I’ll admit that my first reaction was shock. When I saw the YouTube video of a 2-year-old girl getting her hair dyed a bright pink color, I had to do a double take. I’m not the only one, either; this video has gotten millions of views and plenty of reaction — including hundreds of scathing comments — since it was first posted in June 2017. And since the mom in the video, Charity Grace LeBlanc, just posted another photo of her young daughter sporting more vibrant fuchsia locks this past Sunday, another round of internet mom-shaming has been directed her way.
When I first saw the video — a how-to video for dyeing your child's hair — there were so many questions were running through my head. Was it permanent dye? (It wasn’t.) Did it contain harsh chemicals? (It didn't.) Were they really doing her whole head? Wouldn’t it damage her baby fine locks? What would other people think?
We can all relate to having knee-jerk reactions to things like this, especially when it comes to parenting and social media. You immediately put yourself in the shoes of that particular parent and think about what you would or wouldn’t do. And sometimes — with or without meaning to — you throw out your opinion, which can quickly escalate to heated discussions on Facebook.
However in this instance, I think people got a little too worked up about this whole thing. Before we freak out on this mom who was let her daughter have pink hair for a little while, let’s take a deep breath and calm down a little bit.
Why is hair dye so bad?
I was raised in a fairly conservative household, and I didn’t even consider asking to dye my blonde locks because I figured the answer would be no. Even though I was infatuated with being a redhead, I didn’t use real hair dye on my hair until my 20s. (I did have one awkward Pippi Longstocking incident one Halloween, though.)
When I had my own daughter, she started asking for pink hair around the age of eight. “I just want a streak,” she’d say. Some of her friends had already dabbled in hair dye, and she thought it was pretty. Still, I resisted, figuring I didn’t want her to get started coloring her hair at such a young age. Growing up, I’d seen friends who went through dozens of shades, and it really did do lasting damage to their hair after a while.
Then for my daughter’s 10th birthday, I gave into her. I told her she could dye the underside of her hair a beautiful pink color. It was my compromise, since it was temporary color and pretty understated overall. Plus, it made her happy. She loved showing it off by putting her hair up in a ponytail.
When she first got it done, I remember half of my mom friends admiring it and complimenting her, while the other half seemed to be thinking, "I never would’ve allowed that." My daughter loved the experience, though — even if it was gone after a few short weeks.
Since then, I’ve let her have a couple of more dye experiences, yet I still tend to stay on the side of cautious. I haven’t let her do her whole head, and most recently when she asked if her friend could dye her hair during a sleepover, it was a big, resounding “No!”
So shouldn’t I have a lot to say against this mom who let her toddler go 100 percent pink? Shouldn’t I be calling her out or disagreeing with her actions? No way.
Let's encourage instead of discourage.
Parenting is one of the hardest jobs you’ll ever experience. I have two kids that are teens now, and I can definitely vouch for this. People are constantly judging, giving unsolicited advice, and telling you what you’re doing wrong.
As moms, we already doubt ourselves constantly. We wonder if we’re being helicopter parents; we spend so much time worrying about what our kids eat. And we’re always trying to figure out the balance of family time, extracurriculars, screen time, and dozens of other things.
We judge ourselves plenty, so why spend time judging other parents? I’m a big believer in “to each her own,” and I think this should apply to parenting, too. There are too many issues in this world related to kids, as well as actual parenting fails, for us to get worked up and judge other moms for things like this. Maybe you wouldn’t dye your child’s hair, or maybe you would. But I believe no one should be making these scathing, judgmental remarks. I know we’re naturally programmed to react, but most of us could all stand to take a breather before speaking out negatively or saying something snarky on social media.
Instead of focusing on what one another’s doing wrong, let’s instead find reasons to compliment other parents and recognize them for jobs well done. Pretty much every parent I’ve ever known has doubted themselves, questioned their actions, and second-guessed certain decisions. This is all while trying to juggle careers, medical issues, laundry, and just the regular chaos of life.
So instead of a competitive parenting culture where we judge or put others down, let’s try to lift each other up. Would I have dyed my 2-year-old daughter’s hair? Probably not. But you know what? The mom looked like she had a loving, sweet relationship with her. And the little girl? She looked really, really happy.
This story was written by Stacy Tornio, a big fan of nature, books, and the Oxford comma. She lives in Milwaukee, Wisconsin with her two kids and runs the website DestinationNature.com to encourage families to get outside.