Sep 10, 2010

It's just a hair cut

The first time i ever got a hair style, it led to sunburned ears and a crying mother. After 14 years of the same bowl cut half-way over my ears, Jacob exposed those lobes, created a part, feathered it oh so 80'sishly down to the right, and launched a 10-year love affair with gel. My mother sobbed at the loss of her little boy, and 8 hours on the tennis court found virgin skin on the forehead, ears and neck to scorch.

When my own first-born was 4 1/2 we cut his beautiful long locks for the first time. While he sat happily in the chair watching a video, Sarah and I choked back tears and scooped up long locks for the memory book. We watched our little angel become his own little boy, and it took weeks to get used to his new look and freedom.

We had resisted that haircut for months. Any time he had requested a cut, we assumed it was a short-term whim, and sure enough it would go away. Then one day in the car he picked up a butterfly puppet and told us, on behalf of the butterfly in a strange butterfly voice:
- "everyone thinks I'm a girl but I'm not, I'm a boy."
- Stunned, we asked how butterfly felt about it
- "Sad, butterfly feels really sad."
- Already knowing the answer, we asked, "What would butterfly want to do about it?"
- "Butterfly wants to get his hair cut so people know he's a boy butterfly."

At age 4 1/2 our boy had invented the classic children's psychotherapy tool to finally get us to hear him. We could now see for how long we'd been not listening, imposing our will on him long after he'd stopped being a malleable little playtoy.

Now almost 9 years into parenthood, we've learned our lesson. Galen's hair was once more quite long, but this time of his own choosing and much to our surprise. As good as he looked, if we had to choose we probably would have counseled shorter hair just for the social acceptance value. But he had made a decision to grow it long just because that's how he felt; not to emulate nor please his shaggy papa. It was purely a Galen thing, and we loved him for it.

He wore it long and proud much longer than we expected. Wore it long after the other boys in class had cut theirs. Wore it through a family member's disparaging remarks about him looking like a girl. Wore it without us praising or condemning it, knowing he had the choice to be who he wants to be and look how he wants to look. He experienced the power to create his own look and still be his own person.

So when he announced it was coming off before school, we equally loved him for that. And felt rather proud that we had not influenced him either way.

The first day of school he donned a knee-length Indian "tunic" shirt to match his short hair and entered grade 3 once again his own unique beautiful shining self. His eyes sparkle just as bright, his goofy laugh and squirmy body are as expressive and pure and unedited as ever. I once wrote of my beautiful wife "Big or small, i love her All", and the same goes for my beautiful boy. He's so much more than his hair.

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