While we were away T told me he didn’t like it that people thought he was a girl all the time. I told him people weren’t trying to be mean. Humans look lots of different ways and make different choices, but it would be fair to say that the majority of girls have longer hair and the majority of boys have shorter hair. So people get confused. I told him I loved his hair, loved long hair on boys. But it was his hair and his decision. He told me he didn’t like that people thought he was a girl, but he still wanted long hair. It didn’t bother him so much.
My heart ached. He was navigating some tricky waters. And I wondered if the day was coming when he would ask to have it cut off.
After his bath tonight I announced I would be trimming a couple of inches from his hair. The split ends were out of control, it was a snarled mess. I showed him my handiwork in the mirror after I was done. He grabbed a curl off of the towel he was standing on.
“Can you cut it short?”
My breath caught in my throat. I was having a hard time dealing with the two inches on the bathroom floor. We went to talk to his Daddy who was reading stories to C. And we agreed that it was T’s choice.
I cut his hair short.
As soon as he saw it he said he wanted to grow it back. I told him he could do what he wanted-it was his hair. But later he said he liked it and didn’t want it long again.
I’m glad Z and I had no idea this would be the day of the big cut. It was like pulling a bandaid off fast. There was no time to mourn the loss of those crazy long curls that were such a big part of his persona.
As we cuddled at bedtime T confided he was worried that his teacher wouldn’t like his hair. I told him he was just the same with long hair or short hair. What mattered was his heart. And he has a good heart. His teacher likes him for who he is inside, not what he looks like.
I hope he heard me.
We are keeping the curls. Z took the paint off an old altiods tin and they will live inside it. Z’s eyes welled with tears as he showed me the tin. Mine did when I looked at the towel covered with curls.
T needs to assert his independence. He needs ownership over how he presents himself to the world.
Z and I need to let go a little. Let him make his choices.
It’s a little thing, his hair. It’s a little thing. In this moment it is hard to remember that-hard to not let it be everything. Hard to not imagine him growing into a man, asserting his independence more and more. Hard to not imagine the pain of every little thing as Z and I learn to let go more and more.
We love him so much. He is ours for such a short time. He is only 4, barely a kid at all. But he is his own person. And that is right.
Sometimes the stuff that is most right is also the most difficult.
Scene of the crime.