w: Johnathon E. Briggs

Three Things I Learned From Doing My Daughter’s Hair

Three Things I Learned From Doing My Daughter’s Hair

— June 25, 2017 —

I probably know more about Black women’s hair than the typical guy. Growing up, I was often enlisted by my mother to help her with the upkeep of (or switch over from) the many styles she wore during the 80s and 90s: braids of all stripes (basket weave, box, micro), finger waves, the Salt ‘n’ Pepa asymmetrical bob, the Wave Nouveau curly perm, and, even, the trusty wig.

Add to this a former girlfriend who marketed hair products for L’Oreal and I ended up as a man who can speak somewhat intelligently about the many ways Black women strive to keep their “butters whipped.” Should you ever find yourself on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire faced with a question about the follicular formations of Black hair, feel free to use your phone-a-friend option to reach me. I’ll pick up. (Hint: the answer will likely be Madam C.J. Walker or Luster’s Pink Oil Moisturizer. You’re welcome).

But surprisingly, when it came time to do my daughter’s hair, I didn’t have a clue.

I was intimidated. What moisturizer should I use? What type of brush or comb would I need? Would I have to do ponytails (because I never learned to braid)? And there were SO MANY accessories – a multitude of bands, barrettes, clips, scrunchies. Which ones do you use on a two-year-old?

Emmy’s grooming kit. The purple comb works wonders.

My wife knew I was daddy deficient in this area. So she did what moms do: she left instructions. In this case, it was a one-pager titled “Johnathon’s Guide to Doing Emmy’s Hair.” It included nine steps, including “do one section at a time”; “take a fingertip or two of the curling cream and massage into hair thoroughly”; “use the comb to detangle and the brush to smooth hair into a ponytail”; and last, but not least: “use the aloe vera gel to smooth down Emmy’s baby hairs along her hairline.” Edge control is a must.

And so began my #DaddyDoesHair journey. Officially, it started in February when my wife returned to work full time. Every morning after getting my daughter fed and dressed, I spend 15 minutes doing her hair as she sits in her high chair clinging her blanket and singing along to Mickey Mouse Clubhouse. Then we head out the door to daycare.

Here are three things I’ve learned over the past four months in the role of Daddy the Hair Groomer:

1. Doing my daughter’s hair makes me feel like a better dad.  

I didn’t feel complete as a father until I learned how to tackle my daughter’s tangles. I wanted to know how to care for her full circle: feed her, bathe her, clothe her, and yes, do her hair. I was mortified by the idea that Emmy might skip out the house looking like Bushwick Bill if I couldn’t style her locks like mommy. (And what’s worse, it would have been a completely preventable tragedy).

The aesthetics of my daughter’s hair are not as important to me as the pride I feel knowing that I helped her show up in the world looking like she’s being cared for by people who love her.

2. #BlackGirlMagic Can’t Happen Without Moisture.

As a guy with short, cropped hair, I simply brush and go. I put on a dab of pomade here and there, of course, but concern about moisture is not part of my hair routine. It’s different with my daughter.

She has, according to my wife (and Google), hair type 4A: tightly coiled, very fragile, defined curly pattern. Before I even think about putting a comb through her hair, I have to spray her locks with a mix of water and Kinky-Curly Knot Today, comb, massage in some Cantu coconut curling cream, comb again until her hair darkens and curls, and then brush and pull into two Afro puffs that defy gravity. #BlackGirlMagic.

Once, in a hurry, I tried to rush the moisturizing process, only to get the comb snagged in Emmy’s hair. She winced. #DadFail. This forced me to take my time and, in doing so, I took notice of the curve of her ears, the line of her jaw, the health of her scalp. Doing my daughter’s hair allows me to be present with her and see the small ways she’s growing and changing.

3. “It’s not about the braid, it’s about the bond.” 

So says Phil Morgese, a single dad, who with his daughter, Emma, started the Daddy Daughter Hair Factory in Daytona Beach, Florida. Its mission: “To give fathers and father figures the tools they need to handle hair properly, to encourage stronger bonds between them and their daughters, realizing that the most important aspect of doing hair is the bond behind it.” This rang true to me.

After all, I may never be able to do my daughter’s hair with the beauty salon technique of my wife, but that’s OK. My satisfaction comes when Emmy leans in close, gives me a big hug and declares, “You’re the best!” #Winning

My daughter (a.k.a. Sugar Smacks), with butters freshly whipped by daddy. And, yes, I realize I could have made a better barette choice.

Father on,







This post was featured on HuffPost Black Voices on June 25, 2017.

923 words


Johnathon E. BriggsA 40-something dad with a penchant for wingtip shoes and statement socks who blogs about the "4 Fs": fatherhood, food, fitness, and fashion. #DadBlogger #Parenting #MensLifestyle

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  • June 25, 2017

    I love this! Emarie looks cute as can be and one day she will fully appreciate the care her daddy took to send her out in the world looking her best. 🙂 My daughter is 9 but my husband could probably still benefit from that one-page cheat sheet!

    • by Johnathon E. Briggs
      June 26, 2017

      Thanks for reading the piece, Kathy. Cheat sheets are a wonderful thing!

  • by Anne statton
    June 25, 2017


    • by Johnathon E. Briggs
      June 26, 2017

      This was fun to write, Anne! Glad you enjoyed it.

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Six weeks before my 40th birthday, I became a first-time father. This life-changing moment made me think about my own dad, who became a father at 44. As my parenthood journey unfolded, I noticed that most of my friends had become parents earlier in life yet, here I was, changing diapers and battling sleep deprivation at (nearly) 40. I told my wife, “Parenting is definitely a young man’s game.” But is it really?

Where most of my friends were preparing for their children’s middle and high school graduations, I was mastering the art of the swaddle, perfecting the one-hand baby wipe, and learning to decipher my daughter’s gurgles and whimpers. It occurred to me that I had so much more to offer my daughter at the sure-footed age of 40 than I did at, say, 28, when I was still coming into my own. In this awareness I gained appreciation for where I am in life and the idea for Fatherhood@Forty was born.

Fatherhood@Forty is a parenting blog that chronicles my adventures (and misadventures) as a mid-life dad. It is a creative outlet for me to share my experience of fatherhood and to inspire other (relatively) late-in-life dads. It’s been said that each child is their own assignment and I believe each parent’s journey is its own destination.

Here are a few factoids about me, Johnathon Briggs, the editor behind this blog:

  • I am a former journalist (Los Angeles Times, The Baltimore Sun, Chicago Tribune) who appreciates the power of storytelling.
  • I live in the western suburb of Naperville, but love exploring Chicago and the Midwest with my family.
  • I am thankful for my “dad bod” and remain on a constant quest to stay fit through charity 5Ks, weight training and intermittent fasting.
  • I support charities that fight HIV, uplift families affected by incarceration, and ensure African American boys graduate from college.
  • In my spare time I enjoy reading The New Yorker and comic books, binge-watching House of Cards and Luke Cage, experimenting with photography, and shopping on Gilt (guilty pleasure)
  • I am a child of the ‘80s, so please expect references to the Golden Age of Hip-Hop, School House Rock and Scooby-Doo.

As a reporter for daily newspapers, I had the opportunity to interview fascinating people and to test out great products and brands for my readers. I hope to do the same for you as I blog about the moments that make up this thing called fatherhood.

I look forward to sharing my thoughts about the “4 Fs”: fatherhood (Pop Life), food, fitness, and fashion. Please email me if you’d like to collaborate or have ideas for a blog post: fatherhoodforty@gmail.com.

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Disclaimer: Fatherhood@Forty may contain affiliate marketing links, which may result in commission on sales of products or services I write about. My editorial content is not influenced by advertisers or affiliate partnerships. This disclosure is provided in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR § 255.5: Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.