poor boy LOST it. (yes, that's my hand trying to feed him some puffs, thinking it might help keep his mind off of things. Umm, it didn't.)
Big ol' crocodile tears.
The stylist next to us must have noticed our distress as he gestured to Jameson and said, "Don't y'all worry. ALL the little ones do this."
Well, okay, that made me feel a little better. At least this wasn't happening because my son's head had thusfar been left to the hands of clueless, white parents. ;)
His crying continued on and on, becoming hysterical. At that point, Andrea stopped, picked him up, and tried to calm him down. It wasn't helping.
She handed him to me, and I tried calming him. Didn't work.
He stretched his arms out toward Marc.
And the most beautiful thing happened next.
As soon as he was placed in his Daddy's arms, Jameson's cries fell completely silent. He laid his head down on Marc's shoulder where he knew everything would be alright.
He received the comfort that only his Daddy's embrace could give him.
It was a moment Marc and I will never forget, with everyone in the salon as our witnesses. "Well," one person commented approvingly, "he just needed his Daddy."
Yes, his Daddy. We could've cried. How are we so richly blessed to be parents to Jameson?
Andrea handed him a brush and continued cutting. It was the perfect distraction.
He tried brushing his own hair with it at one point. :)
And this is what I love. As soon as Andrea finished cutting his hair, she set Jameson back into the chair and pulled out HER phone to take pictures.
Of my son.
She got my number and texted me one of her snapshots. The owner of the salon came up to me and asked for my address so that they could mail us a "first haircut" certificate. So, so sweet.
Speaking of so, so sweet.... he looks so grown up!!! (I love Andrea's face in the mirror here-- can't you see the warmth? And look at his sweet expression back to her.)
My little guy, I may not look like I should be your mama,
but I'm so happy I AM!
You are STUCK like glue to me.