My son is almost 3, and I have never cut his hair. This is not for religious reasons. We are not Sikh. Although the Sikh’s belief that allowing one’s hair to grow naturally is a symbol of respect for the perfection of God’s creation, is a religious belief my agnostic heart could get behind.
No the reason, is in no way sacred, but completely profane. I haven’t cut it, simply because it’s too darn cute to touch. My son has the most perfect, well to me anyway, head of ringlets. Ringlets that wouldn’t look out of place on a cherub painted on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.
But sadly, we’re not living in Renaissance Italy. We’re living in Kansas City. When we hit the pool this past summer, those ringlets submerged in water are dead straight and when fully extended his hair comes halfway down his back. Despite board shirts and rashguard top, my little cherub gets mistaken for a girl all the time. A few awkward exchanges ensue.
Not that he notices. He quickly found a way to keep those long locks out of his face by wearing goggles. No, those embarrassing moments are all between me and some other parent whose empty apology comes with eyes that seem to say “You ought to cut that boy’s hair.”
On some days when the humidity is low, (who would have thought I would come to love and rely on this city’s deadly humidity) and those curls are more wild Einstein than cherub, I wonder if they are right. Then it’s a steady stream of compliments that make me question my parenting choices. “Just look at those curls!” “How darling.” “Love that hair.” And then I wonder if those compliments are genuine or rather like when we told people we were moving countries at eight months pregnant and people said “so brave,” “so courageous” and what they were really thinking (so they told me later) was “are you out of your mind’?” Maybe we were.
Back then, I didn’t stop to care what others thought. But these days, it’s a different story. Fear of censure on my parenting skills lurks at the back of my mind. Not enough to make me change what I do but enough to give me unnecessary inner dialogue –”does he look scruffy?” “Is he going to wind up confused about his gender?” and “Am I a bad parent?”
In short, this hair thing has become a microcosm of the entire parental judgment thing and here’s how the other half of the interior dialogue pans out: “Just because others make different choices doesn’t mean they are judging or even care what you do,” “who cares if he does question gender roles, the whole thing is pretty trite anyway” and finally ‘No, don’t be ridiculous. It’s just a hair cut.
So the nanosecond of self-doubt passes while I wet a hair brush and run it through his hair and hey presto, ringlets are back. And we’re out, having fun, making friends with me capturing those delicious curls on my iPhone for posterity.