I sat on the couch annoyed. I would be spending the next hour of my life detangling my two-year-old’s beautiful hair. Ever since she started preschool, she’s had this nervous habit of twirling her hair into knots. I am not referring to simple knots that are easily taken out by a comb. Picture instead a matted mess of dreads all along the left side of her head. After a long day of teaching, this was the seventh consecutive day that I had spent unknotting and untwisting the disaster.
All I wished to do in that moment was to laugh with her, to read with her, or just do something halfway pleasant. Instead, she sat and watched Mickey Mouse and I was infuriated as I gathered detangling spray, scissors, and an assortment of brushes and combs. I tried not to release much of my anger towards her, but it didn’t take long for my questions to transform into harsh grumbling.
“Finley, are you OK? Why are you doing this? Are you scared? Are you angry? You need to stop twirling your hair.”
Anger rose up inside me. I went to the kitchen, stood at the sink, and let out as many tears that would flow. I made sure to cry as quietly as possible because I didn’t want her to hear me.
I felt defeated.
I had tried everything. I had asked for advice from my older mom friends. I did all the tricks the Facebook mom groups suggested. I even spoke with a few hair stylists. Nothing was working.
I felt exhausted.
It wasn’t just the hour or sometimes two of detangling the knots or the screaming that accompanied most of it; it was the countless conversations and energy that I poured out in order to find a solution.
I felt inconvenienced.
My daughter was inconveniencing my plans. She was messing up my expectation for a happy and restful evening. And it was her fault. I was so done with the hours and hours of fixing her mess.
I felt guilt about my anger.
She is coping with school and changes and here I am mad about hair. How could such a trivial problem expose so much rage in my heart?
I felt fear.
I didn’t want her hair to fall out. Ever since she was a baby, strangers would comment frequently about how beautiful her hair is. What God gave her as a gift, she was destroying.
I felt alone.
I was the only mom I knew at the time who was struggling with this problem. As I sought more council, I only became more frustrated by the responses. The “I’m sorry,” and the “Maybe try this…” comments became more and more bothersome to me.
Finally, I Took a Step Back
I walked over to look out the window and saw the sky, the grass, and our little baby blue shed. I took a deep inhale and an extra-long exhale. There is something about real oxygen that gives your mind extra clarity.
As I observed and named each feeling that exploded out of me, I was able to release the clutter from my mind to finally call out to the One I knew I needed the most.
I just want her to stop. Lord, help.
I paced for a minute around the kitchen. I loaded a couple of dishes in the dishwasher, and I grabbed my water bottle. I took a slow drink and another deep breath. I acknowledged that my cry for help was heard and received with compassion. I remembered the truth that God cares about all of the small details of my life. I reminded myself that God was taking care of me and my daughter. I decided that I was ready to choose peace, patience, and love regardless of how many days in a row this hair twirling would continue on. I had the choice: connection with my daughter or trying to control my circumstances with my own agenda and feelings.
I Came Back With a New Mindset
I walked back to the living room where I saw her big blue eyes super glued to the TV. I sat with her and watched as I continued to work through the knots. Something had shifted inside of me. Removing myself from the situation allowed my heart and mind to reset. My emotions lost their power over me. I could see and hear with compassion.
When the show was over, she turned toward me and cuddled up against my side. I knew in my guts that this twirling habit was not going to be a quick fix, but regardless of how long it took, it really didn’t matter now. My response was what mattered. The marathon of anger inside of me needed to stop.
“Finley, I am so sorry I got so upset. I know you don’t want to hurt your hair. We will fix this together.” I whispered.
“It’s okay, Mommy. I’ll try to stop. I promise,” she replied back sweetly.
A deep peace filled me. A sense of joy that I couldn’t create came into the room.
This Is Motherhood, and We Learn as We Go
This is the hard work of motherhood. You could be writing out your baby’s new schedule eagerly on a napkin with a glimmer of hope for a night of rest, playing carpool with your older children when they don’t want you to speak to their friends, or meeting your daughter’s college boyfriend for the first time. Sometimes it takes removing ourselves from the room, or from our own thoughts, in order to call out to God. Regardless of how we get away in a moment, the real freedom begins when we release our raw feelings before Him, so He can tell us what is true and good. It’s making the deliberate choice to choose connection with God instead of control over our circumstances.
Here I am trying to detangle my daughter’s hair: combing through every tangle and cutting out every knot that wouldn’t budge, and God was reminding me that the real tangles that needed to be released were inside of me.
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