My daughter is almost four years old. She's precocious, precious, and one of a kind. Of course, that's her mother talking, so you'll have to forgive me if you think I might have misrepresented her. But she really does have her own distinct personality, and she's at a point where she has an opinion on what she does and doesn't like. (Also on what she does and doesn't want to do, which can be rather annoying, if all she wants to do is stay at home and play on a day when I have a hundred errands to run…argh!)
But I digress.
She's always had rather strong opinions on what I'm allowed to do with her hair. ie Nothing. I'm not allowed to put hair ties, head bands, ribbons, clips, or any other form of hair adornment in her hair. And on the few times where she has relented (perhaps taking pity on her poor Mum who just wants to put some sparkles in her hair) it only stays in for half an hour at most. We often had a fight to even get her to let us brush her hair… She sees it as an annoyance, something that gets in her way.
She'd said to me on several occasions that she'd like short hair like Daddy. I always said no, don't be silly, you look so pretty with long hair. I thought to myself that people would think she was a boy, and I wouldn't like that. Not that it was even particularly long – she had a kind of shoulder-length bob. But anyway, all of this should have made me cautious. It should have made me more aware. But it didn't…
So one day, when I was upstairs in my office working, and my husband was downstairs cooking dinner, my daughter was happily sitting at the dining room table playing with some paper and scissors, cutting out circles, and then showing them to my husband. He was distracted with cooking dinner, and didn't notice that she'd disappeared. And even if he had noticed, he would have thought that she had gone to the toilet, or was just getting something from her room. No big deal.
But no. What she had done was to take the scissors she'd been playing with into her room, hide in her cupboard, and hack at her hair. She cut a chunk out of her fringe, and cut off the sides, giving herself what we call in New Zealand a ‘mullet'. Short front and sides, long at the back. She came out a while later, and proudly showed her father what she had done.
He called to me, and I came downstairs. It was shocking and VERY funny at the same time. She was so proud of herself and her new haircut, it was hard to do anything other than laugh. It looked pretty awful, but she'd gotten what she wanted all along. Her hair cut short like Daddy's.
I wasn't really sure what to do with her hair from there. A friend suggested instead of the pixie cut, we dye part of it bright red, get some hair gel, and start rocking the punk look. I was leaning toward getting it all cut off, but I still really didn't want her to have a short haircut all over. All I could think was that she would look like a boy, and I didn't want that. Not that I had much choice. The thought of dying her hair red didn't appeal, so the next day after Kindergarten I took her to a hairdresser who worked hard to give her a cute pixie cut.
I always thought I would hate her having short hair, that it wouldn't look right, but I have to say, her pixie cut works. She looks adorable. In fact it fits in more with her personality than having long hair did. She's an active child, who is always up to mischief, and something about that short pixie cut seems to distill that… We're going to keep the short hair cut, rather than trying to grow it out.
It makes me think about my perceptions of other things around me. I didn't want her to get it cut for reasons that turned out to be unfounded and ridiculous. She's still the same child, short hair didn't change who she is, or what she does in any way shape or form – except that she's just maybe a bit colder round the neck.
So what was my big problem? Is it that I am resistant to change? Or am I buying into gender stereotypes that I shouldn't be? Or is it just that I wanted her to be something that she's not? I'm not entirely sure, but it makes me take a look around at other things in my life, to see if I'm doing the same thing in other areas. Maybe there could be other changes that I could be making that would have a positive impact, rather than the perceived negative one I might be expecting.
What else in my life am I hanging onto because of outdated and old fashioned beliefs? What else could I let go of, or move on from, if I really tried? I don't know the answer to that, but it's kind of intriguing….