Hard and Holy and Humbling

I never dreamed that adopting a little girl who was African American would change my life the way it has.

I never dreamed that something as seemingly simple as doing her hair would change me the way it has.

I never dreamed that I'd cry over my feelings of inadequacy or that my husband would get frantic calls from me because I couldn't get all of the pureed banana out of her hair.  (It really happened people.)

I never dreamed that in confronting my hair-styling inadequacies, I'd actually have to confront my parenting inadequacies.

I never dreamed.

Today, we put Alivea in the car and drove her an hour away to a sweet lady's house who patiently sat with me and my husband and explained Alivea's hair to me.  She lovingly washed, conditioned and detangled her hair.  She sectioned it off and asked me to feel how soft it was. She twisted it and dried it and explained exactly how I should care for it tonight and tomorrow.

No judgment, no looks of disdain or disbelief that I hadn't figured this out in the eight years that she's been my daughter.

I have to be honest and say that Alivea's hair has been a huge stumbling block for me.  And not just in the expected "oh gosh, I have to do her hair again" but in the "oh geez, we have to go to Wal-mart. How does her hair look?" way.

We get looks and not just looks because she's black and we're white but looks because I don't have her hair figured out and sometimes it lays funny and we do our best and we always tell her her hair is beautiful even when it lays funny and isn't braided as tight as it should be.

It's been eight years of learning and more money spent on hair products than I've spent on my own in my thirty-six years.

It's been eight years of lots of movies and tv and lots and lots of fruit snacks on hair day.

It's been eight years of learning the difference between conditioners, leave in conditioners, clarifying shampoos, plating and braiding and all of the other lingo that this white girl has never had to understand.

But you know the biggest thing- it's been eight years of humbling.  It's been eight years of asking and learning and driving to other people's houses and late night calls and text messages and blogs and friends bringing me samples from hair shows and lots and lots of Youtube videos.  It's been eight years of admitting that I don't have it all figured out.  And I don't know if I ever will.

I have friends I might not have had all because I am white and my daughter is black and I need help with her hair.  I have learned more and I've cried more because of this experience.

I hope when Alivea is twenty and we're looking back through pictures, I hope Alivea can see love. Her hair might not look awesome in every picture.  I guess that's just a burden of childhood that we all have to bear.  (I have my scary perm pictures and my bowl cut pictures.) But I hope she can see love.  One day when she has a little girl of her own, she'll understand.

In the meantime, this process is changing me.  The work is hard but it's also holy and it is oh, so humbling.