Go with me on a little journey as I explore the analogous relationship between children and my freeform locs. Words in all caps are cues as to the hidden message about how parents, teachers, etc. relate or should relate to children.
During my first year of teaching at 21 years old, I got fed up with my hair. I met a lady who had these beautiful rope like things hanging from her head. I found out they were not like the typical dreadlocks that I’d seen Rastafarians wear, but instead they were a more MANICURED and CONTROLLED form of them, where the person, puts some type of gel or wax on them and twists them each month, making sure each one is in PERFECT shape and each part of the head is symmetrical. They were long, flowing and beautiful. I wanted them. So I went to a loctician and she started my locs. Each month I went to the shop and she washed it carefully, then made sure each strand was perfectly twisted into the loc. In a year, my hair formed locs and for the next 15 years my hair grew long and beautiful.
Soon after my second son was born, I decided to cut my locs and just embrace a change. I discovered that my hair had started to thin on the top and it took me 4 years to get my natural hair back healthy again. Over that time I wore braid extensions and still experienced breakage as I sought to HIDE THE TRUE IDENTITY of my hair by braiding in hair extensions that maybe were more ACCEPTABLE in appearance. Then I wore an afro and focused on learning about how to best care for my hair so that it would not thin out again. I wanted to learn what my hair needed from me to really thrive. I learned about the importance of DOING LESS TO CONTROL my hair. I learned that it is best to wash it with a translucent natural shampoo. I learned not to use conditioner, in order to make it “softer” and more “MANAGEABLE.” I learned that my hair does not like to be twisted by hand because it is similar to when you wind a string over and over and using too much TENSION or CONTROL on the hair, makes it break off. I learned that my hair should not be pinned up or tied up in tight buns, ponytails and other styles that seek to CONFINE my hair, as this type of tension also damages the hair. I learned in the importance of doing very little to it, other than keeping it cleaned and oiled with a light oil like olive oil or castor oil because these oils absorb easily and nourish the hair follicle.
After spending time just LEAVING MY HAIR ALONE, I decided I wanted locs again, but
did not want to get the cultivated ones. I began to read about freeform locs which is where all you do is wash and oil the hair and then leave it alone. It started out as just an experiment for me to see what would happen. I was intrigued! My hair will actually do something amazing if I LEAVE IT ALONE?? Actually, my locs formed in 6 months. All I did was wash it with Dr. Bonner’s Castile Soap, oil it with olive oil or castor oil and gentlylook through each loc and make sure they was “ok.” I would also go through my locs and see if there were any strands of hair that needed a loc to call home and I’d very wrap that strand around an already formed loc. There were occasionally 2 locs that started to grow together and if they were healthy or strong enough to stand alone, I’d separate them before they locked up together. I only did this type of maintenance once a month. Some locs I let grow together. All over my head formed locs of every size and type. Some were fat, some were smaller. Oh and another thing I did was if there was a loc that formed that was really really skinny, I would thread it through the base of a thicker loc, because a skinny loc could break off. Whatever I did, however was out of concern for the health of the loc and not so that it looked MORE PRESENTABLE. I let my locs tell me what needed to be done. If my locs started looking dry and brittle, I put oil on them, for example.
At first I looked really really crazy! My hair was out of control. It was sticking up all over the place. It seemed to have no order. When I’d go to work, my students would say, “Ms. Anika! What is up with your hair?” And I’d say, “Nothing. Just letting it do what it do!” One of my girlfriends asked me the same question and then went on to ask, “Do you feel PRETTY with your hair like that?” (I think of parents that won’t even let their kids dress themselves, because they are so afraid of people looking down on them for letting their child dress how they want). I was really stumped by this odd question and I just sort of looked at her and then finally said after some thought, “You know, I’d never thought that my hair determined my beauty. My beauty comes from within.” My husband said, he liked that I looked kind of wild. He said it goes along with my wild and free spirit. (He actually thought it made me look sort of sexy. lol). He also liked that he could put his hands in my hair without me fussing about him messing up the afro that I often spent forever picking it perfectly round and big.
Anyway, after 6 months, something began to happen. The locs were forming and the hair started to settle down. It began to take its own shape and revealed its own definition. Soon the inquisitive looks turned into admiring stares. The questions turned into “So how’d you get your hair like that!” or “I wish I had the courage to do the same thing.” I would answer them, “Nothing. I just nurtured it and let it do what it wants. We can’t let society determine what’s acceptable. In trying to fit in and have our hair meet their standards, we are actually damaging it.” During this journey, I realized that before this time, I was so pressed for my hair to be PERFECT BY SOCIETY’S STANDARDS, with every strand in place, so I worked so hard to CONTROL my hair so it LOOKED IMPRESSIVE, but all the time, my hair was DYING UNDERNEATH.
My hair is thick now. Healthy and vibrant and now everyone sees that my hair is doing something amazing, all on its own. All I had to do was nurture it, protect it, nourish it and support its growth and development, but try NOT TO PLACE MY WILL ON IT. I had to let it go and in time it became something amazing (well at least I think so). I feel like children are similar. Before discovering the Sudbury model I was a traditionalist, because I knew no other way. I did feel that something was wrong with the path I was on. I reflected on how much I hated my school experience from PreK-12th. I reflected on how as a teacher I grieved for those students who fell through the cracks of the system and I felt helpless to do something for them! Then I discovered the Sudbury model and the schools who follow it and became enlightened about how children only need our love, support, encouragement and nurturing to become something amazing. They don’t necessarily need any form of our will placed on them, and whatever input we provide to them, should be directly connected to supporting them in reaching their personal goals.
My hair was already programmed by the Creator God to be what it is. Doing
anything outside of that, was damaging to the hair. When I LET GO and let it grow in its purpose and design, it revealed itself. Children are the same way. From conception, I believe that children are programmed by God with who they were made to be. However, somehow, we as parents feel that we know what that is. Only the child really knows and I am seeing that most children are able to articulate what it is pretty early in their life. We are deafened and blinded by our own dreams and wishes for our children. We ignore what they are screaming for us to let them become. We are held captive by wanting to compete with our friends and what their children are accomplishing. We are paralyzed by a fear of our child being behind their peers.
I am not talking about letting a child just behave however they want, but I am talking about letting a child go on the journey to figure out what their heart is leading them to do for their life purpose. It’s in there! My hair was always meant to loc. I remember my mom trying to comb my hair when I was a little girl, and it was torture! My hair did not want to be combed. In fact, most times the teeth of the comb would break off when she tried to comb it. I hated it so bad that I asked her to cut all of my hair off when I was in 3rd grade. People thought I looked like a boy, but I was so happy not to have to endure getting my hair combed.
Just as my hair, which is not nearly as valuable as the life of a CHILD, had the right to declare how it wanted to grow, a child of any age has the right to declare who they want to be. I think one of the most heartbreaking things is when a child loves art and a parent tells them they have to pursue something that makes more money. If a child wants to be a clown in the circus, they should be able to pursue that and honestly, I believe if they follow their passion, their bent, their inner calling they will be successful! If we all just let our kids go, loving them, supporting their dreams, providing what they need to reach their goals, then they will be something more wonderful than we could ever imagine.
I feel so strongly about this after watching my non-logical, non-thinking locs form naturally and beautifully. A human child, that was born with the instinct to think and to use logic, can be great, even if it’s not what we want or hope for them. They don’t need our dreams and visions to achieve their purpose. They need us to let go, like I had to do with my locs. And at the end of the waiting, when they become whatever they are supposed to be, then we can be the parent that enjoys the admiring stares and the questions, “So how’d you get your child to be so successful?” And just like I said about my locs, “Nothing. I just nurtured them and let them go.”
To end I’d like to share a little poem that expresses my thoughts:
Children Are Like Locs
Children are like locs
Just let them live and grow
Let them go
Whatever is in their hearts
Let them pursue their inner goals
Let them go
Like a loc that is not dreadful
Forms and grows on its own
Until there’s a headful
Of luscious ropes flowing free
Down your back
A crown for all to see
A child left alone will be
What God destined him
Or her to be
They don’t need our control
To help them discover what’s in their soul
Like locs of hair that grow on their own
A child’s purpose lies inside and is known
By them alone
We are only here to love them
And help them as needed
When they call out to us
To help them reach it.
Hair that is manipulated
Messed with too much
Breaks and dies
It’s the same with a child
Whose thoughts and dreams
Are interrupted but what we think seems
To be best for them
But we have to let go
So they can grow
Mind locked into what
Is in their hearts
And they reach it on their own
While we step aside
Setting them free
Whoever God says they are.