Loc’ing it Up

Little A’s came out of the womb with almost no hair at all. It wasn’t until she was almost three that her hair began to grow. Little A’s hair is soft and fine. In the sun, it glistens with hints of red.  When brushed, it can be brushed straight.  When left alone, it curls into large corkscrews. It tangles and knots easily when not braided or combed every day. It will begin to loc after several days of being let free.

A typical morning of grooming sounds like this:

“Ouch!”

“Ouuuuccccchhhh!”

“No more comb, mommy! I can’t do it! I just can’t do it!”

These are the protests of my little girl as I comb her hair.

I remember HATING to get my hair combed. No matter what the size of the comb, I remember the feeling of my head being yanked as my mom attempted to pull the comb through. I remember enduring the cornrows and braids so tight so that they’d last all week. I remember crying. I remember pain.

I don’t want that for my little girl.

I never want her to feel like she has to endure pain in order to “look good.” I never want her to dread a specific part of her body. I never want her to believe that something on her needs to be fixed.

So, I’m contemplating loc’ing her hair. My own hair has been without chemicals for about 10 years and loc’d for five. While sometimes I am annoyed with my hair, mostly due to my own lack of creativity, I think loc’ing it has been the best decision I ever made for it. Hair is never no-maintenance, but five years in I wash every two weeks, quickly retwist, which takes an hour, and the lightly oil and brush every other day. No pain. No dread. (No pun intended.) I can wear it back, out, up, straight, crinkly or curly. And it just keeps growing.

When I’ve contemplated this before, loc-ing my little girl’s hair, and aired my thoughts, I’ve gotten all kinds of opinions, the most oft being “Don’t do it!” When asked why, folks usually reply that loc’ing is permanent, and therefore not a decision a parent should make for a young child because “What if they don’t like it? Then they’ll have to shave their heads!”

I think these opinions have more to do with how people feel about locs than any legitimate concerns about child autonomy.

First, we already make so many decisions about our children that are “permanent” — they wear the clothes we want them to have, their dietary preferences are shaped by ours. And I do my child’s hair almost every day in the way that I want it. She’s only 4. Second, it’s only hair. I’ve rocked the TWA, BFA (Big Fat Afro), braids, twists, and press-and-curls. And, as shown above, Little A is adorable with no hair 🙂

I think people who have these opinions are just not comfortable with locs in general.

They think it’s too “ethnic”, too “black”, too much of a statement maker.

They think putting locs in a child’s hair is like expressing your political views on your children.

So what if it is? If the political view is that I want my little black girl to love her hair, and skip the years of self-hate I had about my hair – what’s the problem?

12 thoughts on “Loc’ing it Up

  1. I definitely think parents have to decide what’s right for their children and families. I’m NOT a parent and I was very tender headed growing up. (A lot of the problem was solved when my mother let me start doing my own hair in elementary school. I got really good at it too).

    I have worn my hair natural for 11 years. That includes the TWA, the big fro and locks since 2007. *love* When I see young children with locks I always think that’s a choice I wouldn’t make for my child b/c it is, at least, somewhat permanent. I feel the same way about young children with perms too. I don’t think I would go in either direction for my child, but as it’s all hypothetical, the only person who can really make that choice is the one living the reality. Rock on!

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  2. You and your baby are beautiful! Do what you think is right for your family, dear.

    I’m locked, and my teen aged daughter has never had her hair straightened in her life. She wears braids or twists (no hair extensions). She wants to lock when she’s sixteen, but wants to wear other styles before choosing one that is permanent. The decision has nothing to do with anyone else except her and our hairdresser (her dad just wants her to be healthy and happy).

    African American women have some deep seated issues related to our hair. Don’t bring that into your home. There’s no right or wrong answer here.

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  3. I wanted to loc my older daughter’s hair when she was a wee bit, but I decided against it because I wanted her to make that decision on her own. There are so many assumptions that come with locs, particularly as it relates to culture and background, and I wanted my girl to be able to speak to why her hair is in locs, and the only way to do that was to let her choose them on her own for whatever her reasons are. When people ask, she has an answer (if she feels like being bothered). She’s been wearing them for about a year and a half now (she’s 12) and she loves them. I love them. And there’s nothing political about it; she just wanted to keep a natural hairstyle that is relatively easy to maintain and allows her hair to grow without having to tug on it every other day. In my house, with my daughter, I thought it necessary for her to choose herself because, like ladybuddha said, it’s her reality. But that’s just my opinion for my kid. You’re certainly entitled to have your own for yours—and I”m proud of you for whatever decision you make because you’re making it for you and your baby.

    (And my goodness—what a lovely little girl you have!!!)

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  4. Hey Toya! I have locs, think they are beautiful, but will admit my first response to your post was “don’t do it!” I was under the impression that our hair texture grows and changes throughout childhood, and my concern is that decisions regarding method of locing etc, might work for her at 4, but maybe not at 6, or 10, or even 12 (assuming she hasn’t yet hit puberty then). I also worry that because they grow so fast, decisions about loc diameter and part spacing might also no longer work as she grows older; sectioning and sizing that is full now might seem sparse and uneven as she grows, even possibly undermining loc integrity or creating permanent damage to her hair follicles.

    In talking about this with my mom (who brought this post to my attention), I also admitted that hair can certainly change after puberty–my hair did during my first pregnancy, although it went back to its original thickness after I delivered–and so those reasons might not justify refraining form locing. And if it did change, you’re right–cutting it off is not a big deal, and it’d probably be great for her to learn that hair is just hair–it’s pretty adornment, but it doesn’t define her worth.

    Finally, not to add more work to your very long list of things to do in order to take care of 2.5 kids, but what would happen if her hair were combed every day? Would that prevent the knotting and tangling? Would it help if you and her father split her hair care during the week (assuming he doesn’t already)? But no judgment here–I refuse to do my daughter’s hair more than once a week because it takes too long, so I totally get why that might not be an option for you.

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  5. Hi all! Thanks so much for your comments, and even more, for your support, and of course most, for saying my baby (and my hair) is beautiful!

    I admit, before I loc’d my own hair I struggled for weeks with the decision, especially as it has to do with permanency. As an adult, it was hard for me to wrap my mind around it, especially as a black woman with hair issues. I think my experience having natural hair of all lengths and styles made it easier for me to think, “What’s the worse that can happen?” and be okay with having to cut it all off. I do think – will she hate me one day if she has to cut it all off, and she looks so different from her friends? On the flip side I think – well, what if all her friends have a perm or otherwise naturally straight hair? Then what? Will I feel bad about her not having a perm? Probably not, if only due to my own young adulthood experience of perms and damage and self-hate.

    Honestly, I think the decision for Little A is easier for me because she is so young. In a way, I’m taking away her ability to choose, because right now, she is pretty much okay with whatever Mama says would be nice. She lacks a certain sense of self awareness. That’s also the reason why I want to instill the love of her hair now, before she does become self-conscious. Little A is already a very strong girl, living in a place where no one looks like her. I don’t know if locs will ever be the thing that truly sets her apart. She’s already set apart.

    @denene: But I also hear the argument about locs being a “different” form of self-expression that folks are going to question, and her ability to have a reasoned response. At what age did you think allowing your daughter to choose was old enough?

    @ORJ: As far as combing every day – it doesn’t matter! And my hubby with a comb is laughable, although he should learn what to do, in case this .5 is a girl. I think my bigger issue with combing is how much she hates it; even when it not hurting her (like, before I even touch her) she is pulling away from it. The only style she loves, without variation, is the pic above with her laying down. It’s footloose and fancy free, just like Little A. But the problem is once its free for a day, it’s hell to comb. Keeping it in ponytails (small ones with braids on the ends) is the only way to minimize the pain. But I do hear you on the logistically issues of parting and size. I hadn’t thought of that.

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  6. it’s helped the pain and breakage for me to only comb my hair when wet and with conditioner in it, using a denman brush. have you tried this? and, does your daughter’s hair get knotted during the day? if so, you might want to try gently finger combing daily then braiding for sleep. but, locs are also fly! so, best of luck, no matter what you and your daughter choose!

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  7. You hair very beautiful! I plan to get my hair healthy and able to be durable and strong enought to withstand anything!

    Love,
    Blithe M.

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  8. I was so glad to find your article! And also to know that someone else was deliberating over the same issue. I am interested in locking my daughter’s hair. She has always been natural & I have been natural and wearing a “fade or college cut” for years. I love it b/c its low maintenance. So it goes without saying that since low-maintenance is my preference, I certainly would be relieved of having to spend 4 to 6 hrs. every other week braiding hair. One of my biggest dilemmas is that her hair texture is so soft and curly that no matter how it is braided it always seems to curl back up even after pressing (just to braid it up). But her loft is so beautiful & luxurious. I would hate to lose that to the locking process. Her hair texture is the same as when she was a baby, literally! I just began braiding it recently to keep it from looking so dried out (my pet-peeve), packed down, & the ends from matting up, throughout the day. I have loved the look of sister-locs for years, & contemplated them for myself. I have decided to look for a salon once we move back to Ca. What is your take on the “fuzz-factor” that is the real culprit here? Will it continue to be an issue with locs?

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  9. If she hates combing then loc it. I did mine and was surprised that my 12 year old wanted hers loc’d as well. She hated straightenings, relaxers,hours of braiding, and just plain combing. If you ask her if she would like her hair like your and she responds yes then do it. Also palm roll logs are not permanant. It takes days to detangle but it can be done.

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