I had an entire conversation with a friend, yesterday, about the state of our childrens’ hair. Yes, if you are a mom, you’re nodding your head in understanding, and if not, you’re realizing that this is what our lives are about and… hey! Where are you going??
Her stance was that–although her son recently cut his own hair for reasons not entirely clear, and now looks sort of like a doofus–giving a child a buzz cut in New England in winter is cruel and unusual. His head will be cold! I pointed out that regardless of the length of the hair, a hat is in order from October until April, so what matter the hair length?
Of course, this is easy for me to say. My boychild sported a buzz cut exclusively for the first three years of his life. Up until then, trying to get him to hold still for an actual haircut was an exercise in madness. The thirty seconds I needed to run the clippers over his head was doable. As he grew older, things changed. For one thing, he became bribable. The promise of candy as a reward for holding still for 600 seconds instead of just 30 was a powerful motivator. Also I was tiring of people noting his striking resemblance to Curious George (we don’t call him Monkey for nothing, ya know). So we grew out the buzz to the standard “little boy haircut” and every six to eight weeks I chase him down and duct tape him to a stool in the kitchen and he whines that his nose itches and the water is dripping in his eyes and his neck is scratchy and I’m cutting off his ears.
Yesterday morning, Monkey arose from bed with such an alarming profusion of bedhead that I almost hurt myself laughing. “What?” he humphed at me.
“You look like a hedgehog, buddy. Go look in the mirror.” He trotted into the bathroom and admired his wild ‘fro.
“Wow!” he said. “I sure do look like a hedgehog. Mama, what’s a hedgehog?” I explained, and then added that our first order of business after school was going to be giving him a haircut.
Of course, this was all overheard by She Who Loves To Torment. Breakfast contained a running commentary from Chickadee on how glad she is that she’s a girl and can have long hair and hardly ever has to have her hair cut. I hushed her and bit my tongue.
Really, which one is preferable? On the one hand, I have the boy whose hair seems to grow out rather than down. On the other hand, I have the girl who–like all little girls–wants to have long, flowy, princess-y hair. One of my children has thick, beautiful, lustrous hair. Only one. Take a guess which one it is. Go on, guess.
Right. Chickadee’s hair is long; there’s no denying that. But to say it is as fine as cornsilk is an insult to cornsilk. It looks shiny and wavy and gorgeous… for 5 seconds immediately after being brushed. Beyond that, it is a limp, tangly mess hanging down her back. And heaven forbid we put something in it to hold it back out of her face! No! It must flow free! And fall in her face! And tangle back on itself so that during her shower she can bitch at me about how she hates using slimy conditioner and I can reply that she is welcome to skip it if she’d like me to shave her head! Having a girl is so much fun!
[True confession: I started reading the “Little House on the Prairie” books with the kids just so that I could convince Chickadee to let me braid her hair. It worked. But she only lets me do it on special occasions. She is prone to run around shouting, “Help me! Carrie fell in the creek!” when we do. And for the record, each of the two braids comes out about as thick as a pencil.]
Anyway, yesterday I was still parking my purse and backpacks and lunchboxes when Monkey announced it was time for his haircut. I peered at him in suspicion. “Why are you so anxious to have your hair cut?” He held up a fistful of candy he’d fished from his Halloween bag and flashed me that smile that makes me want to go buy him a pony or two. Oh lord, I am in such trouble when he’s a teenager.
So, we got him prepped and ready, and settled Chickadee down with an activity, and I cut his hair. “I am feeling less hedgehog-y already!” he declared, as I shook the cape off and shooed him up to the shower. I told Chickadee we were going upstairs to clean him off, and asked her to stay out of the hairy mess in the kitchen. I got out the vacuum and told her I’d clean it up when I came back down.
I was towelling Monkey off when Chickadee came upstairs. “I cleaned up the kitchen,” she said.
“You, uh, what?”
“The hair. I vacuumed it up for you. I was careful.” I stared at this angelic, eager-to-please child, and wondered where my daughter was. I left Monkey with some clean jammies and went back downstairs. Indeed the scene of the crime was tidy. No hair on the floor. Stool similarly cleaned, and put away in its spot.
“Wow. You didn’t have to do that, honey. Thank you!”
“I know. You’re welcome.” She crushed me in a giant hug. Tears sprang to my eyes. “Mama,” came a muffled voice in my tummy, “can I have some candy?”
Sometimes a mystery turns out not to be very mysterious.
I managed to hold both children off on the candy until after dinner, and then they had their treats and went off to bed with minimal argument. The forecast called for snow and they were both excited to see what the morning would hold.
Today we all woke up to snow and ice and all those other things that make me want to move out of the area immediately, if not sooner. I offered to braid Chickadee’s hair and she said no, she needed it to keep her neck warm. Monkey marvelled at how little time it took to brush his hair “now that I’m not all spiny in the head anymore.” I gave him a couple of extra kisses on his baby-smooth, newly shaved neck.
We all tried to pack the powdery snow into snowballs as we waited for the bus to arrive through the slush, and then Monkey and I waved to Chickadee as she left. Monkey suddenly threw his arms over his head and made a run for the car. “Whatsamatter, honey?” I asked.
“My head is cold!” he grumped. “My hair’s too short!” Yeah, he was wearing a hat. No, I didn’t tell him to shut up. Not out loud, anyway.