10/07/2008

To Cut or Not to Cut


Yes, that is the question of the day. Seems everyone has an opinion of whether or not it is time to cut Cullen's hair. Daddy has been ready for weeks, while Mommy was not in a hurry to say goodbye to those beautiful baby curls. But over the last few weeks I have had several comments from well meaning family members that, perhaps, it's time. So there lies the question. To cut or not to cut?

Seems like a simple enough question, but with it comes a bit more complexity. As I often do with his hair, I have consulted various African American friends and coworkers (as well as strangers) with this question. The answer from them was a resounding, NO! It appears that the first hair cut for AA babies is typically held off until one year of age. I have heard everything from it's tradition, to it will change the texture of his hair, it will give him "bad hair" and then my favorite....it will make him stutter. My conclusion? It is purely cultural.

Which is where the complexity and questions begin. Although Cullen is half black and half white, society views him as black. Fair enough, I'm cool with that. But the fact is that he is being raised in a white family in a predominently white neighborhood, and (with the exception of a few friends in the adoption community) around mostly caucasian friends. I get the idea behind fostering his pride is his heritage and culture. But to what extent? He is also half Italian. Does that mean I should serve sauce on Sundays? I guess my question is where/what is the appropriate balance?

So, to parents out there raising children of another culture, what do you do or do you plan to do in order to incorporate your childs heritage? How do you celebrate differences without making your child feel different?

As for the hair....Mommy caved. I called a local salon who specialized in AA children's hair, but they wouldn't give me an appointment :-( Said he was too young. So we stopped in a few salons at the mall. And guess what. Daddy chickened out! Appears he was all talk all along. I guess he isn't ready either. So for now, the hair stays, but the questions it raises remain. So I would love to hear from some other families out there!

Oh and lastly, Cullen started saying "Mumma" this weekend. Is it possible for my heart to swell any larger with love for this boy!

10 comments:

honor22 said...

We are in the process of adopting transracially. We have the hair discussion already and we don't even have our son yet. My daughter and I love the look of dreadlochs. We want to experiment with that. My husband is bald and wants his son to go with that look.

You're not alone!

Good luck.

Erin

Life with my BOYS! said...

This is one that I grapple with...but have decided that after talking with AA co workers and to Christian at STAR that we are going to celebrate his human factor. Teach him to respect others while standing up for his principles, teach him to love and be loved, and teach him to have good social skills and manners~just as we will teach his brother. As far as culture goes, he is American, I hope to teach him how to celebrate this country we live in and the values that we are given due to our laws. Yes, one day he will encounter prejudice but I think at one time or anther we all do, fostering a positive self esteem will do a lot for that. I am aware that he may be called names because of his heritage, but others are called things due to weight, height, glasses etc...all that said we do expose him to multiple ethnic groups through books, magazines, community events and we will take a lead from him as he gets older and can help with those decisions. I, like you, don't want to make him feel like he is different, because after all he is a part of our family he is accepted and yes, he does have sauce maybe not each Sunday but many :)

As far as his hair...I looked at a lot of young AA boys at school and in the community. It seemed that most wore their hair in a fade style or close brush~style cut. Honestly, I think Jake's hair looked better and felt better after we had it cut~when the dry fuzzies fell onto the floor I knew we had made the "right" decision. I would look for a barber, we did a clipper cut, with me using the old MCCC desensitization trick of holding the beard trimmer to his head while he sat in a chair~he got used to the sound and feel, the haircut went v v well and has ever since!
Good Luck! Oh, a co worker suggested Blue Magic so I am going to try that this weekend. It is a coconut based conditioner that she said I should only need to use every 2-3 days! I'll let you know.

Laurice said...

I'm waiting to cut Devin's hair. He's still missing some in the back anyway! But mostly because the texture is not consistent and that takes time. As far as incorporating his heritage, I live in a somewhat diverse neighborhood and have some AA friends so a lot will happen naturally. My main plan is to prepare him for the prejudices he will inevitably face as an AA male but at the same time be tolerant of those different from him. No easy task but I feel a very important one. All we can hope for is to raise strong confident men and prepare them as best we can to face the world.
That's great that Cullen says mumma! It would melt my heart too!

M, G, and AJ said...

We waited until AJ turned 1, but honestly, it wasn't because he's part black. I just loved his curly 'fro. Monte had a conference in NYC right after AJ's first b-day so I found a kids' salon on the upper west side and took him there. The woman who cut his hair was Puerto Rican and had exactly the same kind of hair as he does. She gave me haircare tips. Since his curls are pretty forgiving, we have been cutting his hair ever since whenever he starts to look frizzy. The texture of his hair has not changed yet - it's still fine and baby soft. If he wants it all cut off sometime, I will cry, but I'll do it. Since daddy is bald, I'm sure he'll want to look like him at some point!

As far as fostering his identity, for us it comes down to this: he's a child of God, and so are we. The world will see his color and possibly be unkind to him because of it, but it's what God sees that truly matters. We are in a much more diverse area now and I think that will help, too. We've found a great church where there are a good number of other transracial families, either by birth or adoption. We'll deal with his questions as they come and always stress that he has value because of God's love.

Colette said...

Hey girl! We are not cutting at this time...and he is 14 months today...I am not ready...although his hair is really straight with what looks like a hair piece, i am still not ready. I It is getting long in the back...if it were up to my mother she would cut! Go with you gut! Call me!!!

Amy said...

Can I say I am jealous?

At 4 months, Leo still has virtually no hair! We're waiting for his curls to come in!

I think you should cut, knowing that Cullen's hair seems to grow quickly. You'll get to see how he'll look with a fade or brush cut and then you'll know your options. Of course Cullen will be equally adorable, but then you'll have faced the unknown.

Of course, you could always wait a few months...

Debbie B said...

I know I'll likely wait as long as I can with Izzy. I won't be ready to let her baby look go.

As far as integrating her heritage, she's hispanic and black. Half my family is hispanic so I know that won't be an issue and I plan on taking her to a salon for AA women when I do need to cut her hair. And then when she gets ready for makeup similar. Of course you can't do that with Cullen. But I'm trying to find a few things that are normal for a AA girl growing up and do those with her as well. And I think having friends of the same race is a great idea. We as of yet only have a few AA acquaintances.

Julie said...

Hey Sue, hmmm. Its a tough one. I read a lot about hair and "hairitage" Bad joke. :) I don't know if it matters as much for little boys as girls. and Katrina is full AA, but most assume she is bi-racial when she is just with me or just with Dave. Apparently, hair is a BIG deal. And it wouldn't be culturally acceptable for a little girl to get her hair cut short. etc. I'm aware of the 1 year rule. and I did wait to do the trim. I was secretly kind of scared of the suprstition and it was just kind of fun to go along with it. In your case, I would probably have fun and learn how to do twists and stuff. Don't know how hubby would respond, but they actually look pretty cool. :)

Anonymous said...

What time is the sauce on Sunday?

Anonymous said...

We cut our son's hair at 8 months old (after agonizing over our decision just as you are doing). He is full African-American and his hair was about 7 inches long, thick, and starting to get very matted. We decided that he was a baby first and African American second, so we needed to do what was best for him as a baby. Sitting for an hour getting his hair combed out and styled was not best for an 8-month-old. He has had 4 haircuts since then and is only 19 month old. We have never once regretted our decision.

Good luck!