September 8, 2013

Motherlode: Long and short of it: Mom living out own hair fantasy

By JAIME FRANCHI

My 6-year-old wants to cut her hair short. I won't let her.

Before you paint me as a control-freak monster of a mother, know that I have already directed those barbs at myself. Regardless of how we have both reached that conclusion, I still won't waver. My daughter just doesn't know what she has.

When Anna was born, the yellow fuzz on her head at once delighted and confused me. Who was the blond in our family? Where did this towheaded, blue-eyed child come from? As a brown-haired, brown-eyed mother, it never occurred to me that my daughter would more resemble Claudia Schiffer than me. And as the plainer sister, inevitably referred to as "the smart one" because the dichotomy between two sisters demands the less pretty one identify as such, I didn't know what to make of my little girl, whose blond ringlets drew more attention the bigger she grew.

I cut my hair around the time I turned 30 to stop trying to be like my sister. Lisa's hair had the curl and depth that perfectly suited the big style of the '80s, while mine flopped no matter the amount of Aquanet applied. And when fads faded and the '90s arrived, her hair didn't go out of style. Lisa's dark waves hung all the way down her back the way I had wished my own would. My hair never knew if it wanted to be straight or curly. In its indecision, it hung limp, albeit long.

After Anna was born, I decided to own my identity. I cut my hair to my chin and accepted who I was. Less pretty, certainly, but myself. It was a lesson I wanted my daughter to inherit. Being a mother of a girl brings its own challenges. The way I look at my appearance and body will be absorbed into her psyche no matter how careful I am about teaching her self-respect. If I can practice self-acceptance instead of preaching it, maybe my girl will have enough armor when she enters her own rough waters of high school, no matter what the style.

At least, that is what I keep telling myself. Meanwhile, I tend my daughter's curls, and increasingly she protests. The arguments over brushing her hair have turned accusatory lately. "All you want to do is hurt me!" she screamed once, blue eyes brimming with tears.

"Really? That's all I want?" I listed trips to the park, play dates, ice cream, dance parties in our kitchen, help with her homework -- and that was just in one day.

But no matter what else a day holds, it also holds the inevitable moment when, despite the amount of leave-in conditioner and detangling spray, we are going to have a fight. She will scream at a pitch that rivals Mariah Carey, causing my son to cover his ears and cower. When he is feeling particularly protective, he might try to negotiate with me on her behalf: "Mom! That's enough!"

Though my heart swims at the thought of this argument-prone duo coming together, even if it is against me, I grit my teeth and move forward. Because hair needs to be brushed. It's the price of waist-length locks.

Then it happened. Anna decided, after six years of torturous brushing, that it was not worth it. That summertime is hot and that long, heavy hair is cumbersome. She looked to her mother, owning her cute, chic cut, and told me that she too wanted short hair.

I should have been flattered. I should have been relieved. After all, without this everyday fight over hair brushing, our relationship would be easier, smoother, and set a precedent as we move toward the later, more difficult years.

So why did I say no?

In part I feel that she might lose her identity, that of a girly-girl who identifies with the color pink and all things sparkly. That without those long curls, she might not recognize herself.

But mostly I feel that when you are given a gift of hair like that, you appreciate it, the way I always wished I could.

It doesn't come to everyone. It's special.

The fact that these reasons sit like concrete in the bottom of my stomach tells me I'm wrong.

I am living out my own long hair fantasy life through my daughter, like a father who forces his son to be the football star he failed to be.

A haircut shouldn't cut so deeply. This one does -- and my daughter's hair is still long.

-- The New York Times

 

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