This haircut is so much more than haircut. This haircut dates back to the root that is now a split end.
I sat in my therapist’s office and explained that I just can’t stand the sight of hair growing into John’s ears. “It creeps me out. I don’t know why but it just creeps me out,” I said.
“It’s just hair,” she responded.
She’s right, I thought. It’s just hair. But back then it was more than that. It’s the constant nagging at family lunches and dinners – “WHEN ARE YOU GOING TO CUT THAT BOY’S HAIR?” and the sideways glances from friends and teachers that just eat away at my perfectionist side- “WHY HAVE YOU NOT TAKEN CARE OF THAT YET?”
The reason is that John is absolutely terrified of getting his haircut. I don’t know when exactly that changed, I could guess why it did but that doesn’t really matter at this point. After several screaming, kicking, and hitting tantrums at the local hair salons I had finally had enough. We would try buzzing it at home and we would get the same reaction. My epiphany came one late summer evening when my husband and I were holding John down and telling him, “it’s okay, this is good for you. We’re not hurting you.” Meanwhile he is flailing, screaming, and ultimately hyperventilating to the point of running out of the room absolutely terrified. Sheer horror is what I saw in his eyes. And I knew I was done.
In that moment I thought how could I tell a child who is overtaken by anxiety and fear that what we were doing was GOOD for him? What was I teaching him by physically overpowering him and having my way with him, even it was “just a haircut”? What did that tell him about the power of his own body, his own choices, and his own ability to say NO and mean it?
Of course this revelation coincided with my own inner child longing to break free from the cycles of my parents telling me what was best for me. For disregarding, dismissing, and disapproving of my anxiety. Maybe this wasn’t about John at all.
As women our hair says so much about us. If left unkempt, we’re considered “dirty”, “unclean”, and not put together. When well taken care of, dyed, styled, and coiffed we are regarded as “beautiful” and “youthful.” Hair is about appearance, facades. So when people look at my son’s wild, tangled, uneven hair they think that he’s out of control. And so what? In a world that is completely dominated and controlled by his parents, maybe his hair is the one thing that John can own. His one way of telling the world, oh no, no, no I am in control of me. His own grandparents tell him, “Come to my house, I’ll show you what a real haircut is.” To which John assertively responds, “NO! I DO NOT LIKE HAIRCUTS!”
Every time he does that a piece of me identifies with him. No I do not like it when you tell me you think you know what’s best for me. No I do not want to be told what to do. No, I like what I like and that’s the end of it. YOUR OPINION OF ME AND MY LIFE ARE OF NO IMPORTANCE TO ME.
As a parent I can become so easily tied to my child, I can insert myself into his identity and make myself responsible for all of his shortcomings. His achievements, not so much…but that’s just my style. Kahlil Gibran said that “Your children are not your children…they come through you but not from you, And though they are with you, yet they belong not to you.” I have to keep telling myself this when I get too wrapped up into anything having to do with my children. I have to trust that their experience of me and my experience of them is exactly as it is meant to be. Every quip, every argument, every overreaction must be forgiven because I’m doing the best that I can in that moment. So many times people write about how they were given the perfect child for them but I am here to propose that my children were given the perfect parent for their experience on what Gary Zukav calls our “Earth school.” That perfect parent is me.
That’s the lesson.
“You may give them your love but not your thoughts.
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit, even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.”
So 8 months ago we decided no more forcing the haircuts. No more pressuring John into something that doesn’t feel right to him because how can I teach my 3 year old that there are “good touches and bad touches” and that his body is his own when every 2 weeks I’m holding him down to cut his hair as he screams and begs to be let go? I have to just consciously ignore the hair growing over and into his ears. But truthfully, as his hair has grown so has my spirit. My child-self has slowly sloughed away as I let go of the old patterns from my family of origin and set long overdue boundaries. In a way I asserted myself as a parent and through John as I said “No more haircuts.” I was saying no more control, no more silence about things that need to be talked about, no more denial about what hurts, no more feeling like I’m being psychologically and emotionally held down while pieces of my soul are being cut away, just like John’s hair. There is room for me, all of me, in this world. Over the last 8 months I’ve realized that it wasn’t my parents, my friends, my children, or even my husband who were cutting the pieces of my soul away.
It was me.
I was taking the scissors and pruning myself into who I thought I needed to be to fit into a family that didn’t feel right. I was dying, shampooing, cutting, trimming, and styling myself into what I thought I needed to be. And each time my 3 year old kicked and screamed over a haircut a piece of me inside shouted, “YES! Yes, fight back. Stand up for yourself. Don’t let someone, anyone, tell you what’s best for you. You don’t like it and THAT’S OKAY.”
So today when we talked about getting a haircut and John’s immediate response wasn’t anxiety, fear, and resistance I felt lifted. Yet as he talked about where he would sit, how he would look, and when he would go, a part of me felt surprised. Maybe even a little let down. I guess he was finally ready, in his own time. But my soul felt inspired. I felt like I was witnessing true bravery in all of its forms. John was ready to get a haircut because the hair was getting in his eyes and it was starting to itch the back of his neck. He wanted to get a haircut because the long hair was bothersome to HIM. No one else.
This made me realize that sometimes we can cut pieces off of our hair, and our souls, that are no longer needed or useful. Parts that were once essential to who we were but don’t fit who we are meant to be anymore. The pieces that start to itch or rub us the wrong way. Who was that person? Why did she feel so right back then? Never mind the Who and the Why, she simply doesn’t belong here anymore.
I guess, in a way, the scissors are not to be viewed as an evil enemy but a necessary tool that must be used with caution, patience, and love. The scissors are always there, we just have to know the right time to pick them up.
This haircut really is so much more than a haircut. It’s about MY rapid evolution into adulthood, parenthood, and growing into who I was meant to be as I allowed my son to be who he wanted to be. I’m not quite sure how I’ll feel when they sweep it all away. But knowing that it was his choice fills my heart with so much joy. Because I know he’s learning it through me as much as I’m learning it through him.
“You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,
and He bends you with His might that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies,
So He loves also the bow that stable.”
I am happy to bend, keeping faith that no pair of scissors could ever cause me to break.
This submission for Stories of Motherhood is from Christina Dudley. Christina is a 28 year old wife, mom of 2, soul seeker, and entrepreneur. On most days she's chasing something – kids, a creative spark, time alone with her husband, or to just simply BE. But lately she's found that when she stops running, they all seem to find her instead.