I want to write a little something about hair brushing and body autonomy. When I was pregnant one of the things I was looking forward to was having a little girl I could dress pretty and do her hair. It was really important to me that her hair would look healthy and shiny and well maintained with pretty little clips and bows in it. I didn’t think much about how I would do this, I guess I just assumed my daughter (if I had a girl) would also want her hair to look pretty and would sit nicely every morning for me to do it!
When Rayne was old enough to tell me she didn’t want me to brush her hair I was conflicted. I didn’t want to tell her that having nicely brushed hair would make her look pretty or beautiful as I wanted her to know that beauty is more than just appearance and plus she was beautiful no matter what her hair looked like. Young girls have enough pressure from social media etc these days, I did not want to add to this pressure at such a young age. It also didn’t feel right to me to make her sit and have her hair brushed when she didn’t want to. For what reason would I be making her? To appease me, her grandparents, her friend’s parents, teachers?? So that I wouldn’t get judged as a parent for not brushing my child’s hair? All these things didn’t seem as important to me as my daughter’s right to say “no”, her control over her own body; her autonomy.
You see, I want my daughter’s to know that they can say “no” whenever they want to. They can say no to their friends if they don’t wan to play something that doesn’t feel right to them, they can say no to drugs if they want to, they can say no to sex if they want to. How can I help them to understand and learn this if I am forcing them to do something they do not want, for the purpose of making them look a certain way; a way that is socially acceptable.
This is why I have never forced my children to allow me to brush their hair (except for when Rayne has had head lice).
I have had comments and looks from people about Rose’s hair being dreadlocked and about Rayne’s hair being dry or about it being shaved on the sides. I have seen little girls with silky, moist curls and have doubted myself for allowing my girls to look what some people would consider to be unkempt. I have been close to bribing them to allow me to brush their hair or scaring them by telling them it would need to be shaved if they didn’t let me brush it. I am so thankful that I did not go ahead and do these things as it would have been for the benefit of others, not the benefit of my children, who I want to grow up knowing that their body is theirs and theirs only.
Rose hadn’t wanted me to brush her hair for over 2 months and last night when watching tv in bed I asked her if I could brush it. Expecting her to say “nah” as she usually did, I was shocked when she said “ok Mummy”. She sat on the bed for over an hour while I combed out every single dreadlock. She didn’t moan or ask me to stop once!! If she had asked me to stop I would have, even if I was half way through but she didn’t. All the doubts I had disappeared with every knot I combed out of her hair. I will admit, I was relieved that the knots came out quite easily and Rose was happy to see how long her hair had grown but most of all I felt glad that I had not forced nor bribed her to get her hair brushed to “look pretty”. After all, it is her body and her choice!!
Do you have any body autonomy struggles with your children? I would love to hear about them..