‘Dad, can you cut some lines in my hair?’ No. 3 asked me this morning before sauntering off to school.
‘What?’ was all I could say because I had no clue what he was talking about.
‘Ya know, a design on my head, maybe a couple of lines here and there,’ he demonstrated with his index finger, scorching an imaginary trail along the sides and back of his head. I had already chopped off a significant amount of hair last night after noticing at lunchtime that he looked like he was wearing a poodle on top of his head.
I fell back to the familiar parental position of “Retreat with evasive actions” and calmly told him that I would discuss it with his mother. Super Mom, as I’m sure most mom’s are, is very protective of her sons’ fashion sense and No. 3 is particularly sensitive about his hair. It is his pride and joy. The other boys would be happy to shave all of their hair off but No. 3 protects his hair like the government protects its bullion at Fort Knox. Super Mom runs the main security detail around their follicles.
I must have been crazy about my hair when I was a kid but I only recall having two hairstyles – Bad and Worse. Take a look at all of my childhood pictures (like the one above) and you might wonder how I made it through grade school with so many bad hair days. I remember one haircut in particular that looked like I had been scheduled for a flat top but ended up getting a flat mop. I was way ahead of my time because a decade later it was cool for MC Hammer and Kid-N-Play but when I was in grade school it just meant I had to deal with the endless torment and mockery from my classmates.
My barber, A.K.A. Dad, never asked me how I wanted it to be styled, whether or not I wanted a shampoo or if I would like some gel in it afterwards. The only thing dad asked when he told me to sit down on the bucket and sit up straight was, “Why is your hair so wild?”
Do you remember the ‘Bowl Cut’ or the ‘Crew Cut’? My dad had variations of those styles and none of them looked good on a kid who already had a complex about being the only Polynesian face in a classroom full of Caucasians. The day I walked into class with another one of dad’s failed attempts at being a beautician was usually met with jibes like, ‘Looks like the lawnmower won that battle,’ or ‘Is your dad a sheep shearer?’ or worse, ‘Do all Polynesians have to cut their hair that way?’
The jokes tapered off after about two weeks and I would almost feel normal again until I got another hair cut, which was usually every four weeks. Not long enough to forget the sting of the last one and not nearly long enough for me to begin wishing again that I was born with alopecia.
Hair has always been a fashion statement, a form of rebellion or an indicator of the times. When I was a kid getting a Mohawk was like thumbing your finger at the status quo. Putting lines in your hair was like saying, “This is who I am; love me or hate me.” If you let your hair grow out, it was typically in open rebellion to the clean-cut, conservative look favored by those who made all the rules and enforced them with fanaticism.
It’s been a decade since I’ve grown any hair on my head. I’ve been shaving my head since my eldest son was born because I found it very difficult to comb my hair and change a baby’s diaper at the same time. I just didn’t have a desire to waste precious time on my own hair when I had a kid to attend to, work responsibilities; volunteer at church and in my community and everything else that occupies my time. I don’t even know why I’m growing my hair right now, because I hate hair products and I hate paying $20 to get my hair cut when I can easily shave it all off.
Ironically, I love playing barber for my sons. Sadly for them, I’m not any better than my dad was. Luckily for them, I’m not cruel. I try my best to give them the haircut they want and I think I do a good enough job. At least Super Mom hasn’t threatened to divorce me over it yet. I don’t get crazy and until No. 3 asked me about lines in his hair, I’ve always cut their hair very conservatively. So he really threw me for a curve.
Here’s the thing about No. 3 – Besides his hair, he’s a very independent, quirky kid who shows very little emotion and very rarely speaks unless spoken to. He’s always been this way. This is the same kid who wore his Batman mask to school and didn’t speak a word in our home and in public until the tail end of his second year of grade school. I can’t imagine the courage it took him to ask me to put lines in his hair. It seems a silly thing, but there is a glaring reality that I can’t overlook – No. 3 rarely asks anything of us even when he is distressed or needs support or just needs ME! Of all our sons, he is the one whom we struggle with a lot. Not because he’s a bad kid, but because he just wants to be left alone even when we want so much for him to be more engaging, more open, more involved, more dependent.
I recognized after speaking with Super Mom and taking a moment to think about things, that the lines in his hair are not just a plea for independence, but an opportunity to build upon and improve our relationship. It is a chance for me to set aside my own reservations about a weird haircut, and concentrate on being a part of his life. The hair is insignificant. It’s going to grow back. What I’m going to spend more time on, is growing what matters most – the relationship between a boy and his dad.
So today when he gets home from school, I’m going to shave lines in his head…and then I’m going to shave all of my hair off!