HOW IT STARTED
My 10 and 11-year-old daughters decided to get a side shave a few months ago. They had no idea what a big deal it would be for some kids at school.
They came home amazed about the comments they received from their peers. Most were very positive, but still shocking to them because it was until then, that they realized how much importance was put on hair.
They were called cool, brave, and courageous. Others told them that they would be scared to cut or shave part of their hair off and that their parents would NEVER allow it.
Their schools have a pretty large Latinx population, so when some of the kids told them that their parents, mainly their dads wouldn’t have allowed it, they thought it was weird.
WE’RE A BIT DIFFERENT
See, my kids are growing up different than the traditional Latinx families. I must note that Latinx people are not a homogenous (all the same) group of people although there are commonalities.
For example, I know of Latinx families that stick to the idea that the man is the head of the household (regardless how young and/or inexperienced he might be). This is sometimes upheld even when the father is absent from the home for any reason.
Then, there are those who believe that women’s virtues are exercised by the way they carry themselves, what they do and how they dress, to include how they wear their hair.
So, it is not rare that a lot of Latinx little girls are not allowed to cut their hair – at least until they are of a certain age. That age varies depending on how conservative the parents and the girl are and if the idea of Marianismo exists in the household.
Certain behaviors and cultural practices stem from the old Marianismo ideals – a gender role theme that determines the ideal Latina woman: a giving and generous mother who places her family’s needs and demands before her own (Villegas, 2010, p. 328). The woman’s role is expected to be the “bastion of family honor, the submissive woman, and long-suffering family anchor” (Vanden & Prevost, 2012, p. 116).
Therefore, some Latinx men and women might strongly believe that a girl who cuts her hair short or shaves part of her head is either a rebel, not virtuous or even a lesbian.
All very untrue and ignorant beliefs.
But, that’s what some people believe and I realize that these beliefs are not exclusive to the Latinx population.
WHAT DOESN’T DEFINE A PERSON
So, going back to my kids’ experience at school after their hair cut debut…
My 11-year-old, who’s in middle school came home and said to me to that a boy walked up to her and asked her if she was a lesbian.
She didn’t understand why anyone would think that. When my husband heard about this he got really upset.
As she was telling us what had happened, she said, “can you believe how ignorant that kid was? And besides, so what if I were a lesbian? So, what if I’m not? Haircuts don’t make people gay or straight!”
That’s right! But MANY people would actually debate that to their death. I’ve met some of them before and it’s shocking to see how passionately and genuinely they believe a haircut defines a person in any way.
Unfortunately, I wasn’t surprised that she had this experience at all. I didn’t like it, but I am still not surprised. Albeit, it makes me sad that at this early age kids already have these misconceptions ingrained in their beliefs.
Our world includes a lot of people with this mentality and we need to educate our kids and some adults about misconceptions, biases and stereotypes. It goes back to what I’m always preaching about – debunking subconscious stereotypes.
There is no set definition that tells us what femininity is. There isn’t a tool that measures the value of women or girls or any human being. I know that the length or hairstyle is DEFINITELY not what defines anyone’s sexuality or value.
This story might be relating to you if you’ve ever done something out of the norm for your gender. I know that I’ve felt the tension from going outside the box in the past.
You see, I shaved the back of my head when I was in my teens and in my early 20s, and while people didn’t ask me about my sexuality upfront the way this boy asked my daughter, I got the stares and I noticed the whispers and heard rumors about people wanting to know.
It was ridiculous. And it continues to happen to many others today.
However, I believe that pop-culture is helping eradicate these ideas. But we’ve still got a long way to go.
Despite this not so nice experience in my daughter’s life, I am grateful for how she handled it.
This event did not upset her, but rather it made her realize that this aspect of human thought is very real.
IF THEY ASK, YOU MUST ANSWER
You might think that at the age of 11 a kid should not have these type of conversations, but my child does because these discussions are in the public sphere. She hears them and your kids hear them all the time.
They’re in songs, television, and in conversations at school with their peers. They listen to your and other adult’s conversations. And KIDS ARE LISTENING no matter how uninterested they might seem.
In my household, we answer all questions without making them feel wrong for asking hard or uncomfortable questions.
I know what that’s like and I never want my kids to have to go to someone else for answers.
So, my husband and I have had to answer questions about abortion (prompted by a GOP commercial), homosexuality (someone at school was called a homosexual and the “f”-word), sexual abuse (had the talk about stranger danger), drug use (an in-law was celebrating his 8yr NA-Narcotics Anonymous day) and other questions.
Kids overhear things on the news, adults discussing political elections and other things – sometimes at holiday or birthday party get-togethers.
The key is that when speaking to children about sensitive topics, you ANSWER THEM HONESTLY, without shame and with FACTS rather than assumptions or biases.
What has transpired from those conversations is that we’ve been able to have very good conversations with them and we’ve built trust between child and parent.
Our explanations are also very age appropriate, which have allowed them to mature in a way.
IT BUILDS TRUST
Each child is different. So, you have to tread lightly and make sure that the answer you give is appropriate without completely dismissing or lying to them about it. BE PREPARED!
Another big plus to always having to answer hard or uncomfortable questions is that when you give those honest answers, you’re building trust with one another and that is PRICELESS.
So, go for it.
Otherwise, you’ll end up caught off-guard like Mr. D in this video I found – click here to watch. Or copy and paste this link https://youtu.be/QIBwSHZAOU0 (I thought you’d like some humor after this read).
Tell us about a time you had to answer a tough question to your child and how it went. We could all learn from one another to get through these #ParentAdventures.