She walked out of the playroom with a pair of scissors in one hand and a fistful of hair in the other, carrying both so carefully. She gripped the scissors, covering the blades, exactly as we had shown her for safety. She thrust her hand forward with pride, presenting a brown tassel, a wilting bouquet just for me. She had held so tightly onto the clippings that there wasn’t a single stray strand of hair on the floor.
I knew this day would come eventually. She had taken scissors to doll hair before, this was the developmental next step. I’ve come to think of it as a rite of passage. A preschool-aged child (most of the ones I know were, just like her, four years old) takes scissors to her baby curls, her flowing locks, her inconvenient hair.
This logically leads to the second right of passage, mostly for the parents: the first trip to the salon.
I’ve watched friends mourn over lost hair, but ultimately accept the change. They shrug, attempting to veil their disappointment, noting that their child, usually a girl, really likes her short hair. They embrace that the style is cute. More importantly, it’s socially acceptable. The change in the child is palpable. Joy, pride, weightlessness.
It’s usually a girl because her hair is still long. She hasn’t heard the buzzer in her ears. She hasn’t yet sat in a chair with a plastic cape draped over her. She hasn’t had to remain still while someone else picked the picture in the book or the number on the clippers.
When my daughter came to show me her work, we carefully placed the hair inside a plastic bag. I opened the special box filled with her tiny baby treasures: sonogram profiles, hospital bracelets, and footprints. And now, her first haircut. Measurements of growth. Snapshots of autonomy.
She is neither me nor mine. I have held her in my body and I have held her in my arms, but I will never hold her place in this world. That is hers and hers alone. All I can hope to do is let her be the being she is. Sometimes, it’s harder than I want it to be, but that’s on me.
I listened as she explained the process to me. She was trying to focus on her work, but her hair kept getting in her eyes. She was very careful because she knew that scissors can be dangerous. She also made sure she didn’t get hair all over the floor, because that would be hard to clean up. Now she has bangs! Now she can see to do her work! “I had a problem, and I fixed it!” she chortled.
That’s my girl. She thinks her way out of every box that anyone’s ever tried to place her in. She’s creative. Not in the sense that she enjoys using art supplies, but with the expanse of imagination that any object in our home can be used in infinite ways, can become anything else. She is creation. She asks meaningful questions. She challenges everything. She is a force of nature.
It’s my turn to respond. I’m thankful that she kept the space clean, that was very thoughtful of her. I’m very glad that she was careful because scissors can be very dangerous, especially near our eyes. I remind her that there are tools and experts for most jobs that we know. Cosmetologists work very hard and go to school to learn lots of different ways to cut hair and change hair colors. They also have special tools for those jobs. Next time that she wants to change her hair, we can make a plan to ask an expert for help.
Once we’ve safely stored the scissors and placed the hair with other memories of her dependence, she rushes to the bathroom mirror. She first looks directly at herself, then turns to see the side, then, of course, the other side. She quickly evolves into various poses – some silly, some serious – mesmerized by the way her face looks different and the same in relationship to this new haircut.
It’s crooked. The bangs are off center, like the sweepy bangs of the late 2000s, but less sweepy and more upside-down staircase. The longest jagged tips come down above her right ear. The shortest piece, a tiny unicorn horn that elevates her hair into the third dimension, is perfectly centered between her eyebrows.
I stand in the doorway, watching her, but purposefully staying out of the frame. She looks in that mirror and sees strength and beauty. She’s a problem solver and a stylist.
I ask her how she feels even though I don’t need to. She hears me, but continues looking at her reflection. “I feel proud, ” she tells me as she turns to look at the other side. “And really pretty!” She’s almost giddy.
She asks me to take pictures of her new haircut. I send them to her dad and to my mom.
My mom calls me to commiserate. Another parenting milestone added to my own growth chart.
“Oh my,” she laughs. “Are you going to take her to a salon to get it fixed?”
“No,” I respond.
There’s nothing that needs fixing.