|Chad Milner with daughter Cydney|
One Sunday afternoon, when I was 16 years old, I had a random-yet-intuitive premonition. I looked at my then-months old little cousin in her bassinet and thought to myself “My first child is going to be a little girl,” as my grandmother weaved cornrows into my teenage scalp.
I didn’t give the credence much thought until a decade later. My long-time girlfriend was in her first trimester and we conversed about the gender of our first child. Without hesitation, I told her we were having a daughter and I wanted to be the kind of father that did her hair.
After a hard-fought bout with cancer, my daughter’s mother passed away when our child, Cydney, was nine months old. Given the circumstances, I was forced into learning how to maintain my baby’s mane.
At first, Cydney’s hair care regimen required no experience: all I had to do was comb the top of her head-where she had lots of little curls-and brush the hairs on the sides. Cyd was born with a full head of hair, her mother’s was very long, and I had locs; I knew one day my kid’s hair would grow and my little brush-and-bow skillset would not be enough.
Like most toddlers, the sides of Cydney’s hair evened out with her curly top. Her one bow evolved into mini pigtails with a mini-fro of some sort in the back. It wasn’t anything complicated or intricate; but it was cute.
In 2012, I started my blog that chronicled my adventures as a single father. The responses to my daughter’s hair validated me. As a hyper-competitive alpha male, my daughter’s hair became a challenge I felt compelled to continuously outdo myself; and an audience stoked that fire. Somewhere between narcissism and necessity, my next mountain to climb was braiding my daughter’s hair.
I didn’t know much. The first thing I figured out how to do was little plaits and box braids. Her hair was no longer than 1.5 inches, so it cramped my fingers and I was over this style quickly and I got tired of doing the same style.
My first foray into cornrowing hair came from braiding down box braids into each other. Eventually, I grew tired of doing this as well because it was quite a headache to take out. One day, I looked at my child’s messy head and said “It’s time to cornrow this.”
From my teenage years, I knew what cornrows felt like; but I was clueless in doing the deed myself. Instead of weaving outward, I crocheted inward. I posted a picture of my work on social media and was told I did an amazing job. Looking back, they were encouraging me to keep trying because it wasn’t that great. Regardless, I felt inspired to keep going. Once I got better at it, I began making little parts, zig zags, and designs.
Cydney’s hair had a very interesting texture. The front half of her hair was like her half Puerto Rican mother’s: fine, long, and curly at the top. The back was like mine: very black. Coming up with styles that suited this unique blend was trial and error. By trial and error, I am referring that period of time when the black half of her head completely broke off.
In time, I learned to do it all. I guess I started getting pretty good at doing my daughter’s hair because my friends and followers sent me pictures of hairstyles with messages such as “This made me think of you” and “You should try this style,” and I would mimic them as best as possible. I braided crisscrosses, put beads on the end, and for one of her birthdays, I braided a heart into the back of Cydney’s head (Note: Cydney’s birthday is Valentine’s Day). I even taught myself how to flat iron and use a curler.
I started learning about different oils, conditioners, and products because my little girl’s maintenance was now a major part of raising her. In Kindergarten, Cyd began to tell me that she wanted to wear her natural curls and I had to learn how to do so.
As a single parent, [historically] feminine hair care became a conversation piece with women. My following inquire about my methods and preferences in products through social media. When I was dating, somehow the topic of hair would come up with different people of interest. One day, as I sat and [im]patiently waited for my girlfriend to finish getting ready, I looked at a bottle of conditioner on her dresser, pointed, and told her “I use that for Cydney’s hair.” We recently had a whole discussion about flat irons in which I knew brand names.
My daughter turned six last February. She hasn’t been too fond of me braiding her hair for some time. Her hair had begun to take a toll on us both. My fingers began to cramp because of she had so much hair—it flowed past her shoulder blades. The spring and summer of 2017 was filled with her constantly telling me it hurt and I would reply “If I see tears, I won’t braid your hair anymore.” It has become time for someone else to take the proverbial reigns and maintain her mane. The $50 I spent every other week became an investment in both of our sanity. But every once in a while, I still throw down to show I still got it…
…or I’m preparing to do it all again for another daughter.
Read it because I wrote it: Chad Milner is a New York-based father who loves to share his love of words with others. From music to black fatherhood, Chad’s insights have been featured on NBC News, Attn:, Madamenoire, Anecdote Magazine, and several others. Follow his journey raising his daughter, Cydney at Single Dadventures.