One weekend I dropped my daughter off to her father. She had her overnight bag, the books she wanted to read, and her favorite stuffed animal. She was dressed like a typical eight year old with her jeans, t-shirt, and a ponytail that took great effort to accomplish. Straightening and restraining natural hair on an African American child is no small feat but it is an experience every mom takes pride in sharing with their daughter. Of course, when sending daughters overnight to their father, you have to have their hair completely done or very manageable so his unskilled hands do not result in your child looking crazy.
My daughter looked so precious as she kissed and hugged me good-bye before turning to grab her father’s hand and begin their weekend adventure. Not 72 hours later she returned, excited to see me. As she leaped into my arms, I took in everything. I could tell is she felt differently, if she was tired or her eyes didn’t look right, if she rushed to get dressed or if she had a soda on the train. Most noticeable was her scent. Something was off. Her hair was in the same ponytail, but it smelled different. It was not the flowery scent of shampoo. It was the distinct smell of lye as in a perm.
I immediately turned to her father and asked, “What did you put in her hair?” “Nothing,” he said. “Carla put a detangler in it.” I responded, “I smell perm! Why would you do that?” I was getting increasingly aggravated. My blood began to boil. Any further conversation would have been an argument in front of our daughter who was still trying to adjust to divorcing parents, so I just took my daughter and left.
I was hot! I pride myself on having natural hair, as does my daughter. To put chemicals that would permanently change its make-up was unacceptable. But that I could get over easier than getting over WHO put the chemicals in her hair. ‘Carla’ was his girlfriend. He had another woman put chemicals in my daughter’s natural hair. Furthermore, this woman was of a different ethnicity so she had no experience with my daughter’s type of hair. Eventually, her hair broke off from the damaging chemicals that were not properly applied, and the topic of another woman touching my daughter’s hair would be a point of contention for years to come.
I felt violated. How dare he have another woman put their hands on my daughters head, and with such a serious thing as to attempt to change its texture? A woman changing her hairstyle is an intimate and personal thing. You can tell how a woman is feeling and what is in her heart by looking at her head. He let his girlfriend into an intimate, mother-daughter area she should not have had access to. It was too soon. We were still separated. My daughter was still adjusting. I was still healing. Now there was more fuel on the failed marriage fire.
Recently, rapper Future, spoke in an interview about his frustration with his ex, singer Ciara. She was caught in a picture allowing her now boyfriend, Russell Wilson, to push her and Future’s son in a stroller. He, too, felt violated proclaiming, “Of course I wouldn’t want anyone to push my son. That’s like the number one rule.” He did not feel like she was with her boyfriend long enough to have him around his child and certainly, he should not be doing anything that appeared father-like. His sentiments immediately took me back to the smell of lye in my daughter’s hair and allowed me to, finally, gain wisdom from the situation.
My daughter is now 16. She has transitioned from natural to perm back to natural again. She has had brown hair, blue hair, and green hair. On this side of divorce, I now realize the anger around my perceived violation was rooted in my hurt over a failed marriage and unrealized commitment. You see, no one takes vows, taking him as yours and you as his, without a clear belief of possession becoming engrained in the heart and mind. That was my man. That was my daughter. For some unauthorized personnel to think they can enter that sacred realm was ridiculous. For my former significant other to allow it to happen or even facilitate it was a direct violation to who I still saw myself to be and, furthermore, was disrespectful.
While we do need to be mindful of how soon we introduce others to our children, allow others in their space, and include newbies in family activities, when a marriage or relationship ends, we have to face reality. Our former significant other will not be single forever. They may not make the decisions we want or we could have influenced if still together. When our children visit their father’s home, we have no control over what happens inside. None. We can protest. We can try to court order. We can text our children 400 times a night to try and keep tabs. We can even pick a fight with the other woman and try to put her in her place. At the end of the day, none of that will get us what we want. We will not be in control of everything and moving forward is challenged. Plus, let’s be honest, fighting your ex’s new woman is not becoming of a Sexy Mom.
Through the pain, hurt, and disappointment, you must exhibit the social and emotional skills of an adult. Adults negotiate. Adults are capable of coexisting with people they would rather not share space with. Adults are in control enough to choose the well-being of their child over the momentary satisfaction of conflict or vengeance with an ex. Your peace is not negotiable. Your child’s peace and security are not negotiable. You must do everything in your power to create a safe and secure emotional as well as physical environment for your child. An angry, bitter mom will cause a father to shut down communication. Communication is the very tool you need to make sure you know what is happening and who it is happening with when you are not around. Future is going to have to get over it and work together to create a new reality just like I did and just like every other separated or divorced parent. It is frustrating, yes; but necessary.