My son has long hair. Long, curly, wild hair. He's nearly 9 years old and it's only been cut twice. The first time came at the age of 3, when he hacked a chunk of ringlets out of the back of his head with kid scissors. He had been home, allegedly under the care of his father, when he managed to sneak into his room after pilfering the sharper-than-they-seemed Crayola scissors from the craft box. My husband, obviously the king of observation, didn't notice until he found the hair. When I came home and they broke the news, my first question (as I choked back tears) was, "Where is it?"
"The hair! Where's the hair?"
"Well, he cut it from right here, at the back..."
"I can SEE that. I mean the hair he cut off! Where did you put it?"
"Uh... In the trash."
Before the last word fell from his lips, he knew I thought he was an idiot. As though he'd just admitted throwing out the Dead Sea Scrolls, I flew to the kitchen to rescue the precious curls. The ones that I'd coaxed from fuzz into the kind you could pull out straight only to watch boing right back into the perfect corkscrew. The ones I'd combed, conditioned and begged into existence. In an instant, they had become garbage.
I stuck them in a ziplock and tucked it in my jewelry box.
This is the face of a child on his way to a professional who has just been told the hair is mother is holding cannot be glued back on:
Two years later, at the age of 5, he told me from the bathtub that the shampoo mohawk wasn't going to satisfy him any longer. He wanted a real one. "It won't work." I told him. "Your hair is too curly. But maybe we could think of another haircut that you'd like."
We settled on sort of an '80s skater flip, which, while I wanted to throw up watching the hair stylist take clippers to the sides of his head, offered me the consolation of a swath of curls down the center. As she styled it just so, he watched in the mirror. I caught our reflections. He looked elated. My face suggested he was getting an appendectomy. With gardening tools.
But his joy and pride were infectious. I loosened my mind's grip on the attachment to each strand, none of which contained in them his laughter, love of skateboarding or knowledge of the shape of 37 different states.
Even so, I took home the braids she had lopped off the sides zipped in a plastic bag. They were too big to fit in my jewelry box, so I put them in my sock drawer.
That was almost four years ago. As expected, it grew back. It's now sort of got a life of its own. We tame it every few days, as that's how long it takes to get from "neat" to touching the person sitting next to him in class.
Occasionally, someone clearly unfamiliar with Guns N Roses, Bon Jovi, Poison, Twisted Sister, Native American Chiefs, Fabio and Jared Leto will assume he's a girl. He's always taken it in stride, but a recent incident at the grocery store check out left him frustrated.
"Why did he think I was a girl? Do I LOOK like a girl?"
"Do you think you look like a girl?"
"Exactly. Listen. If you were at the park playing with a dog, and someone came up to you and told you what a beautiful cat you had, would you think that maybe they weren't really paying attention?"
"Calling you a girl is like calling a dog a cat. And for the record, at the beach last week someone called your sister a boy when she was naked. If that isn't poor observational skills, then I don't know what is."
He moved on quickly.
It's safe to assume there will be more hair cuts in the future. It's thickening as he gets older and combined with the length, washing and combing can be quite an ordeal. Perhaps when he finally asks again, I'll be relieved.
Either way, he'll be old enough to be embarrassed by his nut job of a mother scooping hair up off the floor into a plastic bag. I'll try to refrain. But make no promises.
This piece originally appeared on the blog OddlyWellAdjusted where Sara writes of Sunshine, Rainbows and everyday S*itstorms. More of her tales of parenting in the digital age can be found on the blog at Notabli, the app for documenting childhood.