OBSERVATIONS · physical appearance · reading the world

Embracing My Curly Hair So My Daughter Will Too

There are very few photos of me and Isabelle with our backs to the camera. This one, which my father took as I was showing Isabelle an app that makes animal sounds, features both of our curly ‘dos.

“I’d like you to cut my hair to curl,” I told Lani, my stylist, when I went for a haircut in late June.

“Really?” she asked raising her eyebrows.  She’s been cutting my hair for the better part of the past three years and I’ve always been all about long layers, blow-outs, and having her flat iron my hair.

“Well, it’s too hot and humid for me to keep wasting my time straightening my hair everyday,” I confessed telling a partial truth.

“Okay. How much do you want to take off?”

You can figure out where the conversation went from there.  The balmy weather we’ve been having is only part of the reason I’m going curly.  The real reason I’ve decided to embrace my natural curls is because I want my daughter to do the same.

When Isabelle was a baby (i.e., before she reached a year old), she would willingly sit in her Nap Nanny at the doorway of my bathroom, and watch quietly as I blew out and straightened my hair.  As she got older, her willingness to sit and watch dwindled.  Therefore, I found myself trying to do these things before she woke up or after she went to bed.  What a waste of sleeping baby time!  There are so many other things I’d rather be doing (e.g., reading, writing, catching up with family/friends on the phone, exercising) or should be doing (e.g., paying bills, working on the manuscript I haven’t touched in over six months).  Why was I wasting my precious time straightening my hair?

To that end, should Isabelle become interested in watching me straighten my hair with the same rapt attention she used to have, what will she glean from the experience?  Three things came to mind:

  1. Mommy should be playing with me.
  2. Mommy isn’t happy with how she looks.
  3. I have curly hair like Mommy and I want my hair to be straight like Mommy’s too.

NONE of these three messages are ones I want her to internalize.  First of all, if she’s watching me straighten my hair, then shame on me.  I should be playing with her.  Second, I am pretty happy with how I look.  (Sure I’d like to lose a few more pounds, but I’d never say that in front of Isabelle.  I’ve come to believe that straightening my hair in front of her will lead her to believe that I’m unhappy with who I am.  Not the kind of message I want to send to her.)  Third, I love Isabelle’s curly hair!  There’s no way I would do anything to damage her beautiful hair with the kind of heat one would have to use to straighten it.

One of the many things I’m teaching my daughter to do is to read the world.  Right now, mommy is a huge part of her world.  Therefore, I want her to read me in a way that makes her realize I am satisfied with who I am.  Hence, the straightening products on my bathroom vanity have been tucked away and replaced with products for curly hair.  My flat iron hasn’t seen the light of day in nearly two weeks.  I’m now walking through life as the curly haired woman I am.

Inevitably, I will smooth out my hair again.  Maybe it’ll be when we go to synagogue for the high holidays.  Or maybe it’ll be the next time my husband and I hire a babysitter for a date night.  (For the record, my husband, who also has curly hair, prefers my hair curly.)  However, I will think twice before picking up my blow dryer and flat iron again.  I want Isabelle to see me embrace my curls so she will love her own (and be happy with who she is when she looks in the mirror).


13 thoughts on “Embracing My Curly Hair So My Daughter Will Too

  1. Love! I do my best to watch what I say around my daughter, but what a great reminder that our children notice what we do as much as, and perhaps more than, what we do or do not say. Thank you for sharing.

  2. Interesting points made .. love your post and may be styling my hair in future with additional perspective. But .. my naturally curly hair was a mess when I was younger so I’m proud to finally know how to handle as well and be able to wear well straight or curly and that’s an equally valuable lesson .. or at least would have been for me much sooner than it was! My dad reminded me this past weekend as we were looking through old photos with my 11 year old daughter, he used to call me brillo pad! Love your post.

    1. @conversationswithacowboy: My hair is frizzy, coarse, and hard to manage too. That’s why I like straight hair. It looks sleek and is super-easy, once it’s styled. That being said, my stylist taught me several tricks to getting it to look better curly. (She suggested a diffuser, which I’ve owned and misused for years.) I invested in two salon quality products for my curly hair. I’ve always used drugstore gel in the past. These two products made a world of difference, which I hate to admit.
      Good luck embracing your curly hair!

  3. Wow Stacey,
    Interesting perspective here. I don’t blame you for wanting to use your time to do things that matter more (bills, work) or most (Isabelle).

    My summer-do is straight and pony tail-I don’t have to dry it-so that helps conserve time. My hair is really straight-and it seems like Nattie has my hair-except maybe a little bit of wave when it’s wet.

    I noticed salon grade products do make a difference-it’s just that it’s not easy on the pocket book!

    But the real point here, sending the message that you want to send to Isabelle is admirable! Comfort with the skin you’re in! That’s great-thanks for being a great role model in so many ways (mom, writer, teacher, blogger)!


  4. Exactly right about the modeling. I think we have to be so careful what we say & do in front of all kids. I gave up the blow dryer quite a while ago, & hopefully a good haircut is all I need. Stacey, I’ve been on so many rough & tough trips with my students, sailing, hiking into rain forests, climbing, rafting, etc. I wanted to model for them that how we acted was much more important in our lives than that we looked pretty or cool or ? Even being sweaty & dirty was not always so bad! And accomplishing personal challenges was good! I love that you are thinking about this for Isabelle, & the bonus is that you do save time too!

  5. Stacey,

    I didn’t even realize that your hair was curly. I really enjoyed reading your thought process behind this decision, as well as the link to making sure to not talk about wanting to lose weight in front of her. Our words and actions can have such a big impact. I appreciated the reminder through your post!

    1. @Mrs. V: You’d never know b/c there are so few pics of me with curly hair. I suppose that’s going to change.
      Anyway, I think it’s all about being intentional about the things we say and do in front of our kids. If one can watch their language in terms of eradicating four-letter words from their vocabulary, then surely one can watch the nonverbal messages sent to kids.

  6. I have curly hair, too. You can see I am wearing it in a hat because of the humidity. I, too, would rather spend time with my kiddos, read, and write before I took the half hour it takes to blow out the curls. My girls have all developed my curls in adolescence. I have been trying to model acceptance. But, it sure is nice to know I’m not the only one who struggles with this.

  7. You have a very good point. Love your curls they are you as they are your daughter. And three cheers for Deva Curly girl products. They make being curly so much easier. I stopped fighting the curls five years ago. I don’t think I’ll ever go back.

  8. Stacey, this is such an honest post and speaks to an awareness that I wish other parents shared. (I particularly loved the insight you shared in the aside about weight, too…oh, that speaks to me.) There is so much love and respect for your daughter here. I read a blog post earlier today that mentioned envying a best friend because of her bountiful straight hair. In response I’d said that I always envied the tousled, curly look—like your husband. Here’s to curls, yours and Isabel’s: HATS OFF TO YOU!

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