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When I was growing up, I couldn’t wait to do my hair.

My mom liked to keep it simple. After sitting with her, her brush and a tub of Blue Magic, I always looked like a little Just For Me girl. But I didn’t want to look “cute.” I wanted to look cool.

So when I finally was handed the brush and Blue Magic, I cut up.

I burned my hair doing flips, made it a crusty white with Pro Styl on my baby hair, and left dents in it from those tight buns with the socks in them–with a butterfly clip on top.

After doing the absolute most, my hair slowly started to break off. The long hair I had years earlier, cultivated while sitting in between my mom’s legs at night in front of the ABC movie of the week, had broken off and was barely hitting my shoulders by junior year of high school.

In my attempt to look like my older sisters (and with that damn flip, a Black Farrah Fawcett), I looked totally different than planned. I recognized that I needed to create my own looks, keep it simple, and sit down somewhere.

And yet, I relished the leeway I was given to experiment and figure out what did and didn’t work for me. While there were restrictions during my younger years, by late junior high and high school, especially when I was paying with my own money, my mother let me try a lot with my hair. At least the things that wouldn’t leave me bald, like my sister who attempted a Jheri Curl without asking and watched most of her hair fall out.

I was given the space to figure out who I was and what I looked, even if the results weren’t always something out of Sophisticate’s Black Hair. And I appreciated that.

But when are you doing too much in allowing your child to try new things in the name of self-expression?

That’s what I’m wondering after checking out all the flack Christina Milian received for allowing her 5-year-old daughter, Violet, to wear crochet braids.  And not just crochet braids, but a heap of them.

Milian explained that the braids had been tied into the child’s cornrows and were pretty lightweight, so no damage was being done. And considering that Violet loves them, to her, that’s all that mattered.

But, of course, the people disagreed:

I do believe that allowing children the space to figure out what works for them is necessary. Too often we look at them and shun the idea of allowing them room to try even basic things (red nail polish does NOT scream sin). Like the little girl on the train my fiance and I saw who he said was allowed to do “too much.” She rocked a light red pout to resemble the dark red lipstick her mother was wearing. But other than that, she was dressed appropriately, had a little pink sequin purse, her hair was the standard side ponytail, and she had good manners. I thought it was innocent. It was just a little something.

But in Violet’s case, this is a lot of something.

I will say that she is wearing an extensive amount of hair. And at 5, it’s hair that she might accidentally sit on, get caught on things, and that could get in her way.

Plus, a large number of braid extensions can either do too much pulling on a child’s own hair or can be too heavy on a little girl–in terms of looks and neck pain. A thick, full set of braids down to one’s legs? Probably not for a child as little as this little lady.

And I hate to sound like the “too grown,” police because as someone who values self-expression, I do agree with writer Aliya S. King that telling kids they’re trying to be “too grown” can be toxic. But sometimes some looks are truly better suited for young women and adults.

But, again, I respect and appreciate the idea of allowing a child to try things. Kudos to Milian. It helps to keep folks from growing up to be that one woman who is too scared to even cut her hair at 35 because people always told her that long hair makes her beautiful–even if she has terrible split ends. If my mother hadn’t let me try some things, I wouldn’t have had the courage to dye my hair all shades of red, brown and indigo blue, chopped it off, done a texturizer, worn an afro and then grown locs that I love. There do need to be some limits, but Milian did what works best for her and her child. And when you’re just trying to try new things with something as innocent as hair, where’s the real harm in that?

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