girl with messy hair

I dread the daily hair hassle. With two girls and myself, I spend precious minutes each morning fighting tangles and attempting hair styles. Just brushing my daughters’ hair feels as impossible as grooming a pair of feral cats. My morning exercise usually consists of running through my house with a hairbrush after my fleeing toddler.

We have a seemingly endless supply of hairbands, clips, combs, sprays, bobby pins, and hair ties. Even so, every morning proves time and time again that I am a hopeless hair failure. I’m lucky if I land a few squirts of detangler in their direction. After yanking my oldest’s hair in five pony-tail attempts, we both give up. Usually, I just grab a pair of hairbands that slide off their foreheads and into theirs eyes before we all head out the door.

I have one of those can-do personalities that has led to memorable mishaps with everything from birthday cakes to interior paint selections. More often than not, I learn my limits and call in a professional or my husband, whose fine motor skills and taste far exceed my own. But since I can’t schedule my kids and myself for regular blow outs, and my husband has even less hair experience than me, we go forth in the world looking like mangy lionesses.

I can wash hair. I can even brush it (or at least my own), but beyond these general tasks, I’m lost.

I blame my mother.

Don’t get me wrong, my mom is a beacon of maternal warmth and light. I strive each and every day to parent with half the grace and compassion she showed in my formative years. But, the woman knows jack about hair. Consequently, bad hair days span generations in my family.

When I was five, she had my brother’s barber lop off my locks into a bob. “Your father loves short hair,” she said, as I stared wide-eyed into the mirror.

“But I liked it long,” I wailed. It took me years of hair growth to forgive her.

Now that I have two girls of my own, I get it. No one taught my mother how to curl hair or braid hair or do anything with it other than wash it, dry it, and comb it.

Short hair was a necessary evil. The fact that my dad prefers cropped styles was a convenient excuse.

To Mom’s credit, my hair was always clipped neatly in a barrette or held back with a headband in childhood photos. When I see pic after pic of my oldest looking like Cousin It, I remind myself that back in the 80’s each snapshot cost money. If someone actually broke out a camera, pausing to fix hair before clicking the shutter was expected. So, the hairband was adjusted and the barrette was snapped into place

Once I outgrew duckie-shaped barrettes, I was SOL. Before every college formal one friend or another would volunteer to style my hair. I’d sit there marveling at the competence of these women as they curled and pinned, feeling like a helpless child.

Maybe it’s narcissism or extreme positivity, but I like to think I’m a fairly capable person. I once shimmied under the kitchen sink, seven months pregnant, to reset the garbage disposal. Ok, my dad was on speaker phone, talking me through the entire process. Still, I squeezed myself under there, and I did it.

The fact that I can’t do hair annoys me. As I’m struggling to make a ponytail, I want to tell my girls: “I’m sorry, Mommy sucks at doing hair. It’s all GiGi’s fault.”

Of course, I know better. I can’t set up a pattern of mom-blaming before they even reach first grade. Instead, I tell them they are beautiful and send them off with messy mops.

As my daughter stands with her Kindergarten class for morning drop off, I scan the line of perfect curls and intricate braids until I come to her smiling, hair-covered face. I know I’ve failed her. I know history is repeating itself.

However, unlike my mother, I will not send my precious girls to the barber for a bob. No, I have a very powerful tool in my parenting arsenal. One that my mother could never have imagined in the decade of tube socks and She-RA: You Tube.

With this marvel of technology and some practice, I’ve already managed a ballet bun. It’s not pro-looking by any stretch of the imagination, but it sure beats all the birthday cakes I’ve tried frosting. I know mastering a bun may not seem like an important life lesson, but years from now, when my daughters are preparing for their kid’s first recital, I hope the thought of calling a salon never crosses their minds. They may never thank me, but hopefully they also won’t be cursing me as they snap hair ties in frustration.

Now, if I can only figure out how to execute an even part, I’ll be half way to making a French braid—or else a knot so fierce I have to make that appointment for a bob.



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Kathryn Hively

I started Just BE Parenting as a way to cope with the anxiety of balancing work, motherhood, and the impulse to write. That’s right, I’m not a parenting expert. I, my kids, and my family are perfectly flawed in MANY ways. As a parent, I’m trying to let go of perfection and just BE the best mother I can for my kids. The ‘B’ and ‘E’ in Just BE Parenting also represents the first letters of my children’s names. What works for me and my family may not work for you and yours. That’s ok! Even if we’re not the same, I hope you’ll find something relatable here.