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Why I locked my son’s hair

It’s one thing when your little daughter has long hair, locked or not. It’s another story altogether when it’s your son. Thelma Spits Lukachia tells us about raising her interracial son with rock-star-long dreadlocks

If you have a teenager, odds are that she cares about her appearance and that she takes care of her own hair. But if you have a child who is anywhere from, say, below five years, you may be like millions of other parents who deal with daily power struggles over something that seems so trivial; hair.

First, they don’t know, let alone want to wash their hair at all, so a parent has to wash it for them. Sadly, there’s a lot more to hair care than simply washing it. Add to the list brushing the hair, and you’ve got a bigger problem. Long hair is subject to constant tangling that makes it difficult to manage.

Simply put, long hair is a lot of work. Thelma Spits Lukachia is one of those parents that found themselves sucked into silly power struggles over those unkempt little locks. The fact that, her child is a boy made it even worse. Thelma has had to deal with maintaining her boy’s hair as well as stares from strangers who probably are accustomed to traditionally precision-cut little boy styles.

Her three-year-old son, Willem Frederik Elphas Spits is of mixed race; Dutch and Kenyan, which makes his hair smooth and manageable, but Thelma says he was not patient enough to let her comb it. Every hair care session was a fight and at the end of the process they would be worn out. Tired of her son acting out, she let the hair be. So it started locking itself.

“I used to wash with shampoo and comb with conditioner when he would let me. Then I trimmed it twice, but after he turned three, I realised he did not enjoy the combing process, so I decided to let it lock.

It locks naturally, but recently I have tried to use wax to make it a bit presentable,” says Thelma. Thelma, who together with her husband, Willem Fredrick Spits run Free Kenya Foundation, an agribusiness firm that empowers farmers, says the decision to keep her son’s hair long is just a personal preference, but they would not hesitate to shave it if they had to.

“Well, we really don’t have a plan, we take it by the day. It is stress free and he likes it so far, so we will keep the locks. But if it gets hectic, we may shave it to make it easier for him,” she says, adding, “I don’t think he realises or cares about how he looks either. He would care less if I shaved him.” And does Willem’s school rules and regulations allow boys to keep their hair long?

Thelma says it does. “My son goes to Rainbow Kinder Kindergarten, an all inclusive school that does not mind any hairstyle a child wants,” says she. But she admits receiving weird looks from strangers.

Living in rural Kisumu and having an interracial child who has long hair has definitely earned Willem a lot of stares and attention. But her son has gotten used to being picked for being different, and his friendly and talkative nature helps him mingle easily.

His school also has a diversity of races, which helps a lot, so he knows he is not that unique. She says the funniest thing she has been asked is if she dye’s her son’s hair because it is blonde at the edges, “I owe it to his Dutch side of the family,” she laughs.

She is glad that her boy has yet to encounter mean comments from people who would use his long-dreadlocked hair as an object of ridicule. “My friends and family don’t care one way or another how long a little boy’s hair is.

As long as it’s maintained well at any length. I think so too, if your child is older, they can decide how long they want their hair. But let’s face it, until they can talk, and really have opinions about their looks, it’s up to us, parents to decide what works,” says Thelma who also owns Uzima band, a contemporary music band based in Kisumu.

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