Please Don’t Touch My Kids’ Hair

I’m just going to go ahead and put it out there. As the mom of brown kids, I want to say on the record: please don’t touch my kids’ hair.

Don’t get me wrong, I understand your curiosity about it. I am, after all, the white mom of brown kids, and I can confirm that black hair is structurally different, and even my mixed-race kids have really fascinating hair. I admit, I feel lucky that I’ve had this opportunity to learn about cornrows and rope twists, box braids and Bantu knots. But please, no matter how interesting the hairstyle may be, please don’t touch it.

“But what about those women who did a performance art piece with signs saying people could touch their hair?” (Read about it here if you don’t know what I’m talking about.)

First of all, those were grown women who made a choice and specifically advertised that they were willing to accept contact and questions. Second, that piece has sparked quite a bit of debate. My favorite summary (link http://disruptingdinnerparties.com/2013/06/12/4-reasons-why-actually-you-cannot-touch-my-hair/) points out a few, simple reasons, like the fact that black hair isn’t some kind of zoo exhibit, and, frankly, it takes a ton of work to maintain and style (when I’m on top of my game, I average about 5 hours a week, minimum, caring for my 3-year-old’s hair). Because my daughters are small children, you can add to that list the fact that even if you ask (and most people don’t bother), because you are a grown-up, they might not feel like they are even allowed to say no.

“Really, though, how much of a problem is this? You’re making a big deal out of nothing!”

This happens about once a month. Usually, it’s a white adult. They almost never ask first. When I tell them to stop and ask them to apologize, they usually either get offended or give me a hard time. It’s been done by doctors, teachers, members of my church, complete strangers. People who know not to touch a dog without asking will touch my kid’s head without compunction. And they don’t, for example, touch my husband’s head, just the kids’, as if they think that one would be weird, but the other is no big deal. Interestingly, kids don’t do this – they just say, “I like your hair!” or, “your hair is weird!” But they don’t touch.

And here’s the thing, above and beyond the hygienic and consent issues, there’s this: my daughter doesn’t like to be touched. She just doesn’t. And I think that we should respect her choices.

Moreover, frankly, there’s an undercurrent of racism there that I find troubling. Yes, my kids look different from most of the kids around here. No, that does not make it okay for you to treat them as some kind of petting zoo. I’m actually happy to entertain questions about their hair care and styling regimen, their ethnic background, even the color of their skin. But please, don’t touch my kids’ hair.

julia high - mom meet mom

Babysitter Wanted: Is It Okay to Ask a Mom Friend to Babysit?

Imagine finding this ad on Craigslist:

Babysitter wanted. Unpredictable hours. Will require services at a moment’s notice. No pay.

Your response would probably include a whole lot of eye rolling. No pay and unpredictable hours? Come on. But consider that this kind of thing is par for the course for some mamas with friends who have a tendency to take advantage. These friends can be any kinds of mother. Married or single. Working mom or SAHM mom. Basically, the ‘babysitter wanted‘ mom is a mom who is chronically unprepared. She probably doesn’t think ahead when it comes to childcare, so the only people she can turn to when she needs a sitter are her friends.

Now, most mamas like to do favors for their mom friends. That includes stepping up to the plate when a babysitter is wanted. It’s only when you have that one friend who is always asking you to sit that those last minute requests can start to grate. My advice is don’t be that friend. There’s nothing wrong with asking a mom friend to babysit your brood… once in a while. Just don’t go overboard with your requests unless your friend is a pro and you’re prepared to pay up.

So how can you tell if you’re the one taking advantage? If you’re a mom who’s thinking of asking a friend to babysit? Then ask yourself the following questions:

  • How well do you know this mom friend? Like, is she a ‘let’s grab a coffee once a month friend’ or ‘offers to help you move’ friend? Have you known her forever so her kids are practically your kids (and vice versa)? Then you’re probably allowed to ask – but of course, she’s still free to say no.
  • Have you considered forming a babysitting co-op to make it official? Follow the link for more info about the whys and hows of starting a babysitting co-op, which is surprisingly simple when you have enough interested mamas.
  • Can you make it reciprocal? If you’re going to ask your mom friend to sit for you, then make it clear that you’re willing to keep an eye on her kids next time she has an appointment. You can always sweeten the deal by offering to sit in the evening so she and her spouse/partner can have a real date.
  • How often have you tapped this particular mom for babysitting in the past? More than once this month? Do you sense that she is just a little annoyed by you asking, again, for a couple hours of her time? Then think about approaching someone else this time.
  • Is this going to be more work than fun? If your kids and her kids are the same ages and adore each other, then babysitting may be no trouble at all. But if you have an infant and she has an eight year old, sitting is going to take effort on the part of your mom friend.
  • Do you have a backup plan? Remember, this friend is free to say no and if/when she does, you need to deal with it.

I’m not saying you can’t ask a friend to babysit, but be cool about it. That’s how you keep mom friends. And widen your network. Fact: When you meet moms, you have a better chance of getting an active babysitting exchange going. In that scenario, every mama wins!

christa terry - mom meet mom