Archive for December, 2010



December 30, 2010

On Monday, Mara will go in to school with Lee and I’ll go back to work. The week before school ended before the holidays, Mara and I visited her school twice and Lee was able to scoot up once between classes. Mara will be in the three-year-old classroom at the daycare (though it’s also a Head Start certified program, so I use “daycare” and “preschool” pretty much interchangeably) that’s on the top floor at the community college where Lee teaches. They’ll come in to school together and leave together and sometimes eat together. After my two months at home with Mara, I think it will be great for them to have official Mama-Mara time every day.

I’m really excited about Mara’s class. She’s the tenth student and the biggest girl by far, but two of the boys are about her size and most of the exercise time is spent with the four-year-old class, where there are kids as big as she is. As far as I can tell by looking, her class has only one white student and the rest are black or in at least one case black/white biracial. (One has a Farsi name but looks black, so that might just be a coincidence. Four of the ten have names that, pseudonymized, are like DeShawn, Sean, Shonte, and Shauna, no duplicates but very similar.)

The classroom teacher has more than 25 years of experience and she and the teacher’s aides are black, though all the student teachers from the community college I’ve seen have been white. The kids in the classes (in general; I don’t know the demographics of Mara’s group in particular) are mostly the children of students at the school, but many parents on staff and some of the faculty like Lee also send their kids there. Lee has a lot of friends who’ve had their kids go through the program and have great things to say about it. We get a subsidy from the state to pay for Mara’s care and while it leaves us paying about $10/day out of pocket, I think even the full price is very reasonable and many of the parents are able to use vouchers to cover the cost of keeping their kids in quality care while they work on their educations.

We know that race matters to Mara. She is absolutely bonded to me as her Mommy and comes to me for cuddling and nurturing and whatnot more than she does to Lee, but she loves when she and Lee can put on lotion together and compare their skin. I think it’s great that she’s going to be in a situation where she’ll be in the majority, where the other kids have skin and hair like hers. We may not give her that for the rest of her education, but I think now is a crucial time. And even though Lee is appalled that some of the teacher’s aides say “axed” or “ea’in'” with the glottal stop and dropped g, I think it will teach her to code switch early.

Mara and I spent three or four hours in class on the last day before the break, and while not all the kids were there, a lot were. Her speech is on the low end, but there’s at least one other girl who has speech problems of some sort too. Mara’s speech is so much better than it used to be that we’re not even sure if she’ll need much speech therapy, and I do believe she’ll catch up quickly and make a lot of progress once she’s talking to the other kids. She knows more letters and numbers than they do (one of her favorite things, not anything we’ve pushed on her!) and so I don’t think she feels like she’s behind or anything like that.

There’s one girl I don’t want to call a mean girl, but you’ll probably know what I mean if I say that. She’s a bit bossy and judgmental, clearly wants to be in control. She asked me whether Mara was a boy or a girl (maybe because of Mara’s short hair, since she also commented on the dress Mara was wearing) and later told Mara that she (Mara) couldn’t sing her quiet “num num num” while eating lunch because only little kids do that. She also is pushy with the quiet girl with speech problems, and when the quiet girl quietly said, “Hi, Miss Mary. I like your hair!” when a student teacher walked in, the pushier girl repeated it loudly and took credit for the compliment. Anyway, Mara didn’t seem bothered by her and I think Mara is very good at standing up for herself, but this is something we’ll watch.

Speaking of watching, Lee and I are free to visit the classroom whenever we want to and there’s also an observation room. Especially during the first weeks, Lee will probably slip up there occasionally just to see how Mara’s doing. We expect it to be a bit of a difficult change for her, but she really liked being in class. She’d cry periodically and come to me for comfort, but got redirected quickly and went with what the other kids were doing. (The pushy girl was curious about why Mara was crying, too, and a bit scornful about that, but the teachers were supportive.)

The classroom has a lot of little tables and play/study areas, plus a chair where a kid can sit if he or she needs a quiet break. There are little cots that get pulled out for nap time. The bathroom (three tiny stalls and two sinks) separates their room from the four-year-old class and is shared by both. After breakfast, the morning is spent in free play and/or activities with the teachers, as the child chooses. The only time a child is pressured to do a certain activity is for situations like when a speech therapist comes in to work with a specific child. Then they do rug time as a group, songs and movement and a little focus on letters and numbers, focusing specifically on the kids’ names. This wasn’t the case on the last day before break, but they also do a version of Five in a Row, reading the same book every day for a week, which is an approach I first heard about on the Tinderbox blog and which I think will really appeal to Mara. After that, they head outside if the weather is good or to the muscle room with the four-year-old class for unstructured play/exercise. Then lunch is followed by nap, after which there’s more play/activity time and eventually a snack while they wait for parents to come pick the kids up.

We’re really glad that the class is so small and that Mara will get a lot of individual attention, that the teachers are committed to meeting her where she is and being careful and thoughtful about her special needs and preferences, just like they are with the other kids. (Well, there’s one chid I suspect has Fetal Alcohol Syndrom just going by facial features, and the head teacher is good with that one but the others aren’t quite as patient. This kid is also the only child Mara’s been ungenerous with, but to her credit the kid had rammed her shins with the toy firetruck six times before she got a chance to play with it and didn’t want to “share.”) One boy (I’ll go ahead and call him DeShawn since he’s part of that name group) was there during our short visit but not our long one, and he and Mara played together at the sensory table very well. He’s also very hands-on but fairly quiet, and they really seemed to like each other. I think she’ll find it easy to make a connection with him and will eventually find her place with the other kids too.

I’m sure there will be updates to this once school gets going, but for now we’re thrilled about how it’s worked out. Lee thinks this is another sign that our match was “meant to be” since there was an opening in the class when we needed one and since the timing of my parental leave worked so well. I still think that’s a fairly ridiculous way to look at the world, but I agree that things seem to be coming together well. Mara clearly benefitted greatly from our time together at home, but I do think she needs more time with peers and especially peers who also have brown skin and curly hair like hers. I’m very excited about the next step for her and think we’ll all be able to work together and make it great!


Attachment: 1000 Words

December 30, 2010

Mara hugging Lee and me

Okay, a little exposition. I was holding her during the part of the blessing ceremony where all our friends gave us advice. Mara decided she wanted to be hugging Lee too and grabbed us both so all three of us were connected. It was a magical moment. She just keeps impressing me.



December 30, 2010

Over the next few days, before I go back to work (eep!) and Mara starts daycare/preschool (double eep!) I want to make a few catch-all posts about various aspects of her life. She’s still wearing us out in the best possible ways. Christmas day marked two months since she’s been with us, which is one of those times that seems both way too short and way too long.

I got to talk to Rowan on Christmas and he’s doing well, which is good because I’ve been thinking a lot about his last Christmas, the one he spent with us. I haven’t asked him yet if he knows Mara’s eldest sibling, but they grew up within a year in age and (as far as I know) in the same housing development. It’s sort of funny that after looking all over the country for a “replacement” when we couldn’t adopt Rowan, we ended up with someone literally close to his home.

I was able to send Colton a Christmas message too, though he still chooses not to respond to us because he feels guilty about choosing ot to be adopted and doesn’t know what to say. I said what I could, which is that we hope for very good things for him in the coming year. It’s also hard to believe that our visit with him was only two months before Mara’s move-in date.

At any rate, this is just a little post to tell you to expect more posts. And while I’m being bossy, this is a post that tells me to go to bed. There’ll be a little one waking way too soon!


Mara the Explorer

December 16, 2010

Mara hit a new language milestone today. She and I were watching Dora the Explorer and rather than just shout, “RIGHT THERE!” whenever Dora or Boots or the Backpack or whoever it was making all that racket asked where something was, she’d chirp out, “In the flower!” or “On the tree!” Ah, I’ve been waiting for this day!!

And yes, I’m letting Mara watch tv, in fact much more tv than I’d originally envisioned. We knew she was coming from a foster home where tv was on all the time and where the foster mom guessed that was what she was used to, but she doesn’t seem to respond to tv in the zombie-like way we’d been warned she would. As long as we were in the room and engaged with her, she’d pay attention to other things besides the tv and putter around with toys or do her little flips and somesaults. But it was also clear she knew her shows, that she could name most of the major characters and dance along with the things they did on-screen.

I’ve tried to encourage her to watch the shows she responds to out loud, Go, Diego, Go; Dora; her beloeved Super Why; and WonderPets; though it’s also cool to see how much of the Chinese bits she knows when we happen to catch an episode of Ni Hao, Kai-Lan! And after an exhaustive list like that one, it may seem odd that I still complain about being exhausted and having no time to myself or for the internet. Watching tv with Mara, though, means (unless I am indeed using it as a babysitter while I cook or do dishes so I can hear what she’s up to from her responses) that I’m watching her and how she interacts, that I’m interacting with her. In the part of Super Why where Whyatt asks the viewers their names, she doesn’t say her own name but pats herself on the shoulder and turns her head to me so I can shout it out, then smiles proudly.

I grew up without a tv, so this isn’t what I’m used to and it’s taken some emotional adjustment for me to be okay with what we do. I let Mara watch more tv than I’d expected because I think it’s good for her. Until the last week or two, “playing” for her meant either making music, stacking things on top of other things, or wrapping things in other things. Rinse, repeat, and do pretty much all of it in silence that even my narration and questions didn’t seem to break up all that much.

So enter Dora and friends. With them, Mara would look up from wrapping Pillow Baby, her favorite little throw pillow, in a blanket and respond to something. She’d do the “We Did it” dance along with the characters at the end of the show. She and I could discuss answers to the questions, point out what was where. And when she was ready to play, she’d go back to playing.

My goal in parenting so far has been to parent Mara where she is and with what she signals she needs. We’re very lucky because we have a child who will show that she wants to be held when she wants to be held, which is a lot of the time. And if she doesn’t want to do something (like wear a headband, which is getting to be sort of an issue as I want her short hair to look cute and acceptable!) it’s going to be a real struggle to get what I want. If I keep firmly explaining why she needs to turn off the water, say, but not getting into a power struggle over it, within a few weeks she ends up using water perfectly well when washing her hands and brushing her teeth. I suspect this would not have been true if I’d stood over her with a whistle signalling when to move on to the next station. She trusts me more because I don’t do that, I believe.

Now, I’m also very clear with her about what’s a Mom Job. Choosing food from the fridge is a mom job, though she’s welcome to tell me when she’s hungry and to look to remind herself that there are no food shortages. But she can’t just eat cheese all day long because she loves chees, and now that she knows she can have her daily cheese reliably, she doesn’t stress about it anymore. Certain kinds of wiping in the bathroom are a Mom Job, and yes, I’m willing to get into a power struggle of sorts about it because ye gods I’d rather clean immediately than clean up the results if she got first dibs, y’know? And she understands all this and comes to terms with it, at least so far. I don’t think I’m letting her run her home, but I’m letting her set the pace about a lot of things. (And as I write this, Lee has decided to try telling Mara it’s bedtime rather than slowly edge her toward the idea of bed while waiting until she’s willing to say she’s ready, after which she can sleep in a matter of minutes. I’m skeptical, but maybe Lee will have some breakthrough here. Right now it doesn’t sound that way, but I’ve turned up my humidifier to drown out the noise.)

So anyway, Mara watches tv (or, mostly, tv shows via Netflix on demand rather than tv proper) and I think it’s been good for her and it’s set her up to need less tv. Now that she can play more independently or with me, we can spend a lot of time that’s not focused around Dora. But now that she can respond to Dora appropriately, I think she’s getting more ready for preschool and the kinds of interactions it will bring. It’s a balancing act.

I don’t get to read to Mara as much as I’d envisioned. Sure, we look through books, but she likes to turn her own pages and so mostly that’s what we do, go through a book again and again and talk about the details that interest her. OVer time adn repetition, she gets most of it, but it’s not exactly what I would have envisioned. Mara loves books, as we’d been told, but I think she loved them in her last home becuase she looked at them independently and did her own thing. Mara loves tv, as we’d been told, but she loves it so much more if she’s viewing as part of an interactive experience with someone else she also loves. We don’t see her blank out and vegetate, as we’d been warned.

So my real tv problems are with Lee, perhaps unsurprisingly. I’m still frustrated to come up to bed and have her turn the tv on just when I want quiet. I don’t like that she watches football with Mara, though we haven’t agreed on how much is too much and I’d probably be more adamant if Mara showed more interest in a sport I think is awfully barbaric for little kids to be watching. (She also saw an ad for a boxing program, which I found horrifying and Lee said was “just a part of life,” which is probably not what would be her response if Mara had been watching something with as much sex as there was violence in those 60 seconds. But I should remind myself that, as I told a friend today, watching tv lets Mara be in touch with her culture as an American, and gawd knows privilieging violence over sex is a huge part of that!) I don’t mind that they watch basketball together and I know it’s great bonding for them to cheer DEFENSE (CLAP! CLAP!) while they cuddle and chat. But oh, the commercials! Mara turns to them when they’re on and I don’t know how we’re going to let Lee watch live sports while keeping Mara away from them.

And now the crying and whining has gotten intense enough I think I’d better see if I’m needed. This is just one little post about how muddled I am, or about finding clarity in the midst of my muddled-ness, or something like that. So much of this is just based on going by instinct, but I have to remember that my instincts aren’t just based on what I want in a family or what I’d want if I were Mara (though those factor in and explain why we had a fantastic morning at the art museum a week ago, for instance) but have to focus on Mara’s needs nd wants too. It’s all a very complex balancing act, and we’re all forced to do it in these new roles that we’ve only just begun to wear. And so we experiment and decide that no, we’re not watching any more Fresh Beat Band unless Mara is drastically ill and this is her one great wish, but sure, she can sing her “Backpack/I’m the Map” mashup Dora song from her car seat as much as we want and we’ll join in. I think it’s because we’ve been able to let her use her voice metaphorically that her literal voice is strengthening too.

And on that note, I’m off to check in on the screaming, or at least try to subtly signal Lee and see if she wants my help. The fun never ends!


Mama’s Day

December 14, 2010

Today is Lee’s birthday, and while she’d hoped for a snowday where she didn’t have to go to school, that didn’t quite work out. We’ve tidied up a bit and put out her presents and now we’re waiting for her to get home.

Last year, I made a big fuss about Lee’s birthday. I gave her a present each day leading up to the big one, because we thought it would be her last birthday before becoming a mother. I hadn’t really thought about that in a while, but it did indeed turn out to be the case. A year ago, we thought that Rowan would graduate from his residential treatment program in January and then move in with us, neither piece of which happened that way. But Rowan’s happy where he is, and I’m glad he’s still a part of our lives. (In my heart, he’s my child and always will be, but it’s incredibly unlikely we’ll have that relationship legalized at least while he’s a minor.)

Now, though, Lee is saying that having Mara here makes this her best birthday ever. She didn’t want much in the way of gifts because what she has already is the most important part. We did get her gifts and took her out to lunch yesterday, but I also know she’s telling the truth. Today was also Mara’s first day out of pull ups and Lee got all excited to hear about that progress when we talked at lunchtime, which I doubt she ever guessed would be part of what makes her birthday her best ever!

I haven’t been the most patient partner in these last six weeks, which will probably come as no surprise since I don’t come across as super-awesome here. It’s physically and mentally exhausting to be Mara’s primary caretaker for pretty much all the time she’s awake and some of the time she’s only partly awake. There are times I’ve felt Lee wasn’t pulling her weight when she was insisting on naps or on tidying over just taking Mara and letting me rest for a few minutes the way I wanted.

On the other hand, Lee has a very tough job in all of this. Mara and I get to get on each other’s nerves but mostly bond during our time together all day. Lee manages not to feel jealous or hurt when Mara goes to me when she’s ready to snuggle for bedtime (though maybe because that means then I get the job of putting Mara to bed!) although I know she wishes she could have some of the “easiness,” though there are sweet times and as I write this they’re cuddling and giggling by the fireplace.

Lee has to work all day and then come home, ready for the daily nap she’s been used to, to find a tired and stressed-out partner who’s not thrilled about still needing to make and serve dinner, clean up after it, get the kiddo to sleep, etc. And then as soon as Mara’s in bed, I go up to bed to keep an ear on her and eventually fall asleep while Lee watches sports downstairs. She’s been feeling exhausted and wiped out and like nothing she does is good enough, which is sort of how I feel too. We’re both completely thrilled by our charming Mara and our time with her, but it’s tiring and that tiredness makes us inclined to be a bit passive-aggressive with each other as old points of contention suddenly take on more importance. (I mean, OMG, if Mara can only helpfully rip toilet paper off the roll when it’s hung in “my” direction, why does Lee keep turning it back to “hers?” I know, I need to take it up with her.)

At any rate, I think having the successful blessing ceremony and party pulled us together. We both knew we’d eventually get to equilibrium, but it seems more like it’s actually happening. I’m trusting Lee to do what i need her to do and letting her try things with Mara different ways from my way, because sometimes we end up with big successes. Now, though, it’s night and little Mara has taken her five successful-peeing-in-the-toilet stickers with her to her bed. I think it’s my job to settle in next to the birthday girl and do what any romantic and loving couple would do under the circumstances, curl up and kiss quickly and then sleep as fast as we can so at least one of us can be ready for Mara’s mid-night waking moment. And much as I may complain at times, I’m delighted that Lee is the mama Mara gets to love. I love her too.



December 13, 2010

Mara’s first words this morning were, “I had a balloon!” We were thrilled because this is the first time she’s ever talked about the past like that, and also because she did indeed have a balloon yesterday, until she somehow got it off her wrist and it flew to the ceiling of the decommissioned church where we were holding her blessing ceremony. Then the same thing happened with the next balloon, and the last one didn’t have any helium but was something another older child had found in her pocket and blown up for Mara. That one lasted the whole service, but Mara bit it and it popped during our first minute back home.

Yesterday was Mara’s blessing service. The pastor at the church we’ve been attending (and “we” here means pretty much little old atheist me plus Mara, because Lee’s frustration with certain aspects of the church service plus football season have meant she’s basically absent) sent us a message saying she’d like to do a blessing service for our new family. It hadn’t occurred to us, but once she mentioned it we thought it was a good idea, especially because Mara’s name (especially now that we know her siblings’ names) suggests that her mother would want her raised as a Christian.

So we talked to our friends who own the decommissioned church, who were also references for our adoption/foster care paperwork. They thought using their space was a great idea, and so we decided to invite the other two couples who’d been references for us plus my parents. It turned out that my mother was out of town taking care of her mother, who’s recovering from surgery, but we got to celebrate with the pastor, my dad, two couples and their total of five children, and Lee’s best friend (without her husband, whom Lee doesn’t like, which may have been a blessing of its own), and a neighbor of ours to take photographs.

So there were five little pale-haired pale kids and Mara, but they’ve all spent time together and the six were fantastic together. The two families both start out girl-boy and the two sets of kids paired off by gender perfectly. The little boy is only two plus change, younger than Mara but not too far from her speech level. Perhaps my favorite moment was when his older brother had been playing toss with the balloon, sending it to Mara, who’d shriek, “I’ve got it!!” and who then decided to replicate the game with the little little child, cheering him along with, “Good catch! Good job!”

Mara was fantastic, which we didn’t expect based on her whininess and weeping for the hour leading up to the celebration. She was patient through the short blessing the pastor gave and when the pastor had all the guests stand in a circle around the three of us, Mara spontaneously reached her arms so that while I was holding her, she had an arm around each of us and we were a solid family unit. Each person there got a chance to pass along some wisdom to us, anything from the importance of coffee to the growth they’ve seen in us through these years we’ve tried to adopt to the older brother who said his little bro was a pain in the behind and that we’d lucked out. And there was Mara, holding us together and smiling and looking gorgeous and happy. And there was cake!

So yeah, I do really need to write more often, because until the pastor said so, I hadn’t really thought about the way in which I’ve been the one who’s instrumental in raising Mara as a Christian despite not being one myself. Tonight, I took her across our street in the snow to the little park where the baby Jesus statue was being installed in the manger scene. Last year, I’d walked across the street to ask the chief of police who paid for him and his staff to close the street, but this time I was there to watch like everyone else, cuddling a child and murmuring to her about what people believe about that little statue baby.

Mara is so incredible. I got a chance to tell all our character witnesses how much we’d appreciated them and how our talks with them over the two years and our experiences watching them parent have improved us. That’s even more true of my internet people, though, and I’m grateful for all the advice, support, really everything I’ve gotten. We still don’t know much about how long the termination case could take and there’s always, always a chance that Mara could leave us. Nonetheless, after six weeks with her, there is nothing else I’d ever have preferred. Any heartbreak down the road is worth it for that beautiful smile and the way she’ll wake up and be a bigger, older, wiser person tomorrow. I guess I have become mommy. Now I just have to get her used to my typing without her wanting to take over the keyboard so I can properly be a mommyblogger, I guess.


Big Chop

December 4, 2010

So, here’s how it went down. Since I had people online talking about Mara’s haircut, Lee told me I’d better stop talking and start chopping. This morning I took advantage of the time she was snuggly and sleepy to investigate her loose “bald spot” hair. The longest bits, few and far between, were about two knuckles on my left hand, which I think is more or less two inches. I decided that would be a decent length for the rest of her hair, though it was longer than I’d envisioned when picturing this.

The next step also went on while we were cuddling. I took some fairly blunt scissors Lee brought me (I don’t recommend the bluntness, but I’m being honest!) and I measured two knuckles on each braid and cut a little beyond that, putting the beaded braid in the pocket of my bathrobe. Then once we came down and finished breakfast and I was able to get her to come out from under the table, where she’d been pretending to be a puppy, I put on some Dora and got her to sit on the couch with me. All I did was unravel each braid, stretch each segment of it once it was loose to measure to my second knuckle, then cut, then separate the strands and let it curl up a bit.

The only area of her hair that didn’t follow that routine was the very front, the bangs area. I’d had two braids hanging into her face and I left those in until the very end. When I undid those, I gave them a good half an inch past that second knuckle mark (when possible; some parts are quite short) before cutting. Then I gave them some Oyin Handmade Shine and Define cream, did a loose flat twist on each side, and then finished the ends with a star-shaped snap. Those twists won’t last all that long and are easy for her to undo, but they’re also gentle on her hair and it won’t damage her hair if I’m redoing it every day or two.

So the moment you’ve all been waiting for, here’s the new Mara. I suppose I should add that Lee is not thrilled, that she find the new look too bushy or something, but it’s definitely healthy and Mara likes putting her hands in her loose coils. Lee would like me to cut it much shorter, but that would just mean it would grow out and look like this. It’ll look different and better once it’s washed and the hair is no longer going in the directions it went in the braids, but it’s soft, sweet, and totally adorable on her. I have no regrets. She’s my beautiful girl with any amount of hair, I think!

Mara's new afro


Help Wanted (Hair)

December 2, 2010

So, Mara’s been with us a month! I just sent in my first-ever foster care reimbursement forms today. She’s hopping around in the living room and brining me finger puppets while I write this. Although she’s congested and snorty, she’s doing well and she’s still a little lovey. 

What I want to write about here, though, is something completely superficial. Mara came to us with badly damaged hair. Her hair is absoutely gorgeous, no curl definition but just a glorious halo, but there are a lot of problems with its health. For reference, I’ll send you to Happy Girl Hair and say that Mara identifies Little R, the twin on the left of the header image, as actually being Mara herself (and those big, wickedly cute eyes are truly very similar!) but her hair texture is more like that of Little B, the twin on the right, and very much like Lee’s.

As far as the damage, though Lee hates when I say this, picture Mr. T and you have a pretty good picture of what her hair looks like. Her hair is long enough along the top for braids more than three inches long (and for people who aren’t familiar with kinky natural hair like hers, much of this post may seem a bit alien including that there’s no one standard way to measure length) but the sides and “kitchen” (the nape of her neck) where she had the most hair loss are at most about an inch and a half long if you stretch the coils to their full length and much, much shorter in the parts that were totally empty. She no longer has bare patches and she’s almost always great about helping me moisturize with spray (a/k/a “spray! yay!” hereabouts) and oils and humectants.

Her previous foster mom says that her hair loss was a result of her tugging on her hair, but I don’t think that’s entirely true and I think the foster family’s lack of experience dealing with highly textured hair was part of the problem. They took her to a coworker who could do hair and who’d put it in very small and very tight braids, which I’m sure she did fiddle with and which probably did lead to breakage. I have reason to believe they also left styles in for a long, long, long time and then detangled without detangler, which can also cause breakage. Mara didn’t sleep with a bonnet and was directly against a rough cotton pillowcase that drys out and breaks hair. I know they did try to use Doo-Gro and other products on her hair to the point where whenever they washed her there’d be a waxy ring around the bathtub, so none of this is meant to say they were neglectful or didn’t have good intentions even if they weren’t doing anything like what I would do. Anyway, for the last month Mara has had satin around her hair whenever feasible and lots of scalp massage and oil and so on and her hair seems to be thriving, but it’s also damaged.

I’m trying to add photos of her latest hairstyle, which she’s had for about the last week. I didn’t do it on hair that was wet from a fresh wash but just undid a previous style and worked with that. Lee’s favorite style is bantu knots and they do indeed look adorable, but Mara’s a star at sliding her little finger in and undoing the knot even faster than I can make them. I prefer the look of twists to braids, but again they’re easy for her to fidget apart whether they’re large or small, have a snap at the end or none. 

So this time I braided her hair and put beads and heart-shaped snaps on the ends. She loves being able to whip her hair back and forth and hear the clacking beads. She’s taken a few of the snaps out but is patient about having them put back and doesn’t seem to have actually ripped her hair by doing this, which is one reason I prefer snaps to rubber bands.

top view of Mara's head with her current braided hairstyle

The drawback — and I’m sure this is partly because I’m not the world’s best braider — is that even with braids she can tease out little pieces of hair. She likes to have her finger in her hair while falling asleep and I’m sure over time she has done some damage that way. She certainly has gotten hair loose from the various styles I’ve put in. However, she has so many little broken bits of hair that they’ve come out of the parts and braids on their own because they’re just not long enough to be held. So after a week of braids, even well-cared for braids, we’re at an unacceptable level of fuzziness. There are tiny coils all over her long-hair areas that are as short as her short areas:

the sides of Mara's head with short hair

So here’s the dilemma. Shampooing is still extremely difficult for Mara and she’s not a fan of sitting still for hair time, though once she gets the inclination she can be quite well-behaved. If these different lengths are going to mean I need to wash and re-braid weekly, that’s going to be something of a difficulty. However, I asked today whether we could get permission to cut her hair.

Basically, I’d like to give my baby a Big Chop. As her hair gets a little longer, I’d like to make it all one length so it can grow out in a healthy and consistent way. But that would mean that for a while we’d have a three-year-old with hair too short to braid or twist. (I’d probably style it in coils, mostly, perhaps with something like the Nu Dred tool and wouldn’t just leave it loose, but I’d be able to moisturize in a much more hands-on way.) This would also be a three-year-old who has two moms and who likes to wear jeans, a t-shirt, and a hoodie. I don’t think she’d have a hard time believing she’s cute with short hair and we don’t mind if she prefers clothes from the boys’ department, but I’m just putting this out there because I might be setting her up to get some bigoted responses.

I guess what I’m saying is that I’d like some reassurance that being the white mom of a little girl with short hair wouldn’t have people assuming I don’t respect or know to care for her care to a greater extent than being the white mom of a little girl with some long hair and some very short hair that’s hard to keep styled. Lee refuses to care or weigh in much and says this is my thing, which is really unhelpful to me. She doesn’t mind when Mara’s hair looks messy and says it’s fine for a little girl, that little girls don’t need cute, tidy styles and that no one cares. She may not care, but I do. And she’s not opposed to the short style idea.

And it’s not all about me, I swear! At some point, we’re going to have to even out Mara’s hair just so we get rid of all the broken ends. It’s just a question of whether we do it when the short parts are two inches long and the long parts are, say, six stretched or when the short parts are six inches and the long parts are ten, meaning a few more years of this awkward multi-length thing. I’d really like to cut Mara’s hair and she was excited about the looks on the Nu Dred website. I’m pretty well set on that plan because I think this would be the best for her hair health. But I’d like to hear what others think, too.


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