Get all your news in one place.
100’s of premium titles.
One app.
Start reading
The Guardian - UK
The Guardian - UK
Interviews by Georgina Lawton

You be the judge grandparents’ special: should my mum stop telling me how to do my daughter’s hair?

should my mum stop telling me how to do my daughter’s hair

The prosecution: Shanice

Mum says I’m spoiling Amber because I have buy conditioners that are free from chemicals

I have a funny relationship with my mum about hair, and I put it down to generational differences. But I don’t want anything weird to get passed on to my daughter, Amber.

Myself, Amber and my mum, Val, are black and mixed race. My father is white, as is my husband, Dave.

Mum’s views are quite old-school. On a family holiday recently, she laughed at all the products in Amber’s haircare routine that I’ve bought. She said I was spoiling her because I have invested in proper conditioners that are free from chemicals.

Mum’s hair is looser and goes into ringlets, but growing up I was used to seeing her with straightened hair that she relaxed. My own hair is much more tightly coiled and it felt like Mum had very little time for it. I was made to get a relaxer from age 11 to 17 but it was very strong. When I learned how bad that was for me, I started letting my hair breathe and discovered braids and weaves.

Gradually, after years of breakage, my hair recovered. Amber is seven and her hair is quite similar to mine. I will not relax her hair, ever, and often let her choose her own styles. Mum says I am spending too much money on Amber’s hair because I have invested in natural haircare products and regularly take her to really nice black hair salons.

A good routine and natural styles are important for not just her hair, but her identity too. Mum encouraged me not to get braids when I was younger because she doesn’t like them.

She is very proud of being a black Caribbean woman, but I think she’s internalised some shame around certain black hairstyles. I don’t want that for Amber, so Mum needs to butt out.

The defence: Val

When I said Amber should relax her hair, it was only a suggestion. But Shanice reacted as if I’d said a dirty word

I stand accused of having outdated views on afro hair, and I guess I do. But at 74, my beliefs are going to be different to Shanice’s. She reads too much. She’s always quoting something from the internet or some book she’s picked up about beauty and womanhood. I support all that, but I don’t like being lectured to.

I think Shanice is a little sour about the fact I relaxed her hair, but I don’t try to control what Amber does with her hair. I know it’s not fashionable to use a relaxer now, but back then all Shanice’s friends were doing it, too. I was doing it – and I still do, although a little less because Shanice has told me about all the harmful chemicals. When I said Amber should relax her hair, it was only a suggestion. But Shanice reacted as if I’d said a dirty word.

I told Shanice it would make her life easier as she wouldn’t have to spend so much money on styling and products, but she was very angry with me. She takes great care of Amber’s hair and is very proud of that. Amber knows all these terms and phrases about afro hair that I never had a clue about. She will come up to me and look at my shampoos and say “This one’s got parabens Nan, you should throw it out”. It’s very funny but sometimes I think she knows too much for her age. Does a seven-year-old need to be reading the labels of all their conditioners? I don’t think so.

I wouldn’t say I struggle to do Amber’s hair type, but it is very similar to Shanice’s. They have coarse hair but it’s still beautiful. When Amber stayed over at our house, I just didn’t know how to put it in the bedtime style she wanted, as I never really did Shanice’s hair in a similar way. She always had it relaxed, or in two simple French braids, or cornrows. Shanice spends way too much money on all these natural creams and potions for Amber’s hair. I have said to her that I think it’s unnecessary and expensive, but of course she doesn’t appreciate my opinion. She says my language is “harmful”. It’s lovely that she’s so passionate about Amber’s hair, but I think she should try to keep her life – and Amber’s – simple by spending less time and effort on all these hair creams. Sometimes I think she just wants to be different for the sake of it.

The jury of Guardian readers

Should Val stop telling Shanice how to do Amber’s hair?

Val did the best for her time, but Amber is Shanice’s daughter with similar hair. Shanice’s money is hers to spend too.”
Ed, 30

Shanice could let go of the resentment over having her hair relaxed as a child, when the risks weren’t so widely known.
Sadie, 36

It’s hard when you feel judged by a parent, but you have to remember they probably feel judged by you too.
Andy, 33

Val is guilty. It is Shanice’s prerogative to spend extra, while Val seems uninterested in understanding the deeper significance that Shanice places in hair.
William, 24

Shanice is in control – she knows her stuff and Amber’s hair is in good hands. Why let her lovely mum’s antiquated views bother her?
Antony, 59

Now you be the judge

In our online poll, tell us: should Val leave her opinions at the salon door?

The poll closes at Thursday 23 November at 9am GMT

Sign up to read this article
Read news from 100’s of titles, curated specifically for you.
Already a member? Sign in here
Related Stories
Top stories on inkl right now
One subscription that gives you access to news from hundreds of sites
Already a member? Sign in here
Our Picks
Fourteen days free
Download the app
One app. One membership.
100+ trusted global sources.