The Bad Haircut
By Linda Hamilton
I just ruined my child’s life, added another two-grand on to his therapy bill later in life, created likely cause for a new hat fund, and may have provided fodder for playground teasing, especially by girls.
Yes, I sent him to school with a really bad haircut.
I have been cutting my boys’ hair ever since my oldest turned three and wailed and screamed and kicked the stylist at the kids’ salon. Even sitting in the mock motorcycle barber’s chair watching cartoons on a portable DVD, he would have none of it. After twenty minutes of coaxing, bribing, threatening, wriggling, and tears, we went home with untouched hair.
I had never cut hair before, but I’m a pretty good monkey. I bought a good pair of trimming scissors and some combs, asked my stylist for a few tips, and imitated what I saw him do when layering my hair.
Most of my cuts, though limited in variety—I only do one—have come out looking pretty darn good. A few missed wisps of hair here and there, but passable and fairly stylish for the elementary school crowd.
Until this cut.
My boys, now eight and six and three-quarters, decided a few days earlier that they wanted to get buzz cuts at the barbershop with their dad. I lamented the loss of those perfect surfer-highlights and soft locks, grappled with my own negative social image of the buzz-cut boy (a.k.a. redneck, bully type), and I reluctantly said okay.
Then they changed their minds. They wanted Mom to cut their hair. Saved!
It was almost summer vacation, so I was prepared to cut the hair short, shorter than I normally do. Short had been the request. While my six-year old watched Phineas and Ferb on a Sunday night after a full weekend of soccer and baseball games, birthday parties and community festivals, I gave him one of the best cuts I’d given him yet.
I placed a fresh towel over the living room rug, and my eight-year old moved to the chair. His eyes on the TV so I was a mere blurry figure in his peripheral vision, he suddenly changed his order. “I want my hair to be like Tim Lincecum’s.”
I thought about going online to look at pictures of the young pitcher for the San Francisco Giants with the long locks. I really wish I had.
But it was getting late, I was tired, and I needed to get this cut done. The next two weekends were already booked solid, and with a no-TV-on-weekdays rule, I could only cut their hair on the weekends. These are boys. They couldn’t sit still for a haircut otherwise. I still had it in my head to make his hair short. But Lincecum’s hair is long all over.
I started with the bangs. Snip. Uh oh.
That was WAY too short! No turning back at that point. I had to go for it, trim it all short. But at my son’s request, I left the back long.
I ended up giving my son a mullet, and a really bad one at that.
Monday morning, I greeted him in the kitchen. “Good Morning, Honey. What do you want for breakfast?”
“Mom,” he said, “smoothing down his bangs to make them longer, “I don’t like how I look.”
For some parents, this might have been no big deal, just another day, a big “oh well.” But this was a disaster for me.
I was a PAINFULLY self-conscious child. It hurts even to reflect on it. My mother always kept my hair short, never giving me an option. My self-image was shaky, and I didn’t know what to do with my body, which my mother labeled with terms like “pleasantly plump,” “a little overweight,” and “a big girl.” Looking at photographs now, I was just fine. It took me until I was in my forties to finally change my self-perception and become content with my visage in the mirror, for the most part.
My heart sank.
“You look handsome to me, Sweetie,” I said, brushing his hair to the side with my fingers so it feathered in the front the way I designed it, “but I’m sorry you don’t like it. It’ll grow back in really fast. If it really bothers you, you can wear a hat.”
He smoothed down his bangs again and went to play with his brother.
I tried to go back to packing lunches, but as I cut apple slices, my stomach began to ache. Childhood memories flooded back: feeling fat in a leotard in my first dance recital, the Dorothy Hamill-cut my mother insisted on that I hated (“You look so cute with your hair short!”), the time I cut my bangs too short just before going to a prom, the time I came to school with a cast and crutches after spraining my ankle, totally self-conscious, and the kids made me “it” in a game of tag.
Tears flowed as I found my husband just getting out of the shower. “Hug me,” I said. I took a few deep breaths while I told him what was going on, and frowned at him while he tried to say the right thing to calm me down.
Back at the kitchen sink, I shed a few more tears while filling water bottles. Then I turned around and smiled and did my best with my anything-but-a-poker-face countenance not to reveal how worried and horrible I felt.
Gosh darn it! And my son’s big front tooth was finally coming in after five years of a gap-toothed smile resulting from what we all refer to in our house as the “wagon incident!” He fell face first out of a friend’s wagon onto a paved patio when he wasn’t yet three years old, and we had to get his tooth yanked.
I was pulling the wagon.
(Can I just say, that it was an unfamiliar and unstable wagon? I didn’t even pull it that fast around that turn, and though I was holding a glass of champagne, I had only had half a glass. This experience, by the way, is Parenting Is Not For Sissies, #487.
We headed out the door to walk to school.
My son didn’t wear a hat. He didn’t mention it again. When he saw a friend of his on the sidewalk, the friend—who often has bad haircuts too—didn’t even seem to notice.
I happily reminded myself that my son was NOT ME. Thank God!
Walking back home, I tried to reframe the situation. Most kids that age don’t even notice such things. Think of the strength he’ll gain, the opportunity for me to make peace with this very natural mistake and my own issues…once again. He’s not taking it badly. I get to learn more about my son. It’s only temporary. We’ll laugh about it. I can repair it a bit tonight after bath. And my next cut will certainly be better!
And anyway, Tim Lincecum has really messy hair and has certainly had a few bad haircuts himself!!
Later, when my husband called from work to check on me, he chuckled, “That really was a bad haircut.”
“Yeah,” I tried to laugh. “But can give me a few more hours? I’ll have a sense of humor about it then.” Make it a few months and good haircut, but then I did.