Fixing My Daughters’ Hair
I taught myself to French braid my daughters’ hair this summer. Trophies, diplomas…you can have them all. I won’t forget seeing my daughter’s hair in braids.
“I am now a real mother” I laughed to myself.
I didn’t realize hair was such a big thing to me. I never counted myself as trendy, fussy, or high maintenance when it comes to anything fashionable. But apparently…I care a lot.
I love to fix their hair.
This is not a new phenomenon either. When my oldest was about 18 months old (she is almost ten now) I spent hours and hours and hours pouring over ribbon, a hot glue gun, and a “how to” book. My youngest, almost a year old, is wearing some of those bows I made so long ago.
Apparently, I care a lot about hair.
One of my favorite memories as a child is lying in my mother’s lap in church and feeling her smooth back the hair behind my ears. Slowly, over and over and over again. Every smoothing gesture proof that she loved me. That I was ok. That all insecurities were as easily smoothed. That there was space and time for me.
In the bible, hair is to a woman her glory, her covering (1 Corinthians 11:15) and…if I can disentangle this verse from the modern debates that swirl around it…I read, I hear something new here. Covering…when something is covered there is care. You cover something you want to protect…something you want to honor.
Covering is not a new idea in the bible, nor is it relegated to women only. Covering goes all the way back to Genesis when Noah’s sons found him drunk and naked. God wiped out the earth’s population and then in the very next story He shows us with whom He chose to repopulate the earth: drunk, naked Noah.
We read on to learn more about the importance of covering. In fact, because Ham did not cover his father, but instead went out and spread the news about his drunkedness and nakedness, Ham and his descendants would be cursed to “serve” his brother and his descendants. Here is a deep, rich spiritual truth…when we cover our parents…not in denial, but in honesty, truth telling, and forgiveness, we cover ourselves, too. When we leave them uncovered, we uncover ourselves, too…and will end up “serving” the shame of our family for years and years to come…often in recapitulating family patterns.
Covering. Care. Protection.
The little girl, Lily, who lost her mother in the book, The Secret Life of Bees, said: “You can tell which girls lack mothers by the look of their hair…”
Reminds me of a laughable poster I saw recently: “The bigger the bow the better the mama.”
My girls do not always allow me to fix their hair. They want it down or they don’t want me to take the time or they are afraid the brush will hurt if it snags their tangles.
If you know me at all then you have seen my girls and know that I do not force the issue. I say: “fine” and let them go to church or school without us doing much to their hair.
So, if you are judging my mothering by girls’ hair then I will come up sorely lacking.
Still…there is something about this hair fixing that connects with something deep.
Covering. Care. Protection.
Another character in The Secret Life of Bees, August, said to the little girl, Lily: “You have to find a mother inside yourself. We all do. Even if we already have a mother, we still have to find this part of ourselves inside.”
Andy Stanley, the well-known pastor in Atlanta, admonishes us with the idea of margins on a paper. The margins are there to make sure our writing on the paper has room for spill over, for order.
For covering. For care. For protection.
Here’s the thing. In our culture…we have none. No margins. We are maxed out. In every way. There is no room for spill over. That’s why the smallest bump in the road often sends us into panic mode on a daily basis.
There’s no time to fix hair.
As I said earlier I have never been high maintenance. When I say I get my hair cut twice a year…I am not exaggerating. There is no hyperbole at work. In fact, I probably have been proud of this fact before. My hair is low maintenance…like the rest of me.
But…and I don’t know if it is being the mother of so many girls that has made this change…I am seeing hair in a whole new way.
Covering. Care. Protection.
You have to find the mother inside yourself.
You have to create your own breathing room.
Your own margins.
Time to fix your own hair.
You have to decide you are worth it…the covering, the care, the protection…the honor. That your TIME, your LIFE…is worth creating space.
When I sit down to fix my daughter’s hair it tells her that I have time for her.
It is proof that there are margins in my life…for spillover. It is proof that I am not maxed out…for her, for my family…for myself.
It is proof that I am not maxed out to find the mother inside myself…the mother who will honor MY life, MY time…who will give me room, care, and covering.
This making room requires trust in a God to be our protector, our covering, our care…so we can slow down long enough to give ourselves some space.
It is difficult to give yourself space when you don’t trust that Someone else has your back. If no one has our back…if no one has us covered…then we better fill up every minute for survival.
Of course, it isn’t really about HAIR, now is it? . For me, it is…but for you?
What is the evidence of your care? Of your covering? Your proof of protection…proof that there are margins in your life?
Do you have time to fix your daughters’ hair?
What about your own hair?
“You have to find a mother inside yourself. We all do. Even if we already have a mother, we still have to find this part of ourselves inside.”
Mothers hold things back…like the instinctual hand held out at a sudden stop by a car…protecting the child from flying forward.
Mothers say “no…uh-uh…no way” and are not afraid to be the bad guy to protect their child…their child’s body, time, schoolwork, friendships, etc.
It isn’t about the hair as much as it is about the care. The space. The breathing room.
The mother who holds things back…to create margins.
I hope you can give that to yourself. I hope I can, too.
***All pictures are taken from google images.
Emily, I love everything about this post. From your clever play on words, “disentangling scripture” (tangle/hair/ha!) to your spot on metaphor for care, this SO resonated with me. I love reading all of your posts, but this one hit home. Thank you for sharing your heart and wisdom
Thank you for reading, Claire! The truth is there have been plenty of times I haven’t had time for hair…theirs or mine…like the first year after a baby is born. It feels good to be in a place where I feel called and ABLE to give myself that time. Those seasons of balance are so nice. In many cases we have to learn to give them to ourselves. I will probably be learning this for a long time! Metaphors speak deeply to me. It is so wonderful that scripture is full of them!
Emily this is lovely! Such a sweet picture of space , margin, protection. And oh how I love love the secret life of bees !!
Thank you, Kim! Yes, the beauty of that book and her other book, The Mermaid Chair, is almost tangible. So poignantly touching. Thank you so much for reading.
This post made me sigh… I have a complicated relationship with my mother, and now also with my daughter. I can remember as a young girl, wishing for those gentle touches from my mother that you describe. And now as a mother, my daughter refuses to let me do anything to her beautiful hair except put it in a ponytail. If I want to do anything more than that – like a plait – it requires so much negotiating before she will grudgingly allow me, that I usually give up! To me it is such a bittersweet symbol of our relationship… and I don’t know what to do about any of it – her hair, our relationship, my mother. It’s all just a big mass of tangles!