Learning How to French Braid As a Tomboy Mom

My daughter loves makeup and hairstyling, but also science and speed running. I'm getting involved in all of it because she's the best.

by Krista Von Canon
Originally Published: 
A blurred-out woman braiding a French braid on her daughters head, in front of a mirror.

I was a proud tomboy growing up. My version of lipstick was always flavored lip balms; that, plus some concealer, were all that I put on my face well into my 20s. Even now, I shower at night so that my hair can air-dry. My husband is the one who uses the hair dryer.

I thought I would mother a pack of boys. But as it turned out, I have been blessed to have one child, a daughter — a daughter who is increasingly frustrated by my low-maintenance style.

My daughter runs fast, gets filthy playing outdoors barefoot, and is enthralled by science. My daughter can also draw a perfect cat-eye, and knows how to contour and shade (what does that even mean? I’m still not sure). At the age of 5, hand on hip, eyeballing me from head to toe disapprovingly, she declared, “Mommy! You look like Cinderella before the Bibbidity-Bobbity-Boo!”

My daughter, now 10, is strong, confident, and a voracious reader. Her interest in hair, makeup, and accessories will not keep her from her goals. Emboldened by her self-assurance, I know my daughter will blaze many a trail, all while wearing the perfect eye shadow and a fierce shoe.

To form a closer bond and not be the recipient of my daughter’s side-eye, I have attempted to learn makeup and hairstyling tricks. My daughter has become increasingly interested in her hair — specifically, French braids. One French braid in the back, or two French braids, or French-braided pigtails.

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I can bait a hook, and clean a fish. I can also run fast. I have perfected chocolate pies, omelettes, and biscuits. But I cannot apply my eyeliner into “wings,” and for the love of all that is holy, I cannot French braid.

As I type at my desk, I am sporting a side braid, secured on the back of my head by a bright yellow clip. A yellow clip that matches my sweater, natch. I teach at my daughter’s elementary school, and my daughter has recently taken to styling my hair for me in the morning.

I thank and praise her for each new do, each style something I would never have bothered with myself. I want my daughter to be proud of me. And I want her to know that intelligent, independent, successful women can achieve goals in Birkenstocks or stilettos, bare nails or manicures.

But I also want her to know that she can be interested in hair and makeup just like she’s interested in sports and nature and reading. So, I find myself watching YouTube videos on French braiding, studying them, practicing. I am determined that my laid-back style of self-care not translate into a laid-back style of parenting my amazing daughter. She is deserving of my time, my focus, my attention, and that means learning more about her interests. So, yellow clip in place, I will hit pause, go back, and watch again until I master the French braid.

Krista Von Canon is the tax-season widow of a CPA and the mother of a vibrant daughter. She’s also a teacher and Wonder Woman fan, who, at 5 feet, 11 inches tall, is thrilled each time a student questions her secret identity.

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