I first met Cindy La Ferle six years ago when I was working as the creative nonfiction editor for Literary Mama and a story she submitted, "Fragile Season," was so beautifully written and full of compassion that I instantly wanted to meet her. Though we've never met in person, we've been in touch ever since. I'm delighted to welcome her to Mothering Outside the Lines. A different version of this essay appeared in Writing Home, Cindy La Ferle's award-winning collection of motherhood essays and family newspaper columns. For more information, visit Cindy La Ferle's Home Office.


Guest blogger Cindy La Ferle with her skeptic son Nate. Doesn't their hair look good?

Guest blogger Cindy La Ferle with her skeptic son Nate. Doesn't their hair look good?

Swamp Hair

"Why are you using Sap Moss and African Shea Butter on your hair?" Nate asks on the way to the grocery. He's home from college for the long Thanksgiving weekend. "Why can't you buy real shampoo? Why would anyone want their hair to smell like a swamp?"

I launch into my canned lecture on the benefits of organic beauty products. I explain how there's nothing more "real" than the green bounty spun from Mother Nature's loom.

"But I prefer polymers in my shampoo," my son says.

"You want man-poo," I shoot back. "But you're using what we've got while you're home."

Even though he's past the stage of everything-my-mother-does-embarrasses-me, my son likes to point out that I'm the weirdest person alive.

My preference for botanical products and natural remedies doesn't stop in the bathroom.

Even before Meryl Streep made it cool to buy organic, I had serious doubts about the additives in the stuff we consume.

I started doing my own research shortly after Nate was born.

The more I read, the more I got spooked.

Debra Lynn Dadd, a consumer activist and author, explained to me in an interview that majority of chemicals available for human use haven't been fully tested. The very thought actually made me break out in hives.

As I remind my son today, organic living is about finding new solutions. I grow my own herbs and vegetables, drink soy milk, and lace cookie dough with wheat germ and brewer's yeast. I scour the state of Michigan to buy groceries that aren't poisoned with hormones and antibiotics, or fertilized with sewage sludge. I ask managers of local markets to carry organic produce, and send thank-you notes to those who comply.

I tell Nate that organic living is about respecting our environment and supporting our family's health. Even though he seems hell bent on trashing the healthy way he grew up to embrace the Cheese Doodles of dorm living, I'd like to believe the extra money I spend on organic products might buy us a little more time on a cleaner, healthier planet.

Maybe it will soak in when Nate has a family of his own.

Maybe he'll thank me later.

Or maybe he'll become a chemical engineer and start manufacturing endocrine-disrupting plastic.

I learned early on that holding fast to your principles is half the battle of motherhood.

Kids ultimately respect you for it, even if they think you're a whack job.

Nate doesn't duck fast enough when I tussle his hair though he rolls his eyes at me.


"You're not too grown up to hug," I tell him. He's a foot taller than me now so it's hard to smell his scalp. But I get a whiff of it anyway. Sap Moss shampoo. I'll keep using it, even if our hair smells like a swamp.

Related posts:
The Problem with Palm Oil
What if Healthy Living Actually Makes You Happier?
The Impact of No Impact

Does your family use organic products? Do you think the products are worth the extra money?

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Tags: Cindy La Ferle, Debra Lynn Dadd, fighting with a college-aged son, is organic shampoo worth the price? why should we use organic shampoo? swamp hair, Literary Mama, Meryl Streep, organic beauty products, shampoo

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