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Woman accused by MIL of 'devil worship' when she shaves her 3 yo daughter's hair. AITA? UPDATED 3X OVER 1 YEAR

Woman accused by MIL of 'devil worship' when she shaves her 3 yo daughter's hair. AITA? UPDATED 3X OVER 1 YEAR

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When this woman upsets her entire family by shaving her daughter's hair, she asks the internet:

"AITA for planning to shave my daughter's hair?"

The title sounds really iffy, so to preface, my husband (M32) is ok with it. I (F33) am Hindu, and it is a custom in my religion for babies to go through a right of passage by shaving their head when they're typically 1-3 years old.

It's extremely common in India since both Hindu and Muslim communities follow this practice (with different traditions albeit).

My Husband is from the US, we've been married 4 years. We're in India rn visiting my family. 2 days ago, we were on facetime with his parents and mentioned while we're here we will have a ceremony, 'Mundan' for our daughter (3F) while we're here.

They were excited and MIL even asked me to send photos. Everything was ok until my husband joked "You'll finally know what Maya looks like as a baby!" (Maya was born with a full head of hair). MIL was confused but when she learned about the shaving, she was furious.

This was not even for religion since she knows my daughter is being raised Hindu (Husband's family are devout Christians, My husband left the religion years ago). She has never expressed anger towards this in particular, so it was not the reason for her outburst.

She went on a tirade how I was trying to 'un-black' my daughter. (My husband's black) and how I don't like my daughter's hair. She said I don't love her natural hair and have consistently tried to make it like mine, which is frankly not true.

She also mentioned I'll start bleaching her skin soon since it's common with 'my people'. This is completely baseless. Not only are we darker than her entire family, but also this was completely out of the blue.

I've done my best in my search for my daughter's hair care. I've visited many black owned salons with my SILs and found the perfect one for my daughter. My husband researched about hair care products for babies and Maya's hair is very healthy and I've heard no complaints from anyone.

I even have a hair oiling tradition with her. My mother and grandmother followed this and it was a great bonding time for us, I wanted to share this with my daughter too. I can't even say anything for the skin bleaching stuff.

The only conversation MIL and I had before about Maya's hair was when she mentioned she wanted to get cornrows done and asked if Maya would go to get hers done too. She was 2 at the time so I said no.

I completely blew up at her after this. My Husband was mad at his mom, but said we should just have the ceremony on the down low (with my immediate family and not post anything about the ceremony) since her hair would grow when we go back, but I want her to have a big ceremony and she's quite excited about it too.

I'm also pretty hurt about MIL's outburst as I've had a good relationship w her. FIL has been quiet since this happened and SILs are 19 so they can't say much.

My family was in the next room while this happened and they heard MIL (she was THAT loud) and are mad at my husband. Idk, this was supposed to be a fun trip back home and it just spiraled into this.

"Definitely, I don't know how to even bring up piercing my daughter's ears in front of her now, she didn't let my SILs get theirs until they were adults. It's also another tradition here so I guess we'll have to repeat this. Or my daughter will just wear long hats in front of her now.

The racism was very unexpected from her, I honestly did not see it coming. My husband has always been non-confrontational and it's never really affected us, but this time, it was bad. I'm definitely going to be on his case to talk to her, because this can't keep on repeating.

My parents weren't also angry about his mother, they were angry about how he didn't say anything to his mom and just cut the call.

Before we give you OP's updates, let's take a look at some of the top responses:

onchroni7 writes:

Agreed. Understandably hair is sometimes a sensitive subject in Black communities because white people devalue natural Black hair traits as part of systemic racism...

so this is where MIL's sensitivity stems from, however MIL is ascribing to you some (false) anti-Black racist intentions to your ceremony, which is inappropriate and also a form of cultural disrespect/xenophobia.

But you have done nothing wrong, as you say all of your female relations have had this ceremony, and of course the child's hair will grow back. The MIL is overreacting and your husband should bear the brunt of dealing with her, not you.

(Although it also seems unfair to me that your family should be angry at your husband for this, unless they are angry that he isn't sticking up to defend you.)

Now, if, in the future, your daughter's hair grows out with natural Black traits, and you would demean her or encourage her to relax or straighten her hair or whatever, then perhaps MIL would have a legitimate means to be concerned with it -- But you give no indication that you would ever do such a thing, and it's certainly not the case here.

I hope for your family that as time goes on and your daughter grows up and expresses herself in her own way, MIL will chill out and the whole family will get along better. I hope you have fun with your ceremony :) Edit NTA

andrewwahalic writes:

NTA.Lets put the racism aside for a minute. It seems very popular for grandmothers to object to what the mother wants. For example, I am from a white culture and my mother screamed the house down, when my sister, wanted to ear pierce, her daughters ears.

I can only think the secretly fantasize the child is theirs, and when you go alter the baby, it's kinda bursting their fantasy bubble.

Now the racism, Your mother in law appears to have been hiding that one for some time. Im guessing she has been hiding it for so long, it's been building and building. She's clearly erupted like a volcano, full of her hate speech.

Get your child's hair cut, you are following your culture. Remind your MIL how it is only hair and will soon grow back.

voxmortem7 writes:

NTA. I think there is a big cultural clash going on here. What no one is saying is that hair can be incredibly important for black women. Caring for hair and doing hair together can be a bonding thing.

She is reacting because for her, losing the hair means losing some of that. She reacted emotionally, of course she knows logically the hair will grow back. She said some pretty hurtful shit, but I think it does reveal an anxiety that her grandchild might be raised in a culture that is foreign to her, and that probably scares her.

Of course, for you and your culture, this ceremony is incredibly important. For you it's full of love and tradition and symbolism and you want to share that with your daughter. How could you not?

And you and your husband are the parents, so of course you have every right to do so. Your MIL was the AH in this situation, and she was incredibly out of line. I'm not saying you should excuse her, and she definitely owes you an apology, but maybe you guys can talk this out and come to some kind of understanding.

impaprk6 writes:

NTA this is MIL being racist pure and simple. When I did hairdressing, we were taught cutting the baby's hair regularly was to encourage stronger, thicker growth. No idea if it is true.

But shaving the head maybe a similar thing, to get rid of fine wispy baby hair and encourage strong thick growth. I've no idea if that is so, but it is hardly a negative thing is it? Plus brings family together for a nice celebration. Maybe MIL is jealous she's not the one in control.

sgs writes:

NTA. I am indian, both my kids had their mundan...it was horrible( crying and the screaming) but its a part of the heritage you are passing to your child. Hair grows back fast.

except the photos which you will lose eventually from among the billions that you will take to record maya's life, this period will be a dim memory in the long term. Dont sweat the small stuff. go ahead and have a blast in India with the fam.

And now, OP's 1st update (2 days later):

The ceremony was held yesterday and I'm so glad I went through with it. Maya had the most amazing time with her cousins and we did the best to ensure that we'd get a priest who also trained a bit in shaving hair so she was comfortable and didn't cry.

The only time she cried was when everyone left lol! I'm so glad that I didn't cancel especially after reading that one comment saying that I'm racist for doing this ceremony for my daughter, ESPECIALLY since she's black too. Still don't understand the thought process behind that.

We had a great day with our family and Maya was so glad to see her uncles (My brother and Cousin) who also flew out from the US for the ceremony.

But it seems like our day was too good and MIL called us screaming seeing the pictures my relatives posted on Instagram. She wasted no time this time around and went for her actual reason for being so against all this, as many of you suspected, she was still resentful that my husband married a Hindu.

She somehow expected me to raise my daughter Christian, which totally blindsided me. FIL was also pretty much on her side.

This time around, my parents also came and spoke to her because they did not like how she was talking to me and my husband was being a complete wuss (Leaving that for later rn). We kind of diffused the situation for now and I'm so glad my parents are still there for me.

Oh and the most surprising part!!! SILs told me MIL had herself shaved her daughters hair when they were toddlers since no stylist would work with kids that young in their area.

Husband kind of remembered it too after they mentioned it. So she pretty much had no problem with the Hair shaving. I guess the resentment was just building up with Diwali, Holi (I mean seriously?? Who gets mad at seeing their grandkid covered in colours).

The most horrible thing was the skin bleaching comment. As someone who has been in the other side of it, It felt horribly awful that someone would outright say that I would have any role in it.

The thing I'm angry most about is the audacity of her to call me up and scream about all this, like I would have responded well (maybe not but better than this) to a nice conversation. I don't know if I want this woman around my kid. But that's a problem for later.

And now, OP's 2nd update (the following day):

She's just been horrible to me the past few days and I've realised, I have no real relationship with her and at this point, having no relationship is better than what I have right now.

To preface, I'm Indian, My husband is African American hence, my daughter is mixed race. I'm a practicing Hindu and my husband was a Christian, but he left the religion about 12 years ago.

His family still practice the religion. Our daughter is being raised only Hindu since he does not practice Christianity anymore.

I had a really bad conversation(s) with my MIL and I do not want to have any contact with her. I need advice on how to bring it up with my husband and maybe even any suggestions on how we'd handle it.

Just summing up what happened: My husband and I held a Hindu religious ceremony for my daughter, Maya, MIL was not happy with the head shaving aspects of the ceremony and accused me of "un-blacking" my daughter.

She also mentioned I'll start bleaching her skin soon since it's common with 'my people'. This is completely baseless. Not only are we darker than her entire family, but also this was completely out of the blue.

I later found out MIL had herself shaved her daughters hair when they were toddlers since no stylist would work with kids that young in their area.

If this was it, I would have been willing to talk to her and have a conversation about this, but the next day she called us and called me a "Satanic worshipper" (I assume due to the Polytheistic nature of my religion, I would never worship the Shaitan???)

and a "Cow-worshipping freak". She apparently expected my daughter to be raised solely as Christian since her father WAS Christian.

She also expressed distaste (I'm putting this mildly) at my daughter being bilingual because she thinks it'd be a secret "code" for the other set of Grandparents.

When I first started dating him, I knew there were going to be Cultural clashes. But I've usually been accommodating of their traditions and have celebrated with them. In fact, before Maya was born, we only used to celebrate their traditions and I used to go to a local temple to celebrate my festivals with other Hindu people in my area.

My husband would join me sometimes, but there was no initiation from his family at all, even after I was married.

The only time I remember that I didn't agree to participate in a tradition of theirs is when I refused to wear a white dress in one part of our wedding. Hindu people wear white to funerals, so white is considered extremely inauspicious for the bride to wear at weddings (We usually wear red).

I honestly found this all to be completely unhinged because how does someone's brain work like this? I obviously cannot have any further contact with her and I don't want my daughter to have any contact with her either.

She's clearly racist and has no respect for our religion either. I don't know how to bring this up with my husband. (Obviously, I won't stop him from visiting her since she's kind of his mom). I also don't want to cut ties with his sisters, they're great aunts to Maya, and I'm just really confused.

And now, OP's 3rd update (10 months later):

We had a few discussions, and I suggested going NC, or at least LC with MIL and FIL. After we returned to the US, he decided to visit them without Maya to get some documents that my husband needed.

I tried to keep my distance (I was sitting in our car 3 blocks away), but apparently MIL 'heard from a friend' that I was trying to pull her son away and magically found my car too.

She doubled down on her hurtful comments and even added more fuel to the fire. She accused me of brainwashing her son and trying to "Indianize" him. She claimed that I was "stealing" their family and culture away from them.

It was disheartening to see my husband tell all this to MIL. He saw how distressed I was for months and still did all this. He acted like a complete momma's boy, choosing to side with her instead of defending me and our daughter. I had always seen him as a kind and supportive partner, so this betrayal felt even more painful.

He suggested marriage counseling, I agreed for a while but it became increasingly clear that our differences were too significant to overcome. My husband's two-faced nature, where he would say one thing to me but allow his mother to treat me poorly, was a deal-breaker.

It was like he had never learnt to speak for himself and grew up being pushed around by MIL that he couldn't even have a normal conversation with me. Now that I think of it we never had any disagreements about any major stuff ever so that's definitely a huge red flag.

My husband was kind of in all my friend groups from college and beyond and I really don't have any friends that are exactly 'neutral' since we went to college at the same place and now work at the same place.

I miss India a lot, where I have a strong support system with my family and friends, or staying in the US. It's not really the 70's or 80's anymore, there would not be a significant difference in our lifestyle if I live in the US or India right now.

Moving back to India would give me the emotional and family support that I really need right now, but I worry about the potential racism Maya, might face in India as a half-black girl.

Moreover, my husband is unlikely to agree to the idea of his daughter moving to a different continent and I don't think that it would be the best for her to grow up without a dad.

We are now in the process of filing for divorce. It's ironic how I, as someone who married a non-Indian, still found myself trapped in the saas-bahu drama. I really don't know what to do and it's honestly so stressful.

In other news, Maya's hair has grown till her chin and she's having a wonderful time at pre-school!

Readers continued to weigh in on OP's updates:

fessss0 writes:

"You actually have a husband problem, not just an in-law problem" strikes again. I'm from a Hindu background (non-religious and non-practicing) with a biracial infant. We're not going to be shaving his head, but I'm confident that my in-laws wouldn't have said a word if we had.

So far, they've been interested and engaged with every aspect of Indian culture we've chosen to share with him (and them) and have been doing their part to share their culture as well.

There's room for so, so much love and so, so much culture and heritage and history in a child's life. And i'm glad that OP's daughter has a mom who will do justice to both sides of her heritage.

What do YOU make of OP's story? Any advice for her?

Sources: Reddit
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