Solomon hates haircuts.
He has this thick, straight, never-ending head of brown hair that grows like weeds. It seems to grow in all of the least flattering ways, with emphasis on the sideburns and neckline, always making my otherwise gorgeous six-year-old boy look like a neglected delinquent.
But, haircuts. HATE is the word I'm using, people.
Mr P has a deluxe haircut clipper set in its entirety, and we even offer the haircuts in the comfort of our own home, in front of the TV, snacks at our disposal, distractions galore. There has been bribery, and when that fails to work, logic and reasoning, and inevitably back to bribery. He legitimately LIKES his long, floppy hair; the way it falls into his line of vision, the straggly ends approaching his ear lobes, the rat tail out back. I haven't been able to figure out why, or where this preference comes from, because it's baffling. He has not been gifted with the wispy surfer locks or skater side swept bangs. It's a hot mess.
Over the weekend, we coaxed him into the clipper's chair. Octonauts was playing, popcorn was popped, and peanut butter balls were rolled as reinforcements. Daddy managed to complete the haircut mostly without a hitch and at record speed. He was complain-y and whiny when he looked in the mirror, but nothing beyond the usual. We went on with our day.
Cue Monday morning. Two words: MELT DOWN.
He physically would not, could not, did not move his body off the floor, as he wailed, flapping at his head, screaming MY HAIR IS TOO SHORT! This kid is not high on drama; he's mellow, even keeled, agreeable and easy for the most part. I stood there, frozen.
Here I am, watching the scene unfold, feeling completely small. It was one of those moments when I think to myself, "Who left me in charge?" More frequently than I would like to admit do I have these split second inner dialogues, where I genuinely feel transported to my nine year old self, scanning the room for my mommy, or any responsible 'Adult' who can take charge of the situation. I mean, really. When did the growing up actually happen? It's all a blur.
I'll be the first to admit, I'm not stellar at keeping my cool. Mr P will walk around our chaotic play room as the boys pull each others' hair, and he'll be talking in this soft, soothing monotone voice, while I'm all "STOP THE MADNESS, LITTLE HUMANS!"
But, Monday mornings are teacher in-service, so he goes to work before the sun comes up, and I'm on my own.
I took a few moments to breathe deeply and actually think about how to approach this situation. Instead of simply reacting, I paused. (This is rare; hence the need to include it here.)
"Sweetie, I want to help you get through this. I know you don't like your hair. But, nothing can change that right now. If I let you stay home from school today, what will we do tomorrow? And the next day? And every day until your hair grows back long?"
"I don't want to go to school tomorrow either! ::sobs:: My HAIR IS TOO SHORT!"
My mind is racing at this point. Bullying is real. Someone might say something. What if the kids tease him? What if his teacher embarrasses him? Maybe he should stay home. That instinct to want to protect our children from all potential threat of harm, large or small? That's real.
What came next wasn't the prettiest or most eloquent moment of parenting. I saw my son shift from genuine stress about going to school with a new haircut, to being just plain naughty. It is a fine line, but when it's crossed, it's usually plain as day.
And, you better believe at that point, I decided in my mind that he was going to school.
There is never anybody around in those moments to teach you how to confront the (daily) complexities of your child's manipulation, fears, worries, insecurities, or outright defiance. Most of the time, all we have in our arsenal is our gut. So, we react and hope for the best.
"How about this? I'll meet you in the cafeteria at lunch time, and if you are still unhappy, you can come home with me."
He glared at me from the backseat, face blotchy and wet. But, when we pulled up to the curb at the main entrance, he wiped his eyes and confidently grabbed his backpack to walk to his classroom alone.
I realized in that moment as I watched him walk away that I unknowingly gave him a very special gift. I gave him the knowledge that he could overcome his insecurity. And that knowledge is power.
A few hours later I waved at him from the cafeteria entrance. He smiled sheepishly, as he packed up his things to go to recess.
"So, here I am. Do you want to come home, or do you want to stay?"
"I want to stay," he answered without hesitation. And with that, he ran outside with his friends.
It's certainly not everyday, but this day, I patted myself on the back as I walked to my car, smiling. We can do hard things!