Hair Today, Dad Tomorrow

Dear Mr. Dad: I’m a single dad with an 8-year-old daughter. She and I are very close, but something has come between us: her hair. She sees other girls her age on TV, movies, or even at school and they all seem to have these amazing hairstyles and fancy arrangements. My daughter keeps asking me to do something like that for her, but I’m not even completely sure I understand the difference between pigtails and ponytails. I can see that to my daughter, hair is a big deal and I’d really like to give her what she wants. Any suggestions?

A: Boy (okay, I should say “girl”), can I empathize. As the father of three daughters I can’t even count the number of times I had my nails painted, face powdered, and eyes smeared with mascara. Or the number of hours I spent conditioning hair (not mine) and combing out snarls that seemed big enough to house an entire family of hawks. Or the days I spent shaking my head in amazement as a straight-haired -daughter used some kind of medieval torture instrument to curl her hair, while her wavy-haired sister used an equally frightening tool to straighten hers. So I definitely feel your pain. The good news is that there is hope. The even better news is that the fact that your daughter wants you to help her with your hair is a huge compliment. It may seem a little silly to you, but every minute you spend elbow-deep in your daughter’s locks brings you closer together and strengthens your relationship.

The first thing you need to do is get familiar with the tools of the trade—which can be more than a little intimidating. Since your daughter is only eight, you probably won’t have to worry about hair dryers, rollers, or curling and straightening irons for another few years. If you’re lucky. But spend a few minutes walking the hair-care aisles at your local drug store and check out the 6,375 types of brushes, combs, and accessories. There’s a big difference between a scrunchie and a regular pony tail holder (do not, under any circumstances, use a rubber band); butterfly clips, snap clips, and barrettes; hard headbands and stretchy ones.

If you have any energy left, take a quick walk through the shampoo department and get ready to refinance your house. You may be able to get away with the Costco brand right now, but take a lesson from my oldest daughter who came back home after her freshman year of college. After rummaging through every closet in the house, she held up a bottle of generic shampoo and sneeringly asked, “don’t you have anything more expensive?”

Now all that’s left is to roll up your sleeves and start creating designer ‘dos. For that, I recommend Cozy Friedman’s Guide to Girls’ Hair: The Cutest Cuts and Sweetest Hairstyles to Do at Home. Friedman, a New York kids’ stylist, will walk you through creating ponytails, pigtails, braids (French, heart, ,mini, and others) along with a rather optimistic estimate of how long it might take to do.

If you’re looking for other ways to strengthen your relationship with your daughter, you’ll definitely want to check out the winners of the Spring 2011 Mr. Dad Seal of Approval. You’ll find a huge variety, including the Xploderz XRanger 2000 firing system (xploderz.com), SnoozeShade (snoozeshade.com), DoodleRoll art kits (doodleroll.com), a great smock from Koobli (koobli.com), Periodic Quest chemistry game (periodicquest.com), the Pocket Referee (thepocketreferee.com), fantastic games from Bananagrams (bananagrams.com) and many more. The full list is at mrdad.com/seal.

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