Stephanie Hollifield and her daughter Haley. Hollifield is being praised for her willingness to ask for help after she couldn't figure out how to style Haley's hair. (Photo: Courtesy of Stephanie Hollifield)
Sometimes, the best thing we can do as parents is admit when we’re not good at something and ask for help.
That’s what Stephanie Hollifield did in a humbling post that’s turned into a beacon for understanding and compassion.
Before Thanksgiving, Hollifield got a photo of her 2-year-old daughter Haley from a school teacher. Haley, who is adopted, beamed as she colored a picture of a turkey. But Hollifield, who’s white, focused on Haley’s hair. She felt her child’s hair looked unkempt, despite daily care. She felt like a “failure” as a mom for her inability to keep her little girl well-groomed.
Hollifield took to Facebook to lay bare her guilt. She called herself a “clueless white momma” and asked “black friends of social media” for any and all help they could offer for her child’s tresses.
After detailing the extensive routine Hollifield, a wife and mother of five, has for Haley’s hair, she ended her post with a sentence every parent can relate to:
“I desperately want to get this right!”
Her heartfelt request set off a wave of support and sympathy for the Georgia mom who runs the Momstrosity blog. Many were touched that Hollifield would put herself out there — exposed to the often nasty criticism of social media comments — for the sake of her daughter.
Strangers started recommending products they personally found worked for black hair. They tagged friends with hair they admired to share advice. They reassured her that she’d get it eventually.
Some shared photo examples of their children’s hair.
But one person went an extra step. Monica Hunter, a black mom who lived not far from Hollifield, offered to come to Hollifield for a step-by-step tutorial in grooming textured hair.
Though she was skeptical at first, Hollifield took Hunter up on her offer and invited her to her home, where Hunter styled Haley’s hair and gave Hollifield lessons in which combs and products work best. She wouldn’t accept any money. But she did take Hollifield up on an offer of friendship.
“What was insane to me about Monica was that I had never met her and she offered to come to my home. At first I kind of laughed and was like, ‘Yeah I will do that one day.’ I never really thought she meant it. But she did and she reached out again and came over and was so kind and helpful.” Hollifield told USA TODAY.
We talked with Hollifield about her post and Haley’s hair now
Question: Did you have any reservations in reaching out to the black community to get help for your daughter’s hair?
Answer: I had reservations on how to word it, but since adopting our older son from foster care, we have understood the value of reaching out to our black friends and neighbors. It is absolutely worth any discomfort or learning/growing pains I might feel to have knowledge on how to raise my children. Not just with hair and skin care but culturally and otherwise.
Q: What gives you the courage to push past discomfort when it comes to talking about race?
A: I understand that no one owes us anything and we really went into this adoption very naive. We felt that we could be colorblind and love our children and serve all of our children in the same way. What we have learned is we can’t be blind to their culture and their color. We have to celebrate it and we have to help them be proud of it.
We have been so, so thankful for all of our black friends who have stepped up and kind of partnered with us in that. It is awkward to navigate that space as a white woman who was taught that to talk about race is racist. That was a big learning curve to understand that we needed to learn and talk about race. I hate that we didn’t have that revelation before we had kids, but we didn’t.
Q: What was your response to all the feedback?
A: Monica and I have been shocked that so many people are interested. But I love the conversations it is starting!
Q: Since Monica’s help, do you find doing your daughter’s hair easier? What products and techniques have you put in practice since?
A: I knew that I was missing something simple. I’ve had such sweet friends and community members step up and tell me what products to use. We have been to the salon and they have been such a help. What I didn’t understand was that Haley’s hair needed to be in a protective style most of the time in order to protect it, keep it healthy, and help it grow. I also didn’t understand, or ever imagine that we would be able to do these protective styles ourselves.
Monica came over and literally walked me through it. I didn’t know that’s what I needed, but it really was. Right now we are doing lots of little puffs. Her hair is still so short and it is so fine that Monica was afraid braids wouldn’t hold right now. I watched a YouTube video the other night and did twist some her hair. It looks super cute for about 20 minutes, and then came out. I have some work to do.
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