My 3-year-old boy and my 13-month-old girl both have naturally curly hair. It’s funny how genes work.
Jrue’s birth fuzz gave way around age five months to one soft puff pastry atop his head. His aerodynamic coif was shaped like a tomato pin cushion or a pouf ottoman, and it was just darling. He was known in our family for that distinct bouffant, as we couldn’t quite figure out why it grew in like that. His donut soon snowballed into a forest of coils, still reaching upwards toward the ceiling, but just in the fashion of Sideshow Bob’s from “The Simpsons.” I knew early on that I had to maintain its treatment and care in much the same way as I did my own curls, especially when trying to pull it all towards the ground, but I didn’t realize how often that torture was going to stifle my resolve not to cut his hair. I believe Jrue began to despise me then.
Jai, on the other hand, was a bald baby and did not have much hair to pinch until around her sixth month. Like her brother, Jai’s hair accrued in a nest atop her head; however, the rest of it all the way around was wildly much shorter, as if it had all been rubbed off. It was just shortly before Jai’s first birthday when we discovered a hint of length, and my sister-in-law was successful in configuring some real, gravity-friendly ponytails. Jai’s hair, having collected a wavy pattern, has now sprouted little curled spools, each in the diameters of a pencil, but keeps a mostly frizzy texture. In the curly world, “frizzy” means moisture-starved, so I began a regimen with her that works intermittently.
Having curly hair as an adult is a job. Managing the ringleted heads of two toddlers is like public transportation on a record-hot holiday weekend: it’s noisy, it’s cluttered, and it takes twice as long to get to the destination. I literally sweat my way through their hair care routines every week much like I would in cardiovascular training.
My husband sniped down Jrue’s curls just a few months before his second birthday. My co-washing, rinsing, conditioning, combing, and moisturizing calisthenics had become increasingly frustrating for all parties involved, particularly when I had to follow the weather and apply more product when humidity swelled.
It had become a 30-minute process of screams, crying, and protest gestures, just as he began to fear water on his face. It got bad. The task resembled various sports methodologies.
I’d D him up. Throw a lob. Set a screen.
I’d make a sack. Signal a fair catch. Recover a fumble.
He would fight me.
My attempts felt as if I was inciting some kind of psychological complex or embedded anxiety in my child. I couldn’t stand the thought of him growing up and dreading someone touching his hair.
When I started veering off the weekly process to avoid the really pitiful tears and reverent fright on his face, his curls suffered, and the detangling procedure was longer and more laborious the next time. I no longer had the stamina or the mental toughness.
Since Jai’s curls still have not yet evened out, and since I have ridden this carousel before, she has not been subjected to the ordeal that her brother sustained. I complete the same care formalities on her as I adopted for Jrue while paying special attention to accomplish what is called the LOC approach. “LOC is an abbreviation for leave in conditioner, oil and cream. The name itself signifies the products a curly should apply, as well as the order in which to apply them, making it an easy-to-remember curly routine. What sets the LOC method apart from other methods is the layering of products in a specific order to maximize moisture retention.” (NaturallyChelsea, 2015)
She does not have the overwhelming trepidation of water splashing in her face as Jrue does, so my athletic thoroughness with Jai’s hair is more mental, more debilitative with distraction.
“Hey, batta batta batta,” she yells in her baby babble. She holds the metaphorical baseball as long as possible in her glove. Then she steals bases and hits home runs.
We wrestle a lot, resulting in substantial violations of position. Jai will form a bridge to get away from my probing hands in her hair, which means that I have to put her through a leg riding series until her hairstyle, usually pigtails, is finished.
And then I need a nap.
I must say, I could be in a worse slot than to be the stewardess to my children’s hair mastery and self-sufficiency, regardless of how strenuous the processes are right now when they are young. They must know that their curlies are not impossible to care for. On the contrary, curly hair is quite the calling. I could not ask for a better “free” workout.
NaturallyChelsea. “LOC Method: The Routine EVERY Curly Should Know.” Naturally Curly, Aug. 31, 2015, https://www.naturallycurly.com/curlreading/kinky-hair-type-4a/loc-method-the-routine-every-curly-should-know/. Accessed May 26, 2017.