One of the issues everyone with an African child faces is: Hair.
Everyone will tell you this well in advance of you getting your child.
"Look into styles," they say. And also, "You're going to need a bunch of products."
These people are right.
Among the many things that fascinate me about my kid's hair is just how long it is. When it's wet, or when I'm combing it, I can see that it's roughly three to four inches long.
But if I put some conditioner in it, and leave it alone for a bit so that it goes all curly - it sticks out maybe a half inch.
When Mihret's hair got long enough to work with, Kara and I dutifully packed her up in her car seat and went to a local hair salon, which is owned by a friend of ours. We asked the nice woman behind the counter what product to use, and she mentioned a conditioner that sounded good.
Only they were out of it.
So we ordered some. And we were told it would arrive in, perhaps, a couple of weeks.
I didn't fault the store for this then, but today, I fault them even less - and I'll come back to why in a moment.
We were told that, in the meantime, baby oil would do the trick. So we headed to a nearby Walgreens and bought some.
Luckily, our friend had already provided us with a comb.
The next morning, it was time to do the hair.
After a little thought, we decided to stick Mihret in a Bumbo, which is a kind of soft chair designed for kids who can't sit up on their own, yet. It's actually made in Africa, which is kind of neat, really.
It's a great little seat, and we fed Mihret in it, and put her in it when we wanted her to practice sitting up, and it is just in general a helpful little tool for holding a child in place.
I got out the baby oil, and put some on my hand, and stuck it into Mihret's hair.
And then I learned something - baby oil is awful.
It's hard to pour out of the bottle, and oftentimes, I got WAY too much into my palm, and there was nowhere to put the excess.
Once it's in a child's hair, the hair is "wet" for quite some time - leaving little "oil slicks" every time you place your child's head on a blanket, or into her car seat.
And once the stuff is on your hand, I hope you like it, because nothing will get it off. Not washing your hand, not a paper towel, not spreading the oil on other body parts. The stuff simply doesn't go away.
It's just not a good scene.
Subsequently, we were overjoyed when the conditioner came in. And we were very happy to find out that while it's still a little greasy, and makes your hand (and Mihret's head) smell for the rest of the day, it is, at least, a nice smell, which people tend to like.
(Although I will say, quite often you end up with random friends and family sniffing the baby's head. That's a little weird.)
Mihret hated having her hair done from the word go, and has been able to show it more and more as she has gotten bigger.
She kicked, and she flailed, and in general made things worse for herself. When I would hit a snarl, and try to get through it slowly, she would jerk her head, ripping through the tangle, while screaming at me. This, too, has not improved since day one.
At first I thought the process must really hurt, and I worked hard to comfort her right after. I'd pick her up from the seat, cuddling her with my clean hand, while doing a single-hand wash of the other greasy hand o' mine.
Then one day, I managed to muck up both my hands, and I left my daughter on the floor in her Bumbo while I went to wash my hands. The very second I walked out of the room, and she didn't have an audience, the wee one stopped crying and screaming, and opted instead to play with her toys.
It was all an act.
If it does hurt her to get her hair done - it isn't hurting very much, is what I'm saying. My toddler is just trying to play me.
Then, more recently, two criseses hit us at the same time.
The Bumbo stopped working. Mihret had gotten too big and could push herself out of the seat.
This was a problem, because now we were into control issues. While before I knew she could sit, safe and sound, while I worked conditioner through her hair, I now have to kind of hold her in place with my legs while I attempt to work a comb through the snarls.
As a bonus, I realized that all the hair she's growing means we were running out of conditioner, and quickly.
So I sent Kara to the store to pick up more of the stuff and... they're out. And won't have more for about two weeks.
With less than a week's worth of the stuff on hand, I started to panic. I did NOT want to go back to baby oil, because now that she can roam free, and squirm even more than before, it can't do anything but lead to an even larger mess than it previously did.
So I hit the Internet. I looked up our child's product and clicked around, back and forth, until I discovered that Walgreens sells the stuff online.
I was hoping to get it in two days - but they said it would be a week.
Still better than two weeks. I ordered the stuff, and went for five bottles. Why not? I would save money on shipping, and there would be much less chance of running out...
I'll have to stretch the stuff we have, skip a day or two, but that should be all right.
And then today, I get the email - they shipped the stuff.
I got excited - I might only have to skip conditioning my daughter's hair once, maybe twice at the most. She'll have so-so hair days, but most kids this age have kind of a mess of hair anyway, and she never gets that bad...
And then I realized something - they didn't send five bottles. They sent one.
Bonus round? They didn't backorder the rest, because they're out of stock, and they don't know when they'll get more.
I find myself torn as I write this.
I now feel a great deal of pity for my friends running the local hair salon. I don't know who supplies the stuff, but I now know that coming across a bottle of it anywhere is something of a miracle.
I also feel bad for the local African-American community. They've got kids, and I've got a kid, and we're all in this together, and the best product I've seen on the market is almost impossible to lay your hands on.
I thought I was prepared to deal with my kid's hair. I took a class, I got some books, and I did some research.
But no one told me I'd need two extra arms and private investigator who specializes in hard-to-find hair care products.