My ex-husband took the boys to Chicago last week. Now, my ex-in-laws are nice people, but they are definitely mainstream people, and my youngest son is not exactly a mainstream kid. He’s like me.
My son had this lovely faux-hawk that reached his chin. I thought it was adorable. My friends and family thought it was adorable. Even his mainstream-style-appreciating older brother thought it was adorable—ahem, cool. But my ex-in-laws did not think it was adorable.
I wasn’t there, so I didn’t get to hear exactly how much ribbing he got, though historically they tease him—affectionately, according to my ex—a lot more than I think is necessary. All I know for sure was that when he came home he wanted to cut his hair, and was promised that if he did, his aunt would buy him a toy.
I explained that hair grows at about ½ an inch a month, and how it would take a full year to regrow his bangs to their current length. I looked at pictures of hairstyles online with him. I made him wait two days. I even enlisted some other people to tell him how cute his hair looked long. He was adamant that he wanted it cut. Since he is starting a new school this month, I thought perhaps he wanted a more traditional look, and I didn’t want to push my weirdness onto my son.
I took him to the salon, and made a fatal error—I went and sat down after explaining what he wanted to the hairdresser. She did exactly what he asked for, but I should have had her cut only half the length and made him wait a few minutes before going any farther. But the salon was crowded, I felt like a nagging mother, so I sat.
He liked it for about ten minutes, then he wanted a wig. There were tears. To be honest, his new hair is really adorable, too, but it was quite a drastic change. I spiked up his bangs and tried to find a different way to wear it that might make him happier. I wished I had made him think about it a little longer. I spent most of yesterday in a state of guilt and regret.
And yet today I'm glad that I didn't intercede.
I don’t know if the aunt in question will ever send him the promised toy. Even if she does, he’ll have to decide if a $9.99 action figure was worth it. I once bet my brother two-weeks’ worth of my allowance that he wouldn’t drink liquid saccharine. I figured if he drank it, he’d die and I’d never have to pay him. He drank it, lived, and I still never paid him. (Matt, I owe you two bucks, and I’m grateful that you lived.) Childhood is filled with dares and bets, and learning to weigh the consequences when it is just hair is a valuable lesson.
Beyond bets, though, I know that I have made many impulsive hair decisions in my life. I’ve cut bangs at sleepovers, dyed my hair all sorts of poorly thought out colors, and it took me until I was 23 to stop trying to cut my own hair—or at least the back of it. I do appreciate the value in learning by natural consequences.
I hope that next time, he weighs the pros and cons of taking a bet, and to delay that urge to act on impulse a little bit longer. If so, we might make it through his teen years after all. (But now we’re going to see what color we can dye his hair.)
Copyright © 2018 Lara Lillibridge
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