What This White Mom Did to Her Black Daughter’s Hair: The First Trip to the Salon

I had Naomi’s hair in two twists to make it easy for the stylist to work through. Or, so I thought.

As I’ve mentioned before, hair has been a challenge in our trans-racial adoption of our five year old daughter Naomi.  When we got her — three years ago — her head had been shaved clean, giving us a honeymoon period during which time her hair was short, cute, and growing out.  This gave me time to learn how to do certain styles, and deal with criticism.  As you might know, hair in the African American community is a Big. Deal. Consequently, I learned how to do bantu knots, twists, and braids. Eventually, though, she needed a trim… a task that was way beyond my newfound abilities.

After googling “African American hair natural Nashville,” I came up with many hits, but none looked like the right spot.  When I spotted a lady in the mall with hair very similar to my daughter’s, I asked her where she gets her hair done.

“My cousin is a natural hair stylist,” she responded.

Yesterday, we went to see her cousin Jessica at ShearLuxe Salon in downtown Nashville.  We were a little apprehensive, because we’ve heard stories about how long it takes for little girls to get their hair done at salons (I’m talking four to six hours) and heard that it could be very painful.   We prepared Naomi for the experience by telling her about what it would be like and letting her see photos of her stylist in advance.

Jessica Watkins was very helpful, nice, and comforting.  She also knew when to tell us — gently – that she needed some space.  Here’s a narrative of Naomi’s first non-orphanage hair cut.

This is how big Naomi’s hair is when it’s all poofed out!

I thought we were having fun, until I looked closely under the hair and saw tears. Real, honest to goodness, tears.  Eventually, she was sobbing — it was very counter-intuitive to let her sit there suffering when it was only for a hair cut… You would’ve thought by the drama she was having a tooth extraction!

The wash provided a nice change of pace, but it didn’t last long.  She soon tired of the wash too, which consisted of many different rinses and even more de-tangling.

Camille and Austin tried to distract her from the discomfort of the day, but to no avail. I had to take Naomi from the wash bin to “have a talk” outside.  Jessica and her friend Dawn (who sells extensions) all told Naomi they expected her to obey too.  Our talk outside got Naomi to a less frantic state.  Finally, the stylist — very gently — suggested we leave.

Once I got used to the idea of leaving my child in downtown Nashville without me, things started looking up. Naomi quit crying after we left, since she no longer had an audience, and the stylist was able to completely straighten her hair. I’d never seen her hair like this in my life!

Okay, we only hid out next door.  The end result took about four hours, which is longer than it will take next time. Jessica gave us some braids that will accommodate swimming.

Overall, it was a great experience and Jessica at ShearLuxe was wonderful and wise.

Naomi loved her hair so much she said, “When can we come back?”

Just as soon as my heart recovers, baby.

(Yes, this post would’ve better been titled, “What a Stylist Did to my Black Daughter’s Hair,” but I wanted to keep the series all the same!)

You might also enjoy:

What this White Mother Did to Her Black Daughter’s Hair: Bantu Knots

What this White Mother Did to Her Black Daughter’s Hair: Beads and Braids

I’m a White Republican Raising a Black Child: Deal with It

Politics and Adoption: Following Up

Dear Black Women, Please Stop Giving Me Advice About My African Daughter’s Hair

Update on the Target Cashier Who Criticized my Black Daughter’s Hair

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About Nancy French

Nancy French is a three time New York Times Best Selling Author.

  • Jada Nicks Edwards

    That is the sweetest thing, Nancy!! I LOVE reading about Naomi and got a good chuckle once when you took a picture of her “Don King” hair! She is gorgeous with her new ‘do!!
    PS. I had no idea how time consuming black hair can be until I met my wonderful coworker. She also has long thick hair and spends a LOT of time getting it braided and such. One Monday AM she came to work with damp hair, and told me she has washed it Sunday night…and it was still damp!! WOW!! :)
    Hang in there!! As Naomi gets older she will be able to help keep it up with you! :)

  • Fuskha

    Another example of why white folks should leave black kids alone!

  • Evangeline Claire

    Excuse me? Wow. How is this an example of that? She was crying because her mom was there – it has nothing to do with her mom being white. Tell that child to her face that it’s because her mom was white.

    Um no, it wasn’t. Many black children go to salons with their BLACK parents, and they also cry, if they’re like her.

    In this case, it was because there was an audience, and her hair turned out wonderful, so please think before you speak and stop being such a racist.

  • http://www.NancyFrench.com/ Nancy French

    Fuskha, you mean, you would rather Naomi starve in Africa than have to be taken to a salon by us?


  • momof3intenn

    I really wanted to respond to that comment this morning, but I told myself not to feed the trolls. The only reason I would have responded was to support you, so I’ll just do that directly. I think you and your family are wonderful for adopting. I am so blessed by the adoptive families I know, some having adopted from China, some from Russia, some from Africa, and some from right here at home. God bless you for taking care of the orphans as we are called to do. May you always remember those of us who admire you when you feel the judgement of other women who disapprove of how you do your daughter’s hair or even disapprove of the fact that you are your daughter’s mother. Blessings to you and your whole family.

  • http://www.NancyFrench.com/ Nancy French

    Thank you, Mom of Three in TN! I really appreciate the nice words! Means a lot!

  • Julie E. Osburn

    Naomi’s hair is beautiful, as always. And you are a great mom, as always :-) Love you Nancy. P.S. Esther just said she likes of Naomi’s hair…nothing like approval from a 3 year old!

  • http://dirtyprettythangs.com/ The Pretty Brown Girl

    I think her white mommy did an excellent job. She took her to a stylist experienced with natural Black/Afro-textured hair who was gentle, courteous and efficient. In the end, she had a happy, well-styled kid & the stylist gained a new customer. All went well. I know a lot of white adoptive parents of Black kids get it wrong, but in this case, Mama got it right.

  • Momtobe_yesme

    Ma’am most black women do not put this much love into their own hair. How dare they criticize your efforts that are clearly working? She has a head full of gorgeous hair but who am I? Just another black woman.

  • Momtobe_yesme

    Im offended by the name calling and labels. Those orphans are children try addressing them as such.

  • momof3intenn

    Momtobe, I think you may have misunderstood my comment. The “trolls” I was referring to are the rude people on the Internet who make ugly comments. I would never refer to a child as a troll if that is what you were thinking. I admire the French family, and I think they are doing an excellent job raising their daughter.

  • Leila

    I wonder. Is Naomi’s hair kinky? Extra curly or is it more wavy?

  • Celeste Clark

    I a black women & I see nothing wrong with Nancy taking her daughter to the salon to get a trim. Most black little girl cry the first time at a salon, I know I did as a child. Nancy is doing the right thing she learning about her daughters hair doing what she can letting others do what she can’t. Growing up i had 3B curls & my mom had a relaxer all her life, so she didn’t know how to do my hair but she did it to the best of her ability & took notes from my dads sister who had hair like me or took me to a salon for holidays. All I’m trying to say is most parents have a learning curve unless their child hair is expectantly like theirs. Last but not least I’m happy Naomi have a home good family that loves her & cares The last thing I’m worry about whether her hair is did. & if ppl like you think it is a issue offer to do her hair for Nancy like I do for my bi-racial niece. (not that I think it is a issue her mom just always ask me to do it.)