The hair brush is probably about as ancient a tool as a knife; artifacts show up across every culture. In 1777 William Kent got started manufacturing them, and they haven’t changed a whole lot ever since. I’m partial to a wooden brush with natural bristles, a round one, or a flat one with pneumatic rubber cushioned bristles, like Mason Pearson made in 1885, around the same time as production started on my tried & true hard-rubber comb. As a child I admired an ornate silvery brush and mirror set in the family, the sort that was popular for brides for the last one hundred and fifty years. But it is the long traditions of brushing and styling hair that I’m even more interested in. I’m very pleased to have a guest who shares with me a delight and fascination with practices that ground us and connect us, the wonderful Kim McCabe. I like her perspective and asked her to give me her take on the tried & true hair brush, as someone who works with attachment and parenting.
My great-grandmother used to brush my grandmother’s hair one hundred times every morning.
My grandmother did the same for my mother.
My mother didn’t have time.
Now all too often we associate doing our daughter’s hair in the morning with hurry and stress. Tension arises as hair is tugged, child remonstrates, and mother chastises. We miss the opportunity that it gives mother and daughter to spend special time together. Tugging at tangles is not necessary. If we set aside ten minutes and take the tangles slowly, it can be a time of intimacy. It can be a pleasure for both.
Rather than approaching it with a sense of dread, brushing our daughter’s hair could become a morning ritual where we chat about the day ahead. It can be a ritual that continues long after she could be managing her hair for herself because it has become a precious way of checking in with each other at the start of each day. Sometimes things can be discussed that are not so easily spoken of face to face.
These daily snippets of quality time weave the strong web of the mother-daughter relationship. It is worth it, and it may even transform the morning mood at home.
My sweetheart likes to brush our children’s long hair while they watch a film together on the sofa. Then they come to me to show me their beautiful hair. It’s a sweet ritual, I hadn’t noticed it so much til now as a way to bring them close. I’ve grown my hair quite long and have been trying to persuade them all to plait it for me – and I’ve been practicing different knots and twists on the children’s hair. It’s such a friendly thing to do, I shall be keeping in mind another purpose beyond getting out all those tangles. Thank you Kim.
Kim McCabe works with mothers and their coming-of-age girls and writes the brilliant, perceptive Rites For Girls.