My 4-year-old daughter's hair trails almost down to her butt and she doesn't want to cut it. My husband and I are pretty chill about the choices our children make when it comes to their appearance, but we do have a rule: "If you want long hair, you have to help take care of it." Part of taking care of those cascading tresses is braids. And while I vocally appreciate everything my husband does to keep family life running smoothly, I won't celebrate my partner for braiding our daughter's hair.
My husband is a hands-on, engaged, thoughtful, feminist, amazing man and father who absolutely does not know how to braid his daughter's hair. He will, though. I've made it very clear that he is required to learn how. In fact, I send him videos with messages like, "Watch this and learn how to braid, please!" because I'm neither subtle nor passive. And when he does learn, I'll thank him — just like I thank him for doing lots of other things I expect him to do as a nice short-hand way of acknowledging that this parenting thing is difficult and I appreciate his willingness to do his part.
But I have zero intention of ever fawning over his every coiffing effort, no matter how infrequent or shoddy. I mean, let's get real for a second:
Because He's Her Father
Caring for the children is literally his job, and part of childcare includes haircare. This is not some special side-project that you can take on if you feel like it: the kid needs her hair properly maintained. Braids are, for many kids, including my daughter, part of the standard grooming requirements.
Because I Do It All The Time
Right now, I'm the only one braiding her hair, because my husband still hasn't learned. I do it and while I'll occasionally be complimented on my fine plaiting skills, it's really nothing all that special or worthy of heaps of praise, particularly not just the act of my having done it. I'm her parent, and this is what I'm supposed to do.
Because It's Seriously Not Difficult
A basic braid isn't hard in and of itself. It doesn't even take all that much practice. But even the fancier braids are pretty easy to learn these days with YouTube. There are untold numbers of tutorials that can show you precisely how to do a braid.
Trust me, I'm probably one of the least hand-eye coordinated people you will ever meet. My spatial intelligence is crap. Through the magic and majesty of online videos I've learned no less than four different braiding techniques in the last year or so. If I can do it most anyone probably can.
Because It Needs To Get Done
Making a big deal of him braiding makes it seem like this is a favor he's doing me. It's not. This is a task that needs to get done.
Because I Don't Want To Be Seen As The Default Hair Person In Our Family
It is my opinion that each parent in a family should have a basic handle on all of the things. This doesn't mean that each parent won't have their particular strengths and expert skill sets, of course. It doesn't even mean that each person won't wind up having what's seen as their set "jobs." Like, my husband hasn't cooked in months and that's fine: it works better with my schedule, I'm better at it, and I'd honestly rather cook than clean the kitchen. But that doesn't mean if I suddenly fell ill that he couldn't cook, or if he broke both his arms I couldn't clean. As such, I don't want to be the only person in the house who can do this necessary task for our daughter.
Because I Don't Want Our Kids To Think It's A Big Deal
Because, and I cannot stress this enough: he is her father and this is part of his job.
Because Hair Is Already A Weird Issue With Sociological Baggage
I'm on the record worrying about my daughter's relationship with her hair and, guys, as far as sociocultural issues surrounding hair go she got off light: she's a white girl with blonde hair. Still, all hair in our society conveys messages and preoccupations with gender presentation, status, even class. I don't need to complicate this already very strange, stupid issue with heaping praise on my husband as though him taking an interest in the feminine art of hair braiding is some miraculous condescension on his behalf.
Because I Want Him To Get Good At It
When he finally learns how to braid — and he will — I want him to be more than passable at it, ideally. I want him to rock an infinity braid at some point. If I act as though a crooked, shoddy braid is God's gift to our daughter's hair he's going to be content to rest on his laurels.