By KAREN MARIE MASON
I've watched my daughter go from precocious child to confident teenager. I've watched her take near perfect direction and instruction, and give the same to others. I've watched her listen keenly to my advice and adhere to it. And now, she gives me advice. Good advice. Our relationship has blossomed from mother-daughter, to best friends, back to mother-daughter, and along each step, we’ve always been each other’s protector. She’s listened carefully to my thoughts about the boys in her life, and I shake my head and laugh when she warns the men I date that I’m her mother and “you better bring her home at a reasonable time.” Last night’s date responded with an, "Oh, she’ll come to like me.” I laughed to myself. Wrong. None of them know my daughter Kenya. She has never liked any of my choices in men (friends or otherwise) and I've never agreed with hers either. For sure, at any time, our roles reverse. Completely.
And yet I often forget that she will turn 20 in July. My little baby has blossomed into a beautiful flower—come into her own. And now she makes her own choices regarding what to wear, what to eat, where to go and, most difficult for me, how to wear her hair.
Kenya has worn her hair natural from birth. Or should I say, I have kept her hair natural from birth. At first, I kept it covered with turbans and the like. At that time, I adhered to the more strict interpretation of Rastafari: modest dress, head covered, etc. Then later, I platted it, chiney bumped it, pony tailed it, and my favorite, let her wear it in two afro puffs. Though I have worn locks on and off for the last 20 years and would have loved for her to do the same, I didn’t force it on her. She decided on her own to grow her natty, and grow they did.
Even when I no longer had locks, Kenya Jordana's hair flourished. I was proud. She took care of her locks and had it conditioned regularly. So imagine my dismay when she hesitantly asked me one holiday she spent home from school if she could trim them. “Lord have mercy,” I screamed on the inside. But out loud, what could I say? She was 19 years old. They were her locks. Not mine. So I choked out, “If that's what u want to do…”
I thought it would end there. But no. From there she went on to perm it, and now she’s got extensions. Each time she changed it up, I acted as if she were changing up my hair. I showed great dismay and spoke with even more disappointment. I complained without end about the perm not agreeing with her. And I made disparaging remarks whenever I could squeeze them in under the false guise of advice.
So immature. Who’s the mother here anyway?
And yet, being the mother that she is to me, she would hide her disappointment and keep on plodding. She would try not to freeze-frame my negativity and hold strong to the decisions she’d made for herself. Just today she told me, "Mama, I've been natural all my life. Let me see what else is out there. I'm not you. Let me be me." She added: “You are more attached to my hair than I am.”
You know, she was right. She and I both know that a perm may not have been the best thing for her hair. But she accepts her decisions and stands firm. No hiding. Head erect. Damn. That’s my girl.
I love her independence. I love the way she meets her challenges head on. She doesn't run from adversity but embraces it and turns it into increased confidence and a greater sense of self. She has manifested everything I hoped for her to be.
So what the hell am I upset about? It’s not my hair. In fact, I’ve worn my hair just as nappy and unkept (though clean) as a sista could—the very antithesis of how Kenya likes her hair. And she’s never asked me to change it, cover it over, or even uttered, “I don’t like it”—all things I’ve said to her. She let me be me.
It is this I keep in mind as I learn to let up a little—you know, release from my spirit the things I can't control (like my daughter’s hair) and allow my baby’s spirit to grow, just as I’ve allowed mine to. After all, as India.Arie says, "I am not my hair."
Relax, Karen Mason. Breathe and give thanks for the flower that continues to bloom before your very eyes.
About our MyBrownBaby contributor:
Karen Marie Mason left her rapidly rising career as a music industry executive to become a stay-at-home/home-schooling mom when her daughter, Kenya, was a young child. Kenya is now a second-year honor student at Howard University; her mom now manages recording artists, hosts a radio show, promotes shows, is active in her community, and is finishing up her first book about motherhood. She blogs about motherhood and her life at Honor Music Group.