A funny thing happens when you have kids. Everything you know goes out the window. Growing up, I never questioned how I dressed or what toys to play with. Girls were often doing one thing while boys were doing the other. I played with everyone and tried everything: sports, music, and dance. My friends and I rarely thought about the activities I did. I eventually fell in line with most girls, dressing like them, trying makeup, and often playing by gender-binary rules.
Fast forward to college and my years of learning to unwind everything I have learned about gender. A few years later, I became a parent with the belief everyone should do what makes them happy. Even with that knowledge, I sometimes miss opportunities to challenge myself and my kids to question how people are expected to look.
Enter the issue of my son and his haircuts. My four-year-old son does not like haircuts, hair washing, brushing, etc. Almost all of the haircuts he’s had involved a lot of screaming and crying. It’s often difficult to sit through and even worse for the unlucky hair stylist. So when I notice his hair getting a little too long for my taste, I want to take him to the salon right away. My husband asked our son if he wanted a cut and he refused. I insisted that we just take him anyway and get it over with. My husband shot back at me asking me why this was such a big deal.
Why was this such a big deal? Because long hair equates with looking feminine? Or because long hair on a kid makes it look like the parents aren’t keeping up? Because I’m used to caring a lot about physical appearance? Because my answer to these questions was a resounding yes, I realized I have some work to do.
So, per my husband’s insistence, we waited. Once a week or so, we would ask him if he wanted a haircut. For months, he said no. Then, one day in November, he finally said yes and of course, I overreacted. We rushed him to a local salon but halfway into the haircut, my son’s eyes fell and he realized this was a mistake. He became upset on my husband’s lap and soon the tears began streaming down his face. It was at that moment that I knew that if he decides to never cut his hair again, I don’t care. His discomfort and sadness will never be worth that look on his face.
I wish I could say I’ve let haircuts go completely. Sometimes, I ask him if we can cut his hair again when his hair grows thick and unruly but I don’t care as much about the answer anymore. I think of the countless kids out there who hope their parents will stop insisting on a certain look, activity or preference. The kids who don’t want to play by the same rules their parents are trying to pass on. The ones who are questioning everything as they try and figure out who they are, what they like and what they want to look like.
I have a lifetime left of my children challenging me to rethink everything I’ve ever known. For the first time in my 7 years of parenting, I can finally say that I’m looking forward to all of it.