The next generation of ‘fros

By Mir
February 19, 2007

Apparently when I was a toddler, I took to ripping out my hair by the handsful. My mother recounts with sadness the story of taking me in to have my beautiful curls (what was left of them, anyway) cut off so that my hair would be too short to grab and yank.

In kindergarten I rode the bus with a group of older girls who tormented me every single day with the assertion that I was surely a boy, because no girl would have hair so short.

Thus began The Hair Wars between my mother and me. I had certain ideas about the way I wanted to wear my hair (long), and she had certain OTHER ideas about my hair (it should be short), and we are both, ah, well, perhaps just the teensiest bit willful. You can imagine how it went for the next twelve years or so.

Eventually I was allowed to grow out the back of my hair; the area from the crown forward was still cut short in a style I have spent many years in therapy recovering from. Still later I was allowed to grow out the short section, and around age eleven or twelve I begged to be allowed to cut a small section of bangs. The request was denied (I cannot remember how it went down; likely I was only told not to do it myself, and maybe there was an offer of a visit to the stylist but not soon enough to suit me, who knows) and I cut them anyway.

Suffice it to say that in middle school I was not yet capable of wielding the scissors responsibly; the resultant “trim” left me with a short triangle of hair that suggested I had bribed a drunk gibbon to cut my bangs for me.

I would like to tell you that things got better for my hair, shortly thereafter, but it was a long and difficult road for my follicles. Part of what I remember most clearly about it was how it was always a battle.

As a parent, myself, now, I am a VERY big proponent of the “pick your battles” school of philosophy. Not a parent, or otherwise unfamiliar with this concept? It goes something like this:

Children will argue with you about the color of the sky, given the opportunity. Make wise decisions about what truly needs to be made into an issue, because otherwise you will keel over from the stress of the CONSTANT ARGUING.

I resolved early on NOT to argue about hair with my kids if I could possibly help it, because I only have so much energy and I figured better to reserve my righteous indignation for things like why they can’t get a tattoo or eat sugar directly from the canister. Also, I remember that feeling of IT’S MY HAIR, WHY CAN’T I DO WHAT I WANT WITH IT.

Thus far, I’ve been okay with Chickadee. She, of course, wants long princess hair and would happily grow it down to her toes if allowed. Our deal is that she can have it as long as she likes, provided that she takes care of it—that means it stays clean, detangled, and generally out of her face. She’s let me cut it short and she’s had it long and of late has settled in fairly well with a just-below-the-shoulders length.

She often wears it ways that I happen to hate. Her latest is parting it soooooooo far over on one side that the part is just barely above one ear. If she wore a clip of some kind it might be okay, but NO, she doesn’t need a clip. It’s much more attractive to just let all that hair continually flop down onto her forehead like some tween combover. Or she’ll put it into a weird configuration of three or four or five ponytails, with pieces sticking out here and there.

I bite down hard on my tongue and only speak up if the rules are violated. And the rules don’t say I have to think her hairstyle is hip, just that her hair be clean and free of tangles and out of her eyes.

Truth be told, I was feeling pretty proud of how well I’ve navigated this particular issue true to my plan. So much of parenting smacks you in the face with a reality utterly unlike what you imagined; here was one issue that was smooth sailing.

Well, reality has decided to have a laugh at my expense: Monkey has decided he wants to grow his hair out.


Boys are not supposed to have IDEAS about their HAIR. Certainly not at age SEVEN. I mean, yes, SURE, I was expecting this from teenage Monkey, perhaps. But at 7? I still have to tell him not to put his fingers in his nose. He’s just supposed to sit down and let me cut his hair.

But he has decided he doesn’t want his hair cut. The style (at least around here) is for boys—granted, mostly in middle school and above—to wear their hair over their ears, shaggy, and quite a bit longer than the standard “little boy hair cut” we’ve done for so long. (You know the little boy hair cut. Short in the back and over the ears, slightly longer on top.)

I know I could just say no and cut it, but I also know that at this age I let Chickadee make her own choice. The problem, really, is that I (incorrectly) assumed that it wouldn’t be an issue with Monkey.

After about three failed attempts to corner him for a hair cut, I had to Deal With It. Which meant I had to decide whether I would institute a double standard, or just lay down the ground rules. God, I hate it when I have to examine my own biases and admit I’m being an ass.

So. The same rules apply, more or less. Hair has to be clean. Hair cannot be in his eyes. The “detangled” rule for Chickadee comes from her hair being so limp and fine that a gentle breeze will tangle it up in a giant rat’s nest. Monkey’s hair—while not as curly as mine—is thicker and wavy, but doesn’t seem to tangle the way his sister’s does (perhaps because it’s not long enough yet). What it DOES do is poof up in strange ways, giving him that timeless look of permanent bedhead. Which means his third rule is “no bedhead.”

When he’s just had a haircut, sometimes he doesn’t even have to brush it in the morning. The way it is now, he has to wet it down and brush it thoroughly to stop it from looking like something died on his head. I was SURE he’d tire of the extra work in under a week, but he’s still at it.

He looks like… he needs a hair cut.

This afternoon he left me do a few quick snips just to remove the overgrown Vulcan sideburns and little rat tail sneaking down the back of his neck. I blew the little pieces of hair off the back of his neck and pronounced him done, and he checked himself in the mirror, patting down an errant wave on the back of his head.

“How’s that, buddy?” I asked. I had a fleeting hope that he might ask me to cut the rest.

He considered his reflection for a second. “I look COOL,” he announced. He struck a pose and winked at his superstar self.

I discovered that it’s possible to chuckle and bite your tongue at the same time.


  1. Jen

    Oh Lordy. We have the opposite problem at my house: I have encouraged the kids to let it grow a bit, but they are always the ones who are pulling on my sleeve and saying, “Mom, I need a hair cut!” And when I offer to cut it for them, they say, “No! No! I need a real hair cut!”

    I have finally started letting oldest on tell the stylist what he wants: He likes it short and spikey for swimming. Littlest gets a bowl cut. Middle child has lovely, curly hair, so I tell them they can use clippers on the back, but to cut it not too short on top.

    Well, on Saturday, the girl at the beauty school apparently only heard the “you can use clippers” part of the conversation, and Christian got the shortest hair cut of his life.

    I still want to cry when I see it, but it’s just hair. It will grow.

    Why don’t they ever pick the battles we want them to pick???

  2. Cele

    Poor Psam was in Junior High when I went to beauty college. n She was just about game for anything, I wish getting her to clean her room had been easier. Just yesterday my 31 year old daughter made a comment about the battle it takes to get 6 year old Ben to clean his room. She looked rather affronted when I said he takes after her. She honestly thinks she use to clean her room. I want a cup of that selective senility.

  3. anna

    I’m so loathe to pick battles over things like haircuts that I let my three boys do whatever they want with their heads and then, when they hit middle school and girls started to matter, miracles of miracles, they all started getting their hair cut on a regular basis. But brushing daily? Uh, never gonna happen. We are the house of bed head over here.

  4. Sophie

    DS, now 5, hasn’t had a haircut in 1.5 years, with the exception of bang trims by me. His hair is longer than his sisters’ hair, well below his shoulders. Even though he wears tough-guy clothes (except for the occasional barrette), everyone thinks he’s a girl. He doesn’t seem to mind, and wants to have his hair down to his feet. Just call me mom to Samson.

  5. Valbee

    When my sons (now 21) were in high school, JM always kept his hair short. He played a bunch of sports and just didn’t want to deal with it. He’d buzz it short at the beginning of the summer and not even think about it until fall. JL, on the other hand, grew his out past his shoulders and then dyed it purple. I’m pretty sure he knew I wouldn’t get upset – I actually thought it looked kinda cool. Still, when he eventually dyed it jet black and tried an inverted mohawk, we had no problem telling him it looked like a really, REALLY bad toupee.

    Not long after, he shaved his head. I guess he agreed. :)

  6. Mom2One

    And here, Nate wants his head buzzed like his best friend J. Well, J. is biracial black/white and looks great with a buzzed haircut. Nate — Ohhhhhhh, Nate has that beautiful black Asian hair. Of course Nate is a cutie so maybe he would look fine. Maybe this summer. If he still wants his head . . . shaved . . . . I’ll let him. Or not.

    And Nate’s only 5. You’re right; how the heck do they get these opinions when they’re so young?!!

  7. Lulu

    When I was young, I also went through the same sort of hair trauma that you did, Mir. Except for my mom made me get a perm!! At 11! Talk about trauma AND embarassment.

    My son kept his hair pretty short until around 15, at which time he decided to grow it out. I admit that I did complain about it, but after barely growing it past his ears, he changed his mind and got a buzz cut. Be happy that Monkey wants to go through this at 7!

  8. Sara

    My 9 y.o. went through the same thing. He’d always been fine with getting a cut, then, something clicked in his cute little head and he said he wanted it long. His dad about stroked out. Well, as circumstances would have it, neither he nor his younger brother were able to get a cut for several months. The 9 y.o.’s hair grows fast and it was looking shaggy but he loved it and kept saying “I like it when I run and I can feel the wind flopping my hair back.” He recently decided that he’d like to go short again and my husband’s blood pressure probably dropped 15 points upon hearing the news.

  9. Kimberly

    Hair is one of those really hard things to let go. When they wear polka dots and stripes and two different shoes on their feet, everyone knows they dressed themselves and you are absolved of responsibility. But with the hair, it’s easy to think that other people think you just neglect your kids.

    Good for you for not going all double standard and letting Monkey be himself and not who you thought he could/should/would be.

    I had a friend whose son did this at 7 as well, and ended up with hair at his shoulders. There’s a way to reolve it (he’s now sporting a buzz cut) but I don’t think you’ll like it: lice.

  10. D

    yes. hair. We made that same choice not to argue about it. My Buddy is 10 and he’s been growing his hair for almost 3 years. It’s long, thick, unruly, curly/wavy, and every single morning he has to wet it down under the shower sprayer (my rule) and then we actually have to “do” it with mousse or gel – and it still looks messy to me. He loves it. His friends tease him, his grandparents tease him, and he just smiles. He really loves it.

  11. BOSSY

    You talk more hair wars than Britney Spears’ publicist.

  12. Blairzoo

    LOL! Welcome to the club of shaggy, mop-headed little boys. Mine will be 7 in a week, and we’ve been doing the mophead thing for over a year now. Around here it’s called being a ‘skater’, as in skateboard guys. Mine grew his out all last year and I insisted periodically on trimming the hair out of his eyes. I thought it was annoying at best. THEN dh (not dear) gave him a REALLY short mohawk when I was away for the day last summer. I was devestated! I missed his long hair so much, and he did too. Note to men….if a kid says ‘I want a mohawk’, there is a grace period where you wait and make sure they know what that really means. And also? Check with the Mom first…that is considered a huge decision. I missed his mophead. Anyway, he’s now back to growing it out, and truthfully, it fits him. He’s a wild energy, funny guy, and a tidy little haircut doesn’t fit his personality as much as the untamed mane.

  13. carolyn

    My sweet boy, now 11 and in the throes of middle school, always wore a buzz cut. From about kindergarten on, he insisted that the hair be shaved off on a regular basis. I always believed that it was his way of outsmarting his father (now my ex) who fought (and continues to fight) EVERY battle that comes along, including the hair fight. the ex is not so good at picking. Why pick one when they are all so tempting!!??

    Anyway, when he got to 5th grade, he decided to grow hair. And grow it and grow it. And now it is over his ears and he constantly flips it out of his eyes and he loves it. And, he fits right in with all the other boys, which I guess is the whole point of middle school, right? And, btw, the ex hates it, but that is another matter entirely…

  14. Barb

    DS #1 has what’s known as a double crown. In other words, instead of the one cute little cowlick swirly thing in his hair that so many kids have, he has 2. They are slightly out of line with each other and swirl in opposite directions! This means his hair must either be short enough that you don’t notice how the hair where the two swirls meets sticks straight up or long enough that it all flops over from its own weight. With DH’s law enforcement background he has demanded we go the short enough route. DS #2 has the standard issue 1 swirl, along with heavy and slightly wavy hair. As DS #2 got old enough to need hair cuts DH just takes everyone to the barber shop for regular buzz cuts. Mine are the only kids I know who maintain “high and tight” buzzes even in the coldest part of winter! But the boys don’t care (yet) and it keeps DH happy, so there ya go. I do not look forward to the day they notice or care about their hair!

  15. Jeana

    I have the same hair rule for my girls (for boys I go with the double standard) but it still bugs me. Both girls are so tender-headed that either of them will scream in pain if a largish-size gnat across the room thinks about fluttering his wings in the general direction of her head. So they don’t get all the tangles out and I have to do it and then there is crying, screaming and general gnashing of the teeth, accompanied by me with the “IF YOU WOULD LET ME CUT YOUR HAIR SHORT WE WOULDN’T HAVE TO GO THROUGH THIS” (and sometimes hubby on the banjo).

    But when one of them has agreed to cut her hair short, instead of feeling relieved I feel bad for her because I know it’s not what she wants and, like you, I remember that feeling. (Okay maybe not INSTEAD of feeling relieved; I feel both.) It’s one of those things that has made me feel glad as they’ve gotten older and can take better care of it; but my oldest is ten and we STILL do the old battle on tangles pretty frequently.

  16. tori

    I swore I would never worry about my kids hair, and so far have not at all, other than my rule that when you hair touches the toilet when you sit down, you need to get it trimmed so it doesn’t. My daughter had to get a hair cut because of that a few years ago, and actually chopped it and donated it to locks of love.

  17. Nancy

    At the tender age of 12, I let my daughter PERM her very long beautiful, straight hair. Curly Perm – lots of money, lots of time sitting in the salon, lots of agony over the decision. Some others (like my mother) thought I was WAY TOO PERMISSIVE, but as you, I choose my battles. It was a daily struggle for her to keep it tangle-free, but she did love that long mass of curly hair. Now that she is 14, the hair has been trimmed (the longer curly section donated to Locks of Love, and most of the perm is grown out. She is now deciding whether or not to have it re-permed. I think she’s kinda liking the look of her long straight (very thick) hair.
    Bottom line – It didn’t change her, damage her or make her less of the person she is, and it did allow her some independence and individuality. So, battle well-chosen!

  18. Bob

    I guess I don’t get it. Why does it bother you that he wants to grow his hair? You really didn’t say, other than that this bothers you more than when your daughter started wanting control over her hair.

    Our son asked to grow his hair out when he was @ 6 years old. (one of my favorite pictures of my son from this time shows him with a toothless grin (missing front teeth) and a mullet. Give him a break, it was 1991.) I didn’t care if it were short or long, I merely found it interesting that someone who couldn’t care less about his clothes decided to start expressing himself with his hair style. I sense some of the same puzzlement in your post, but that doesn’t really explain why this obviously bothers(or bothered) you a great deal.

    Hair is something that kids early on feel they can have control over. It can be a good way for them to learn actions & consequences (I want a mohawk, it looks cool!…all the kids are laughing at me, I don’t like my mohawk) and after all, (for boys anyway) all problems can be solved with a buzz cut and some short-term embarrassment.

  19. MomCat

    I agree with your rules totally, Mir. My daughter, too, can do what she likes (if she pays for it), as long as it’s clean, detangled and out of her eyes. She’s had it long, short, permed and straight. She even had it all shaved off at one point – broke my heart – when she was in neonatal intensive care. Even coming into this world at 24 weeks, she had a full head of curls.

    The same hair issues plagued my childhood as well. Everyone thought I was a boy in first grade because my hair was as short as my brother’s. And I was already skinny, extremely pale, shy, awkward and rather smart, so the awful haircut just added to the total geek package. The bad haircut days continued till I was in high school and big enough to pitch enough of a fit, or get in my car and drive away when the shears came out.

    When I was in art school, I got a punk buzz cut with a braided tail in the back, purple-dyed bangs down to my chin. Had it for about 3 months. It was cool, and I made sure my mother saw it, just for that sense of NahnahnahNAHnah! You can’t tell me what to do anymore!! All photographs of that style have now been burned.

    Kudos to you for your sense of fairness, Mir. :)

  20. MoMMY

    My 10 y/o son has hair just past his shoulders. The bottom 1/2 is shaved real short so he can put the top 1/2 in a ponytail for gymnastics. Everyone thinks he’s a girl with it down and the majority of the time it doesn’t bother him. Recently though he has decided he wants to grow it really long so he can donate it to Locks of Love. I may have a double standard coming up. That is REALLY long hair for a boy…

  21. LadyBug Crossing

    #1 is 14. He wants long hair. He looks like he needs a haircut – because he does! UGH!! Maybe soon it will get long enough to do something with… But, I hear you!! I feel your pain.

  22. jenn2

    We have been witnessing a hair battle in our friends family. They have an almost three-year-old son who has had longish “surfer” hair for a year and a half. Mom has been wanting to cut it, Dad says no way. Finally, one day, Mom has had enough of people telling her she has a cute little girl and cuts the sons hair into the classic “little boy” cut. It’s adorable, but it’s been two weeks and Dad is still not talking to Mom.

    I’ve been contemplating giving Big Red a trim, since his hair is starting to bear a disturbing resemblance to Donald Trump’s, but Mr. Clairol is having a fit about it. I have informed him that the permed, shoulder length mullet that he sported throughout the nineties negates any say he might have in how our children wear their hair.

    Pick your battles…hmph. I say fight to the death!:)

  23. Aimee

    I’d say something pithy, but I’m still laughing over the drunk gibbon thing.

  24. Liise

    Yeah the “no being in your eyes” rule will do the trick, because that style he covets? Is for precisely that reason, to have it in your eyes, and therefore be able to flip your head 48956325788 times a day so that it is out of your eyes. I swear I spent an entire dinner hour at a restaurant wanting to smack the hell out of a tween boy who was doing this ALL THROUGH DINNER!
    Apparently I am still not over it.

  25. Dysd. Housewife

    I have more trouble getting my H to get a haircut than my son. My son is in 5th grade and always gets “buzzcut with number 4 attachment” because he hates dealing with his hair. He also knows that a haircut for him takes oh, 6 minutes. My little one is 3, and his hair is so fine a buzzcut would make him look like a cancer patient, so we just get him trimmed. I call him my little Friar Boy because he has perfectly straight bangs across the front. LOL

  26. Randi

    It is SO funny you wrote about that today…this weekend I decided Babygirl needed a haircut…her hair was long, it’s thin, and with the static electricity in the air it was going EVERYWHERE! Plus, whenever you get it up it has to come down because you have to put a snow hat on! So I trimmed it…about five inches.

    Yeah, we’re heading to the beauty salon tomorrow.

  27. Elizabeth

    Nathan-my 2nd grader-grew his hair long too. I agree that it is not a battle I want to have, as long as it is clean.

  28. InterstellarLass

    See, I wish Zed would grow his hair out. He likes it super short. He got my thick hair. I think he’d look cool with long, shaggy hair. Nope. He wants it high and tight.

  29. jody2ms

    We let our boys go “natal” (6yo speak for native) from about now until the end of the summer. No haircuts. It works for us, as we are a surf family and spend tons of time at the beach. They look like little surf babies and dudes. No worries or hair battles.

    As long as it is clean, I am fine with it.

  30. Brown Eyed Girl

    I have the same problem with my teenager.

    The shaggy, something died on your head look with awful “wings” over the ears because he doesn’t have an OUNCE of my curl. Just thick, not even wavy, straight hair.

    I too can’t stand the thought of how their hair might look….and I’m a firm believer in picking your battles too.

    What I AM worried about….is the “double standard” of boy rules vs. girl rules..and what my husband may attempt to pull over on our daughter one day.

    Clearly the rules can’t be the same…and clearly after raising a teenage boy..raising a teenage daughter…will NOT be the same.

    I long for the days of something simple…oh wait.that was before I had kids..nevermind.

  31. tammy

    I officially gave up my right to have critical opinions of the hairdo’s and don’ts of other people when I was in high school in the 80’s and was not happy unless it looked like my hair had been styled by jumping into a puddle holding a plugged-in toaster.

    I think my mother spent a lot of time chewing on her fists.

    Anyways, have you seen what Kate Hudson has done to her child’s hairs? It can’t possibly be as bad as all that.

  32. MomCat

    TSM – it’s unsanitary. Always pour it into a bowl. Unless it’s brown sugar — then you just press it into a hard lump around the spoon and they can walk around licking it.

  33. Jen

    I wasn’t expecting hair issues with my boys either, however, my Monkey Boy (also 7) has now been sporting a mohawk since last October. He loves it and it really does suit him. Even my mother, who I thought just might stroke at the sight of it, actually complimented him on it. His twin brother isn’t as daring but MUST have every hair in place at all times or the world stops spinning. My 11 y/o doesn’t pay as much attention to her hair as that boy!

  34. Amy-Go

    Um, no. As the mother of three boys, it is my strong opinion that boys do not need hair. I shave them as close to bald as possible. This allows me some sanity. Otherwise the time involved with hair care would make my head explode.

  35. ruth

    I have also been amazed by how much a boy can care about his hair! My youngest really, really wants a pointy spike, if it is long enough he slicks it in to the middle…My 11 yr. old wouldn’t care at all as long as it’s “normal” but he likes me to do it up and texturize it with gel. The 10 yr old twins…one of them cries if I cut it short enough to see his scalp, even on the sides; but he also hates looking like a “punk” and wants it at least an inch above his eyebrows…his twin is the easiest, and he likes it to look like Beckham the soccer player’s been wearing his…and my daughter, she’s two and has the beautiful fine blonde hair with curls at the bottom…and if I don’t slather them with conditioner I am guaranteed a crying child. I do wonder if I have to cut them off to save her the constant tangles and pain.

  36. chris

    the hair wars are different with every one of them. d1 has done the punk colors, but not so much the cuts. s1 hasn’t had a haircut since the reagan administration, (we’ll see what happens when law school interviews begin soon.) s2 is always short with the hair (alas, those stupendous curls!) but his issues are with his freaky beard. d2 has redhair that is a gift from God- her rule is she may NEVER change the color. s3 has tumbling curls that he is trying to beat into a skater do- i have no clue. fight the good fight, wherever that may be!

  37. Heather

    Is it sad that I can’t get Donald Trump’s comb-ever out of my head after hearing about Chickadee’s new style?

  38. Janie

    My husband was marched off to the barber to have a well overdue haircut no haircut no nookey! well he climbed into the barber chair without a whimper Sharon the barber asked him what hairstyle and before he could answer I ordered him a high and tight with razored sides.Within in seconds the clippers started and clipped off 5 inches of hair , a nice tight clipped haircut Sharon then got the shaving foam and shaved sides smooth wow he looks so sexy I paid Sharon took my husband home and had the most tiring afternoon! He has it clipped every 3 weeks and is rewarded after each haircut !!!

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