Everyone has heard the phrase, "It takes a village to raise a child." Little did I realize how much I would live this phrase by raising an African child in Africa. A day doesn't go by when a Zambian woman doesn't stop me on the street and say, "You should put more Vaseline on her face." or "Her hair needs to be combed out." or "Shouldn't you get her ears pierced?" Before she was potty-trained it was, "She's STILL wearing nappies?" (In Africa, they potty train their children practically from birth.) I handled these comments, but started to feel a little self-conscious. Not just for me, but for Sunda. Poor kid. She runs around with ashy knees and dreadlocks because her white mama can barely keep up with grooming herself, not to mention her two year old black child. So, regardless of whether I keep my own eyebrows plucked and toenails painted, I decided to try harder to gain approval with the Zambian women who assume that if you're not grooming your child, you're not caring for her.
I started out small. Putting lotion on her face 3x a day. Cutting her finger nails and cleaning the dirt out from under them. Washing, conditioning, greasing, combing out, and sitting through the painful process of having someone braid her hair to her scalp. Doing it all over again 3 days later when she rubs sand in her braids. However, I went to town all day on Tuesday and came back to a whole new level of beautification.
While I was gone, the ladies started to actually put child's extensions into Sunda's hair. They were convinced that it would look adorable and so actually purchased the yarn to make the extensions and started while I was in town. They obviously underestimated Sunda's ability to protest sitting still for any length of time. It's two days later, and my lovely daughter is currently sporting a half-afro, half-yarn extensions MULLET. Oh how I wish that our internet was fast enough to load a picture for your enjoyment. To top it all off, she's wearing a pipe cleaner necklace laced with foam dinosaur charms that fits her like a choker (from the birthday party on Saturday.) A yarn mullet and matching dinosaur choker. My daughter the fashion plate.
We've been going through some mild therapy regarding the extensions. Everyday we start with, "Sunda, are you going to sit still for a bit and let auntie plait your hair?" Quick reply? "No Mommy." "But, it looks so pretty." "Okay Mommy, pretty." Then she sits for 15 minutes. And gets a little bit more of a mullet. This is the same child that is on an earring kick and begs me EVERYDAY, "Airplane...Up up...America...Pappy and Nene...Go...Earrings." (Her way of listing the things that are going to happen when we come home.) (The reason for the earring kick is that she recently made a friend with a 3 year old girl who has Minnie-mouse earrings. It was all over from there.)
So, I get it from all sides. I'm sure all the Americans are now thinking that I'm cruel for making my young child go through so much hair braiding. When I presented this to my Zambian friend, she said, "No, no...'tis MUCH better to braid a fussy child who has 2 years than a screaming child who has 5 years. She will have to be plaited for the rest of her life. Now is when you teach them."
Poor kid. And I thought sponge curlers were bad.