It’s carnival season in Somerset at the moment and I went to one last week with my family. For the most part, it was a lovely evening out and we all thoroughly enjoyed it. I do remember some of the floats, but for me, the procession was marred by the number of adults smoking around us. There was a family beside us, with both parents smoking, the father in particular was puffing away as if his life depended on it. Quite ironic, really.
There has been so much written and spoken of in the media over recent years about the dangers of smoking, and the effects of passive smoking on children, that I am quite staggered there are still so many people willing to admit to this huge social taboo. I would put it up there with drink-driving.
Smoking in the presence of children is tantamount to neglect in my view, and I cannot imagine any addiction that I could not give up for the sake of my daughter, yet there are still women who smoke and drink through pregnancy.
Perhaps more distressing than the cigarette smoke blowing around us was the state of the two children to the other side, a boy and a girl, but the girl in particular caught my eye. Or rather, her hair did. It was long, blonde, and distressingly dirty. She was perhaps seven or eight years old.
Teens get greasy hair, that’s a fact of life. It needs washing most days for many years. I speak from experience as the description of being able to “oil a bicycle” was something I had to be wary of. That sort of state is not reached overnight, however, in pre-pubescent children, and that is what caused my concern.
My daughter’s hair gets dirty - she massages her lunch in generously and frequently applies other household stickiness throughout the day as she plays in the garden or rolls around on the floor with the dog – and so we wash it most days. It’s still sparse enough that the egg yolk dried in hard, yellow threads is very visible, so we at least have that on our side. I have no idea how long it would take for her hair to become thick with her own naturally-produced grease because I won’t be finding out for many years yet.
I understand that sometimes hair-washing can be a battle, and hair-brushing even worse, but I would argue that as parents, we have a duty to our children to look after their welfare, and that includes keeping them clean. I understand, too, that there has been a lot written of the chemicals in shampoos and that might put some people off some products, perhaps encouraging less frequent hair-washing. This poor little girl at the carnival had not had clean hair for some considerable time though to get it into that state, not just going without a brush for a few days.
To my husband’s relief, I didn’t say anything, but given the time I’ve spent thinking about her since, I wonder if perhaps I should have done, or whether that would have made things worse for her. Poor little girl.