Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Lessons from a Haircut

For the past few months, Reese’s hair has been hanging in her face. She has a cowlick at the back of her head that causes all of her hair to come forward instead of falling to the side. I can’t keep it to the side without a clip, but that’s a major problem for Reese. Every time I put a bow or clip in her hair, she pulls it off. If I stop her from grabbing it, she starts to cry and says, “off, off, off…” until I give in and take it out (which usually takes all of about 10 seconds). Over the past 6 months, I’ve made fewer and fewer attempts to do anything more than brush her hair once or twice a day. 

Once her hair grew long enough to hang in her eyes, I started trying to clip it back again. She wasn’t having any of it and usually just ran around all day with the ends of her bangs blocking part of her vision. She makes rare exceptions for headbands and a ponytail is always preceded by a wrestling match, which I refuse to subject her to every day. I didn’t want to cut her hair because I wanted it to grow long and I didn’t want her bangs to start all the way at the back of her head. But my kid couldn’t see and she hates having stuff clipped in her hair and maybe, just maybe, this isn't about what I want.

In fact, I’m not even sure why I wanted this in the first place. Anyone who knows me would probably agree that I'm not girly at all. I don't own a lot of pink stuff; I don't wear a lot of jewelry; and I'd probably cry and say "off, off, off" if someone put a big sunflower clip in my hair. So why am I always pushing it on Reese? Well, probably because I got caught up in that invisible societal pressure that pushes femininity on our daughters and masculinity on our sons. 

The scary thing is that I’ve always said I would encourage her independence and not force her into anything. Yet, there I was going against my belief because I wanted her to wear ribbons and bows in her long hair like all the other little girls. I guess it’s easy to say that you’ll do something until you’re actually challenged to do it. And if I can’t do it with her haircut, how will I do it when it’s something that really matters to me? 

Over the next 17 years, there will be lots of times where my interests clash with Reese’s interests, needs, or desires. As a parent, I owe it to her to put my agenda aside and to refrain from pushing anything on her just because I think she should look a certain way or have certain interests. So I decided to give Reese the hairstyle she needed instead of the one I wanted her to have. It bothers me that it took me so long to give up on the clips, and that I almost put my interest above hers, even if it was about something as silly as a haircut. I finally ended up putting her in the chair and saying, “just make it so she can see without needing a clip in it.” And, ya know what? She still just as cute.  

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