Hair?

With all of Hope’s difficulties at home and school, I was totally caught by surprise this weekend. A black friend who provided respite this weekend took one look at Hope’s hair and said,”She can’t go out in public like that!”. I was speechless. Joe has a nasty bite on his hand, I have 2 emails and a phone call from the school just in the first four days and I should care about her hair?

Hope had her hair braided today. She looks cute. She has never left braids in for more than 3 days and she won’t let me touch her hair.

I am sure it is cultural. I will make it a point to ask other friends who are black. With Hope’s current problems, I didn’t think hair was on the radar screen.

32 thoughts on “Hair?

  1. I can understand how it wasn’t making the radar, and I certainly understand the rational for that. However, I think it is an expression of love. If you care enough about her to care about her hair, maybe she cares enough about herself to ??? I’m not sure what, and it’s awfully simplified thinking from me, but I think it’s important.

    Also, if it helps others react more positively to her that isn’t a bad thing either. I’m making it a priority that Noah goes to school in nice clothes – not t-shirts and sport shorts. I need the people interacting with him to see a nice, respectful looking boy, even if his behaviors don’t always reflect that.

    Does that make sense?

  2. We finally just had to crop P’s really close. The constant hair battles were just too much. Now I just go out of my way to show her pictures and people in public with beautiful, short, feminine, ethnic hair.

  3. Hair is definitely a pretty big thing! Even when there are other things to worry about, maybe more so when there are other things going on. While to don’t speak for the AA/Black community I have certainly have been privy to many a freely spoken conversation amongst AA/Black folks about hair; About how sad it is white adoptive parents and white mothers of “mixed”/AA don’t care enough about their kids to learn how to do their “own kids hair,” and how trifling it is of AA/black mothers to not take care of their child’s hair. I have seen a lot of judgment attached to AA/black hair. The truth is that taking care of a child’s hair even when it is foreign, time consuming, expensive and difficult reflects caring enough about the CHILD to deal with it.

    I would honestly have an extremely hard time taking an AA/black child out in public who’s hair was not together. I know that sounds simple, shallow and judgy…especially to those of who have wash and air dry hair…but it really is about the child being and LOOKING well cared for.

  4. Even a child knows that she looks ridiculous. Even a child knows when you don’t care enough to tend to her needs; especially when she sees other children in the home being cared for well. Even a child knows she is different than white and now different from black because she is living in a white home and her hair does not reflect her culture. Even a child knows when the parents who adoptive her don’t want her. Hair, cruise, what is next?

    • You judgement is unfair. When you have a child who has bitten you multiple times daily for months on end, feel free to judge people such as me. Until then, think, before you comment. This is my reality. All of my children are mixtures of black and white. Hope is not living in a “white home’.

  5. I agree with Sunday and with your own comments about culture for sure. I had an AA roommate for awhile in university and I learned about AA hair and the all night braiding sessions that went on in our living room (drove me insane cause I needed to be sleeping) because it mattered so much to them, It was very much instilled in them from their mothers so I get your friends point, I also know how it has not even been on your radar because seriously, hair is so far down on the list, I get that for sure.

    In other news at least she is not cutting it herself, R did that again the other day.

  6. I think hair is a big enough thing in the black community that it did not allow your friend to realize who s/he was talking about.

    If a black kid or adult were to have really unkempt hair (the definition of unkempt being very flexible, since Heidi Klum and Anjelina Jolie get flack for the “sate” of their children’s hair) it would signal to people like sundayk that the child was neglected, or that the adult was mentally ill….except Hope is mentally ill, and her mental illness prevents bonding activities like grooming time. That’s just the reality of your situation.

    If your friend managed to braid Hope’s hair, that’s great, maybe they can do it more often, but it is completely unnecessary for you to put yourself in danger over hair.

  7. Emily doesn’t know you so she should STFU if she has nothing constructive to say.
    Living with a difficult child involves triage and Hope’s hairstyle doesn’t take top priority, IMHO.
    Unfortunately, people love to judge and strangers, especially black women who see a white family with a black child, latch onto the hair issue as a sign that the child is not being properly cared for. Remember Gabby Douglas, the Olympic gymnast who got all kinds of snarky comments about her hair last month? Her hair was “wrong” too.
    Cornrows and braids and beads take a lot of time to do properly and those styles require frequent maintenance to look nice. Dreads are somewhat easier but some people view them negatively as being part of the “drug culture” and they, too, require maintenance. How are you going to do that if Hope won’t let you style her hair? Or if she bites and punches?
    Your friend who provided respite probably meant well, but her remark was unfortunate. Hope is clean and well-dressed. You are doing everything you can to help her heal. Her hair is not a top priority.

  8. Hair is *always* on the radar screen for Black children and adults and taking care of it is an important of teaching a young girl her self-worth and making sure the world sees her in a slightly more positive light. I don’t take my kids out without their hair looking decent. That said, my older son has significant special needs (behavioral/psychiatric) and there are times when avoiding violence in my home is a LOT more important than his hair looking its best. Generally we make sure the kids both look clean, well put together, and their hair is done – and yes, when you’re dealing with violence and psychiatric issues in the home, there will be times it is just not possible. But don’t expect any less judgment from white and Black folks alike just because your daughter is special needs. Sadly, no one sees what we see – The 3 hours it took to get out the door, the hitting and cursing and meltdowns. They only see whether our kids look presentable, and the bar is higher for us because we’re white parents. A low-maintenance ‘do that doesn’t require hours-long braiding sessions is probably best for kids like ours… as is having their hair done by people who aren’t us, maybe? In the beginning we had my big kid’s hair braided at a salon because behavior is better there – But it’s actually become a bonding activity (maybe not feasible for Hope and you?) Then again we’re putting two cornrows in, not tons of microbraids or anything else that’s time-consuming. I think hair is extremely important and children pick up on whether they look good or not (and how people respond to them socially) – But again, people who haven’t walked in our shoes need to be careful about judging. Our kids’ and our safety *always* comes first, no matter what.

  9. She does look cute, and I’m sure that feels good. Nice that your friend was able to do it for her — maybe it will work to have her hair done by someone.

    Deb

  10. I’m surprised you have never considered this, as a transracially adoptive parent. It’s a critical aspect of Black culture–esp. Black women’s culture. There is no one “Black Way” to do hair, but it does indeed have to be done and done with thought and care.

  11. Isnt that the classic RAD problem? ‘But she’s fine with me!’

    “Yeah, because you’re not her mother, she doesn’t care about you, and you’re not hitting the most painful emotional buttons she has every time you do anything at all nurturing.” Or dealing with a child so totally dysregulated that safety is the only focus there’s room for, and so worn down from meeting those needs for months that you don’t have the energy. Hugs, I hope she might be able to leave the braids in at least a couple of days, so nice she was able to let someone outside the family do that for her without getting triggered.

  12. Many of your commenters have excellent points. How DO you justify your behavior toward Hope? Do you think she doesn’t see how much you do not want her when you go on a cruise without her and won’t even take care of her basic needs (and yes hair care is a basic need for a child who attends school).
    I know, I know she’s is troubled, she hits, she bites, blah, blah, blah. You have documented quite well how she is so bad and that you, the martyr, are being mercilessly battered by a small child. Not everyone is buying what you are selling though.
    She is a kid.
    She is a child.
    And you took on the responsibility of raising her.
    When do you stop playing the victim and start being a parent?

    Now I know you are going to dismiss me as a “troll” because as you have clearly stated before, only a troll would try to speak up for Hope. But I honestly would like to hear how you justify the way you treat this kid.

    • Hope did not go on the cruise because her psychiatrist said it was not safe. When I try to do Hope’s hair, I get bit or scratched. How many severely mentally ill children have you raised? Hope is clean, Hope is neatly dressed and most mornings that is the best I can do. I do not care if you are buying what I am selling. I don’t know you and you speak of things that you obviously have no experience with. No one is forcing you to read my words. Hope was damaged long before I became her mom, and our family life has revolved for the last two years around getting her the help she needs. If you are so sure it is me and you could do it better, there are plenty of children of trauma who need families. I would love to follow your journey.

    • Grace – I can tell you that I have spent quite a bit of time with Laurie and her family. I have seen Hope go from being absolutely delightful one minute to a screaming biting kicking and punching ball of furry the next. I have witnessed Laurie doing everything she can to keep Hope safe as she rages and end up with bleeding bites on her body.

      Hope would not have been safe on the cruise. Of course Laurie and Joe felt bad she wasn’t there. I personally know how difficult it was for them to make that decision, even though numerous professionals said it would be a mistake.

      I also know that the other members of the family needed some respite, and GB needed a chance to be out of the battle field for a while. The fact that Laurie was able to recharge her batteries and come back from that week knowing the importance of taking care of herself so she can take better care of her children is pretty strong evidence to me they made the right decision.

      It hurts me to see you attack my friend like this when I see how hard she is trying to help Hope. You aren’t helping Hope by leaving a response on a blog post. Words are cheap in this case. All you are doing is judging when you don’t know the the whole story. And that Grace, is mean. And not helpful to anyone. In fact, it is the opposite of my definition of grace.

  13. Holy Cow!! I’m jumping in late on this one, but I am STUNNED at the comments on this post. REALLY people?? This family is dealing with a level of violence, threat, chaos, horror, and mental illness that most of you just can’t even imagine. if this child was an adult doing even a fraction of what this kid is doing to this mama, you’d be all over her to get rid of the good for nothing piece of trash, keep herself safe, and move on with life. If it was a dog, you’d all be telling her to put it down before someone gets hurt. But when it’s a child doing the very same thing a rabid dog or street gangster would do, and it takes two parents on guard at all times to keep family members and pets even sort of physically safe (with no emotional safety to be found for anyone in the house), y’all get up in arms and preach about HAIR? That is just unbelievable.

    I hear plenty of critics out there over something that in the grand scheme of things does NOT matter, but I don’t hear too many people volunteer to take her even for a weekend. Please, arm chair quarterbacks of the world, try to understand that her parents are TRYING to help her. They’re trying to help a child who doesn’t want to be helped, and is fighting against it with everything she’s got. Before you all jumped on the judgement wagon, did it ever cross your minds that this child may well have sensory problems which makes the process of braiding the hair or leaving in those pretty braids in for any length of time nearly impossible for her? Did you think it might be possible that this child is a chameleon and she’s very adept at charming the daylights out of other adults (especially ones who disagree with her mother) and then she comes home and take her stress and fear out on her mother with very real and very aggressive physical violence. We’ve already established this sweet little girl is capable of hurting adults and causing extensive and expensive property damage. This family’s home and life can only be equated to a war zone. No one who lives in the middle of an active war zone is going to have hair that takes hours do to as their top priority. It’s just not going to happen.

    Fixing her hair isn’t going to fix what ails this child or this family. She needs intensive, specialized help and that is exactly what her parents are trying to secure for her. Black, white, purple, orange, green or red…SAFETY comes first.

    Hang in there, mama. Keep on doing what you know is the right thing for this child and your family and don’t listen to the critics.

    • I am really trying NOT to go here…BUT….

      “If it was a dog, you’d all be telling her to put it down before someone gets hurt…” Should shock me to hear from the (adoptive) parent of traumatized kids herself…but there are a long line of adopted and foster kids who’s supposed care takers have done just that in the guise of “Training Up a Child,” “Re-birthing” and “Attachment Therapy,” improper, dangerous and misused restraint techniques and the list goes on…in each case it is always ALL the child’s fault, and the parents are the victim. Truly, you should know better, dehumanizing children is a very, very dangerous slippery slope; and it has gotten more than it’s fair share of adopted and foster children “put down” just like rabid dogs.

      It really chaps my hiney when people (read that as adoptive, foster, and so-called “RAD” moms pull the “you have no idea what it is like…” card at the first little sign of anything other than an “amen sister, keep doing what you are doing…” because despite all evidence that the situation is spiraling out of control, the child is getting sicker and sicker as evident by the picture posted of this mother sporting a black eye she was given by said six year old, we should continue to tell her, “if you just keep banging your head against that brick wall, the exact same way you have been doing…it hasn’t worked YET, your kid keeps circling the drain…but never-mind that… keep up the good work.” I know everyone likes to cry, that we should be supporting each-other, but sometimes supporting people we care about means helping them deal with the cold truth. Some times it takes a real friend to tell the emperor he has no clothes! (Or in this case a black eye.) And since it apparently feel that it is my job…I am calling BS!

      First of all…I personally can not only imagine what it is like to live with that “level of violence threat, chaos, horror, and mental illness…” I HAVE…6 too a room, 25 to a unit for years on end. I spent years having to drop and restrain out of control fellow RTC “family members”in a PPC model. Oh, I “GET IT!”

      I have spent a significant portion of my adult life raising children to whom I did not give birth. Including a neuro-compromised, 6’2” 180 pound male teen with a borderline IQ, FASD and a bushel basket of learning, emotional, and other mental disabilities who had the emotions, intellect and rages that would rival any so-called “RAD” 6 year old. Yes, it was scary sometimes and it sucked A LOT OF THE TIME! Oh, I get it! I also “get” that it was my choice to bring that child/young man into my house.

      I personally parented African American male children and an African American tween-teen girl child (all adults now). I, unlike many white adoptive parents live in a very diverse community, I know the burn of the, “You brought that child out of the house looking like THAT” glare. Oh, I get it!

      You know what else I get? I get what it is like to be Hope. I get what it is like to be blamed for the short comings and failings of the adults who were supposed to take care of me and my basic needs and didn’t. I get what it is like to be sent away for being inconvenient. I get what is it like to be so unsure of and unable to trust the adults around to look out for me, and my interest. I “get” what living in an RTC can do to already damaged children. I get all of that AND what it is like to raise other people’s children (as well as my own) …And guess what I would chose being beat up by a 6 year old every day of the week, over BEING that, hurt, traumatized, powerless child – any day of the week, all day long.

      And just to be clear I would absolutely welcome the “Walking War Zone” of a
      “Street Gangster,” “Rabid Dog” of a six year old kicking, biting, scathing hitting CHILD, called Hope into my home, with MY children and MY pets…any day any time!

      • Oh, and since it has obviously escaped you – It’s not really about ‘the hair’ it is about the CARE.

  14. Funny how people leaving criticism does not leave blogs or accounts to follow their lives and accomplishments raising troubled kids… If you really are worried about the situation, do something, contact gbsmom and offer help, pay for respite, anything other than lip service.

  15. Sundayk:

    I’ve been following this blog for only a short while now, but it’s clear as day that Mom and Dad have been reaching out for help from professionals in many different disciplines to treat Hope’s fear, sadness, loss, and rage—and whatever other issues might be lurking under Hope’s aggression and destructiveness.

    But nothing has worked, yet, to stop Hope’s aggressiveness, and that’s untenable in a home, especially with other young children witnessing the violence. And let’s be clear: it’s domestic violence. Even coming at the hands of a young child. And it can easily be re-traumatizing for another child in the home who has a history of trauma and is suffering from PTSD.

    I’m not going to share my bona fides, but I understand all that from experience. I don’t feel the need to one-up anyone or pretend that I would do better with Hope than Mom and Dad here are doing. They’re as committed and loving as I could ever hope to be, even in the middle of the mess. I would certainly do some things—maybe even many things—differently. But would I be any more successful? I am wise enough and mature enough to know that I don’t have a clue.

    I don’t hear the blame-the-child-for-everything/Mom-is-a-Saint tone in any of this family’s blog posts, and over the past few decades I’ve read and heard enough of Nancy Thomas and her crew to recognize that stuff a mile away. Some of the comments, maybe, now and then, that tone seeps through.

    But mostly, the comments are aimed at supporting the Mom in this fraught and dangerous relationship, which is so crucial to Hope’s treatment. Hope would not likely survive another removal from a Mom: I’m just going to stick my neck out there and make that armchair diagnosis from a great distance, based on very little information.

    So, there’s absolutely no point in measuring this Mom and Dad against any other Mom and Dad. If we’re going to be helpful to *Hope*, we need to be sure that we’re positive and encouraging and supportive with her parents—the only ones who have stuck around—and offer whatever experience, knowledge, and real-world help that we can.

    In the past, I’ve been known to offer my open arms to children who have been pushing their parents over the edge. And, you know what?—Sometimes I have something really sound to offer the parents, which they can take away and use to improve their parent/child relationship. Other times, I look like some Magic Mama because I get nothing but Honeymoon Time from that child, but I’ve been around long enough to know that has little to do with who I am as a parent. And, finally, I’ve been kicked in the face and had the wind knocked out of me but a child whose parent was all sorts of inexperienced and struggling, and yet all my experience and training couldn’t result in a different outcome.

    People are a mystery. Relationships are complex. Treatment, cure, change—they can take a lifetime. Sadly, sometimes they don’t “take” at all.

    Humility is the key, here, friend. Humility.

    You owe Mom and Dad an apology. And you’d probably serve humanity best by taking your criticism elsewhere. This family, including Hope, will not benefit from your tone.

    • Very well said Marianne!

      I will never understand the need for people to be mean and judgmental on blog posts. It’s certainly easier to hide behind the cruel words when you are just on one side of a computer screen and not looking the person in the eyes. It’s absolutely wrong and unfair to take out the pain of your own past on another person in this way.

      Everyone needs to stop for a minute, take a breath, and then go hug their own children and focus a little more on their own lives I think.

    • Maryanne Milton, clearly my comment was not actually director at Gbs mom it was a direct response to Diana’s comment. I to have been reading this blog and the other one for a very long time. While I have said that I know the damage that an RTC can do to an already traumatized child, I don’t actually oppose it in this case if that is what GB’s mom chose to, she know already has my support in (just about) what ever changes she decides to make for Hopes care. But I am NOT going to sit back and act like it is OK for anyone to compare a child to a rabid dog. And I am not going to act like things are going well in Hopes recovery, when Gb’s mom has made it it abundantly clear herself that it is not. NOT. GONNA. HAPPEN.

      BTW if I owe mom and dad an apology…believe me it has already been done!

    • Marianne Miltonon think while you did not miss the anger in my tone, you did fail to connect the dots of the point I was trying to make, which is totally my fault and I apologize for not being more clear. I will not however apologize for my outrage.

      When people, especially a “therapeutic parent” such as Diana make statements like “if this child was an adult doing even a fraction of what this kid is doing to this mama, you’d be all over her to get rid of the good for nothing piece of trash, keep herself safe, and move on with life. If it was a dog, you’d all be telling her to put it down before someone gets hurt. But when it’s a child doing the very same thing a rabid dog or street gangster would do…” about a small, mentally ill SIX YEAR OLD child who has, lived with “a level of violence, threat, chaos, horror, and mental illness that most of you just can’t even imagine”in her own right, or when people use criminalizing terms like “domestic assault” when describing behaviors that are CLEARLY the symptoms of a of SIX YEAR OLD CHILD’S mental ILLNESS… I find it stunning outrageous! Unconscionable!

      If you have indeed been reading along on this blog, you know that Hope was first adopted by another family, she was at the very least severely neglected and emotionally abused, to the extent that other types of abuse that hope has either not disclosed or has not reference to articulate it because it happened during the per-verbal period in her life are almost certain to have taken place. THAT family then when Hope was FOUR YEARS OLD put her picture up on a child dumping website, because she had become too inconvenient and they did not want her anymore. (that was what I was referring to.) that is where Gbs mom saw her picture, her long list of diagnosis, including FASD, which Gbs mom is in and has raised successfully in the past. After a few email exchanges…a few months a couple of lawyers, it took ONE DAY in front of a Texas judge for Hopes SECOND “forever family” to dump her on her THIRD “forever family.” Think about what affect that would have on a four old child’s soul and tell me you are not outraged!

      Whether or not Hope was born mentally ill, or whether she was served up compliments of childhood trauma I doubt anyone will ever know. What I Do know, is now she is a very sick child, not a rabid dog, a street gangster or a piece of trash to be thrown away (again), she is not FASD, she is not neuro-compromized or any other the of the LONG list of diagnoses that her SECOND “forever family” managed slap on her to justify THEIR failure. (again that was what I was referring to) She is a HURT, SCARED and possibly mentally ill child, who has been through enough trauma by SIX YAERS of age to do any of us in. This child has every right to be scared and angry. EVERY RIGHT!

      Whether or not Gbs mother would have adopted her (which she herself HAS wondered out loud on the old blog) if she had realized that hope Hope was neurologically in tact doesn’t matter. Whether or not GBs should have adopted Hope “at her age” or “with her physical and medical limitations” or “with so many people with different [and profound] special needs living in one house as commenter have wondered aloud on both blogs, doesn’t matter. What DOES matter is that GBs mom is Hope’s mother, and she has no intention of “putting her down like a rabid dog” or “throwing her away like a piece of trash” and to use those types of references about HER child no matter how warn out, tired or spent she is right now SHOULD piss her off, as much as it does me!

      While I understand “trauma mommas” empathizing with and supporting GB’s mom, when I read so-called “supportive comments about “rabid dogs,” “pieces of trash” “thrown away” “domestic assault” I find my self wondering where is the support for the battered (figuratively), abused, neglected, twice thrown away mentally ill SIX YEAR OLD CHILD we call Hope?

      So while I absolutely empathize with and support GB’s mom… I will also do the same for Hope, she deserves that!

  16. Sunday, I believe that one of the best gifts we can give our children who have experienced severe trauma and abuse—and are lashing out in physically destructive and aggressive ways—is to create and keep a home for them that is safe, loving, and free from violence. They are often intimately acquainted with a world full of anger, loss, distrust, abuse, neglect, and aggression. We must be the doorway into another life, I believe—where they can experience a world that is generous, peaceful, kind, and connected. Their journey through their doorway is rarely straightforward, understandably. But it does our children no good to avoid naming what they are doing as violence and aggression and destruction. And when a child is leaving bruises, breaking bones, drawing blood, and/or causing internal injuries on family members, the accurate term for that is “domestic violence.” The important lesson here is that that child deserves to live without that violence in their lives. One crucial step in the path is to name what they have experienced in their past, so that they can grasp that it is not simply life-as-it-is-lived-by-everyone, but a particular form of family experience that is not what all families are about. “This family—right here, right now, the one that you are a part of—is not about domestic violence. We lived differently before you moved in. And we will continue to live differently than what you have been accustomed to in the past. And eventually you will live differently, as well. And you will come to know that your past is not how you have to live out your future.” Even letting go of an ugly past is a loss—and a challenge. I know that. But loving, healthy parents must be firm enough about their values and the peaceful home environment that they have created to insist that no other behaviors are acceptable. They are certainly understandable, but they must stop. Naming the unacceptable behaviors is one step towards teaching a child what they must let go of. But when you take a weapon away from a child who has only known the world as a war zone, it can feel terrifying. And it can take an excrutiatingly long time. Still, I believe with all my heart and all my experience raising two daughters “from the hard places,” as Karyn Purvis describes it, that helping my daughters make that internal shift from living in a war zone to knowing that they live in a peaceful zone is the core work of their healing. Now, if I ever need to be protected against any menace, I know where to turn to for back-up: LOL! My daughters will always be able to access their internal Ninjas in a split second: they learned how to survive amidst atrocities done to them. But I want them to learn how to love and relax and realize that the world—*their* world—is full of loving, generous, kind-hearted, thoughtful, caring, healing people who they can lean on and love and trust. I think you and I want the same kind of world for all children, Sunday.

  17. Pingback: Still Thinking « Adopting Special Needs

  18. Jumping in super late here…I am a newish reader to your blog. I read it in bits and pieces and then take a break to digest it. I think you are not just an incredible mom…but an amazing person. I don’t have a RAD child but I do have a sick and very mentally handicapped child so I can understand a bit about picking and choosing battles. There are times I have to take his hair completely down…even though he has ugly scars from 2 different brain surgeries. Sometimes his hair has to take a backseat while I address other more important things. My guess is that’s the same for you. I don’t doubt your love for all of your children. I don’t doubt that their basic needs are met and that they have fully bellies? And I don’t doubt your love for them. I think the people who hide behind aliases and screen names have nothing better to do then to pick apart people. To kick someone when they’re already down is cruel. I hope you don’t take their comments too personally. My thoughts are with you and your family.

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