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Gray Areas: Finding Clarity

April 5, 2017

by Sarena James

Grant at doorIf you’re taller than Grant then you’ve probably noticed two things. One, you won’t be taller much longer, he’s hit another growth spurt and the shorts he now wears were last week’s pants. Secondly, he has lots of gray hair. Yep. At ten, he’s steadily going gray. He’s still our Grant and for us it was just another unique thing about him adding to our ever-growing list. But for him, it’s become something that’s made him spend much more time in the mirror every morning fueling his already peculiar fascination with hair. Grant has been changing his hairstyles a lot over the years, at his request. He’s grown his hair out for Afros and funky Mohawks. He’s worn twists and low-top fades with fine-lined parts. If there is one thing he loves and finds intriguing about himself, it’s his hair and its versatility, and we love that about him. 

“No more mommy.” 

“No more what Grant?” 

“I want blonde. Odell Beckham blonde.” 

I’d been dismissing his request for months now, admittedly smirking it off as some cute pre-adolescent phase. (Honestly, I think I was basking in the “normalcy” of the parent-child disagreement between us, while Raphael was thinking Grant was being driven by a desire to be like his peers.) More and more often, he’d ask again. “Absolutely not, Grant.” Sometimes that “no” would send him into meltdowns and that behavior certainly wasn’t helping his cause.

“Odell Beckham blonde?”

“No Grant.” 

He’d shrug. Walk off. Sigh. 

That had become the routine. 

Last Saturday evening though, something happened, something different.  Grant was in the mirror combing his hair and I noticed his big brown eyes were full of tears. Something was bothering him.  Comb. Tears. Comb. Tears. “Grant? What are you thinking?”

There was quite a long pause before he answered but I could tell there was a whirlwind of thoughts spinning in that mind of his. Then it happened. His words trapped behind a dam of emotions finally found their way flooding out, “I’ll be a grandpa at fifty-five! Then I’ll have gray hair at fifty-five mommy! Not now, then.” (Oh God, his gray hair bothers him.) And as long as I live, I hope to never forget what happened next. He starts laughing a laugh that only a freed soul could bring.  He’d found the explanation that had probably been wandering around in his head for months searching for the verbal exit door.  Now he’d said it. He’d explained himself as only he could. It was perfect and it was enough. Nothing but son-light reflecting off of his oceanic wave of emotions. The change he wanted was for himself. It was thoroughly processed through his own observations.

I’ve often said that Grant is one of my greatest life teachers, instructing daily lessons in understanding, perspective, and sensitivity. Attendance counts. The willingness to show up every day counts, even if and when you get it wrong. Not every tantrum stems from not getting what you want, especially when what you want most, is just to get the words out.

After that, Grant, Raphael, and I had an honest and full conversation about his hair and he was oh-so-present for it with his ideas and again, his laughter. We didn’t go “Odell Beckham Blonde” (at least not yet) but we found a “Go-Grant Brown” and it’s the most handsome color we’ve ever seen. “Color-full language” can be a beautiful thing… 

IMG_20170405_133157(A special thank you Danielle Lee-Hodges’s, owner of Integrity Hair Studio. Your attentiveness, understanding, and expertise helped guide us through this new stage with Grant. ) 

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