None of my kids has ever had a haircut. That’s not an ideological statement, or a religious one. (Or, really, even a true one, to be honest: My littlest guy recently told me that “my hair gets in my eyes, Imma. Too much.” I gave him a wee trim, and some de-mulleting.) It’s more of an inertial one: both my girls were basically bald for a really, really long time. Like, really long. We never really thought about haircuts, and then one day we woke up and the eldest had all this long, curly stuff hanging down her back. Which she “is NEVER going to cut. Not EVER,” in case you are wondering.
And as night follows day, younger daughter follows oldest.
We missed the window.
And I get it. Long hair is fun, and big girl, now 6.5, gets a lot of attention when she says she’s never had it cut. And she can prove it; aside from the tushie-skimming length itself, she can show off her white and gold tips. All my kids, like everyone in our immediate and extended family, have brown hair, but the girls were much lighter as babies, and they’ve still got that hair. That very soft, very light-and-even-lighter-in-the-summer baby hair. On the ends of their no-longer-baby heads. It’s actually pretty cool.
But lately, middle daughter has been carving out spaces of independence and differentiation. She’s mentioned a haircut before, and I listened, but it always passed very quickly. (As did big girl’s commitment to donating her hair on Lag B’Omer. Two years in a row.) Middle girl has also been resisting hair brushing (and remember, there’s a lot of hair at stake here), and I reminded her of the rule that she can only keep her hair long if she agrees to take care of it. Otherwise, it can’t stay long.
“So cut it.”
This time, it doesn’t seem to be a flash-in-the-pan. She’s asked about getting her haircut all week. She’s been consistent and unwavering. She’s ready.
Those golden curls, those golden baby curls, and those full, delicious cheeks, and that still round belly, are links across time. I look at her, and I so easily remember all that has passed. But her belly grows flatter every day, and her cheeks, though still delicious, are being filled in by strong high bones. But I’ve still got her hair. For now.
I could talk her out of it, I’m sure. (She’s 4.5; I spend a huge amount of time talking her out of things every day.) But I won’t. Of course I won’t. Because it’s not actually my hair. It’s not actually my body. And I want—I need—to teach her that within the bounds of health and safety and propriety (that last one being up for much negotiation, I’m quite sure), she gets to decide. Always.
It’s her hair and it’s her body and it’s her right, and she needs to know that it’s true now and it’s true always. No one—not a parent, not a (future… far in the future) partner, not a best friend or frenemy, not anyone—is allowed to overrule what she does with her hair, her body, herself. She chooses. And as bittersweet as it may be for me to watch those golden locks fall to the floor (at 5:30 today, if all goes to plan), it’s not up to me.
Sure, she’s only 4.5, and it’s only hair. But she knows her mind and she knows what she wants. It’s never too soon, and it’s never too frivolous, to teach her that she gets to control her body. That, sadly, may not always be true, and others in her life might not always listen. But I can. And I will. I must. Because if not now, when?