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What Doing My Daughter’s Hair Every Day Taught Me About Fatherhood

When his daughter was three, Darious Bland realized he didn't know how to do her hair properly So, he learned. Everything. Now, he teaches other dads the same.

When his daughter was about three years old, Darious Bland came to a realization: he didn’t know what to do with her hair.  The single father, who has full custody of his little girl, would rely on his mother for help with her hair. When she was gone, he didn’t have any idea what to do. This, he understood, needed to change. So, he spent an entire summer learning everything there was about how to style, comb out, twist, braid, and detangle his daughter’s hair. An engineer by trade, he brought his meticulousness to it: He studied gels and jams; combs and curlers. Soon, he was styling her hair into elaborate designs, receiving compliments, bonding with her in an entirely new way, and instilling a deep pride about the heritage in her hair.

Eventually, Bland realized that there were black fathers — single or otherwise — who might benefit from his help but didn’t know how to ask for it. So he started teaching workshops and the Facebook group “Can Daddy Do My Hair?”. He regularly teaches full classes, all of which comes with a serious dose of father-daughter bonding, laughs, and dedication to the craft.

Here, Darious talks about his journey, the empowering beauty of his daughter’s hair, and the bonding braiding provides.  

I have one daughter, and I’ve been doing her hair since she was about three years old. In the beginning, I didn’t know anything about hair. My mom would style my daughter’s hair for me. One day, we had to go somewhere, and my mom was gone. So I had to do my daughter’s hair. I didn’t know what or how to style it. My best friend was there that day. He actually put up a better ponytail than me. He was trying to show me how to do it. And I was just so confused.

From that day on, I knew that if I was going to have custody of her and that she was going to be with me, that I needed to know how to do her hair. So I took an entire summer to learn how to style my daughter’s hair from brushing, to parting, to putting it in pony tails of different styles, to twisting.

I’m an engineer by day and a daddy 24/7. Engineers look at an angle from a geometric space. So I try to make sure that when I do her hair, I’m very meticulous. It was a steep learning curve, because it was a lot of the unknown. I don’t have long hair, so I didn’t understand the process. My mom helped me out a lot. She sat down with me, and showed me how to part her hair using a rat tail comb and different kinds of gels and jams to use, and how to get the hair to lay down, and how to use a detangling brush so her hair doesn’t break off.

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Now, a lot of women see her and they compliment her on her hair about how beautiful it is. They’re shocked about the fact that I do her hair. A lot women say, “I wish my husband knew how to do it,” or, “I could never see my daughter’s dad doing their hair.” I figured that if I was interested in doing things like this, learning know how to style my daughter’s hair, then other men would be interested also. So I set up a class, let men come, and gave them techniques and supplies so they could try to do training on their own.

You really have to teach young girls, especially in the black community that wear afros, self-love.

When I hold workshops, I have my family come and help me with teaching the men how to do different styles. It’s so much better when the community comes together and helps each other out. I also go to the houses of people who have already been to other classes. I’ll teach them different things.

I also realized I needed to talk to my daughter about her hair. When she was younger, she called her hair “nappy.” That showed me that you have to be aware of the things you say to a child. That was something she must have heard from other people, from her grandmother or her aunties or different people in her life. After that, I told her and my family that we’re not allowed to use that word anymore. Not about herself and not in general. She has to love herself from the tip of her toes to the top of her head.

You really have to teach young girls, especially in the black community that wear afros, self-love. My daughter loves to just wear afros so that she can just get up and go. She’s comfortable enough to go out of the house in an afro. A lot of women, who are young or all the way up into their older years aren’t confident in their natural selves.

Some men just want to have that experience bonding with their daughter. But men have a hard way of trying to figure out ways to spend time with their daughters, especially in unique ways. It’s not always going outside, playing, and riding a bike. But talking to them about their hair and doing their hair is different. Girls love to see and spend time with their dads. And when dads are just trying and their daughters laugh at them like, “No, daddy, this is not right,” or if their daddy actually does a good job and they’re surprised like, “Yeah, my daddy did my hair,” that’s bonding.

I never thought that I would get as good as I did. Sometimes, women pull me to the side and ask me to teach them how to do it. That’s when I feel like I’m actually really good.

It’s about men being able to take care of their families, above and beyond providing financially. Being able to sit down and cook a meal, and to help and show your daughter how to love herself completely inside and out, and to appreciate her natural beauty, and everything about herself. Those are things that men really don’t think about as being a father. But when you take a step back and see that a father is more than just the financial side of things, then it shows you how important these things are to your family and to your children.

I would like for the dads who teach my classes to teach other men. That’s one of the points of the classes. I would like for the men that came to the last class, to actually come to the new classes and teach the new dads who are coming in and show them like, “Yeah, this is actually possible.”

I never thought that I would get as good as I did. Sometimes, women pull me to the side and ask me to teach them how to do it. That’s when I feel like I’m actually really good.

— As Told To Lizzy Francis