When a haircut’s not just a haircut

As with all things related to Remy’s care, we have a team of advisors who’ve educated us on how black hair and skin care are different. Shockingly, there’s no one right answer – same as white skin and hair care. 🙂 Many flavors!

We like to start with the points we hear from multiple sources. For instance, mixing oil and cream moisturizers. For Remy, cocoa oil with Aquaphor works best. For hair, oil vs. no oil camps are still waging war over our heads. For the moment, we leave in a drop of conditioner but don’t oil. His hair’s changing though, so we never say never.

Remy’s hair was getting long, so it was time for a trim. Multiple parents have told us just to buzz him at home; there’s no art form to a buzz cut, and that’s all he’s going to need for quite some time. I know a lot of white parents find a home haircut crazy, but these sources are solid. And from our experience, not wrong. Also, when you buzz tight curls like this, they don’t scatter all over like tiny pieces of finer hair. It comes off in little clumps – so way easier cleanup!

We know Remy hates loud machines like the mixer and vacuum, so we weren’t shocked that the trimmer sound makes him hysterical. Still, he could not have been much more upset. Dave did a solid job under the circumstances, but it wasn’t perfect. What to do? I shouted out to Facebook. I should’ve been more specific. Sigh. Only by becoming white parents of a black kid did we realize how much learning we had to do. We’re not neurotic, but we are aware now that our first instinct may not be right. Many comments back made us roll our eyes – well-intended and sweet but not spoken from experience.

A black friend kindly offered to come over and check out the coif. She cut it shorter, Remy sobbed despite many distractions, then just needed a good hug and was fine. She noticed his hair was a little dry but otherwise said we’re doing great. She also told us not to bother shouting out on Facebook and just to call her. I sheepishly agreed, with great relief. We don’t know her super well but like her a lot! I just don’t want her to think I’m stalking her for hair tips alone. 🙂

Handling race and adoption in real life is different than what we expected. We took the adoption training and steeled ourselves for awkward conversations, weird looks, and nastiness – intended and otherwise. We get very little of that. Instead, we get a lot of misunderstandings about stuff like this: haircuts, skincare and how to talk about our differences. People fall all over themselves to be respectful of our kids and our family. Frankly, we find ourselves trying to make other people comfortable more than protecting our kids’ ears! Something that makes me happy all the time. I understand their self-consciousness, as I sometimes feel awkward when I relate to black adults as a black son’s mom. I worry that we’re doing something dumb that will set Remy apart when he’s older – that we’re making ‘white’ assumptions about his care or something and our friends are too polite to tell us. From experience, no one seems to judge us at all, other than some gentle chiding from an old friend here or there. Still, the worry is there. (To be fair, I worry about everything – very Chicken Little.)

We also sometimes feel self-conscious around other white parents of black kids. We’ve come across instances where we make very different choices – startlingly so. As I promised my brother, we’re not doing African drum circle. Remy’s a proud American boy with a mixed heritage like everyone else, and we’ll celebrate that through school and language and our community choices. We live in a great neighborhood where you see all kinds of people all the time. (In fact, Remy has a black mom fan club at the local grocery store. Apparently he’s becoming as big a flirt as his sister.) Still, we see two extremes: ignore race or overemphasize it – and everything in between!

I’m leaning heavily on the “we” here, as I can only share our view and experiences in the short time we’ve been a multiracial family. These thoughts don’t pour out as I type, but float around a lot in my mind and our conversation. What is the right amount or blend of emphasis? More importantly, how on earth do you discuss it gracefully with friends, families, strangers (it happens!) and your kids?!

For now, we take it haircut by haircut. And for now, those haircuts will be in his high chair in the kitchen, with Dave doing the buzzing and me doing the holding. Hopefully Remy will get used to the sound, and someday he’ll probably outgrow this routine and need a barber. But for now? We will not be taking our black son to a white salon or anywhere else for a buzz cut.

By the way, he looks adorable!”

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