A lot of people have asked me whose idea it was to cut my son’s hair. Did he want to cut his hair? Did I make him do it? There is no definitive answer to this question, but if you ask him he will tell you that it was his idea, and that is the important thing. If he did not think it was his idea to cut his own hair then he would have never cut it.
I do need to take some credit though as I had been bothering him about it for a few months. Slowly my encouragement percolated to the surface of his own brain and it became his idea instead of mine… behold the magical machinations of parenting!
Did I want him to get his haircut? Yes. Why? Because it looked horrible and unkempt and he got vicious whenever I approached him with a brush in my hand.
“It hurts!” he squealed as I attempted to put a comb through the morass.
“Because you never brush it!” I retorted.
“Because it hurts!”
The more he didn’t comb it, the harder it was to comb, and the harder it was to comb, the more he didn’t want to comb it – it was a closed loop cycle that fed on itself, and the nest of hair on his head kept growing and growing.
For months I encouraged my son to cut his hair, promising him stress free mornings (for the both of us) and easygoing showers where he didn’t have to soak his head in half a bottle of conditioner just to keep it manageable. For months these entreaties fell on deaf ears as he looked at my own long hair and rendered all my points invalid.
The final straw came with him playing for an AAU basketball team this summer and participating in a national basketball tournament. Basketball has always been a place where Aurelio’s gender has come into question as the two teams warm up and the opposing team wonders whether this thin tall kid is actually a girl. Often they would whisper among themselves and point and sometimes even ask his teammates if that was a girl on their team or not. Early on in his basketball development Aurelio’s long hair was a boon to his game. Other players thought he was a girl and would take it easy on him and allow him to score a few baskets before they realized they better play some defense. After the game was finished moms from the other team would make a special point to come up to him and congratulate him on such a good game. He only averaged about five points game so I was a bit mystified as to why they felt compelled to come congratulate him until I realized they thought he was a girl. They wanted to see this girl up close who could handle the ball so well, they wanted to hold him up as an example to their daughters. Aurelio took it all in stride, he was always polite and said thank you even after he knew it was because they thought he was a girl.
But as he grew this became more annoying for Aurelio and he grew more and more frustrated. About a week before a big AAU tournament where Aurelio was going to have half a dozen games within a week he decided he would go ahead a cut his hair. Was it truly because of the tournament and his increasing agitation at being mislabeled as a girl? I didn’t much care at the moment, I went upstairs to get the clippers before he could change his mind.
His mother put the brakes on the operation. She did not like the idea of him cutting his hair because of society’s expectations. She wanted him to cut his hair for his own reasons, not someone else’s. She also just didn’t want to cut the hair off her ‘little’ boy. She tried to explain this to our son and he seemed to understand.
She got out the video camera and asked him to make a statement for posterity’s sake about why he was choosing to cut his hair.
“I’m… uhh… moving to a new… uhh… stage… in life and a haircut, is like, showing that I’m moving on?” he half queried and half stated. That is what mommy wanted to hear.
While it may not be true that Aurelio felt himself passing thorough a developmental stage it was true that being looked at as a girl bothered him now where it didn’t really bother him before. For better or worse, he was becoming more aware of how he appeared to others. It’s not just his hair, he is now of the age where he wants to picks out his outfits and wear his baseball hat cocked at a certain angle. It’s true, my son is growing up and one day soon will blossom into a full fledged teenager – Yikes!
I have a feeling this is only the first of many struggles over the way my kids want to look and even dress. If helping my 7 year old daughter pick out an outfit for school is any indication, we’re in for a long tough ride through adolescence, I better get used to it.