Up until a few weeks ago, my 8 year old daughter and I were having a hair race. This was not a very interesting race for spectators because it simply involved seeing which of us could grow our hair the longest.
It lasted months. Maybe a year.
Look, she was always going to win because she has a longer concentration span than me and I was always going to get bored and frustrated with the process of growing my hair and go down in a blaze of scissors.
And that’s exactly what happened. Last month I did the big chop and got myself a Lob (long bob). And I lost the hair race.
I was gracious in defeat, mostly because I was chuffed with my new haircut and because I have always taken a strange sort of posessive pride over my daughter’s long hair and I didn’t want her to cut it. I have always loved it long.
I’m not sure if it’s a nostalgia thing – I had the same hair at the same age – or whether I’ve just lived my long hair dreams through my daughter but I loved her long hair as though it was my own.
Every time my husband suggested she might need a haircut I jumped in with bogus reasons why she shouldn’t cut it off. Mostly they involved something lame like "But I LOVE IT LONG." She never needed much convincing.
“Mum will win the hair race if you cut it,” pointed out my 5 year old son gravely. My daughter's hair stayed long.
But last month after I cut my hair and she claimed victory, two things happened.
While looking through my Facebook feed one night, I saw a photo of a friend who had cut off her long hair and donated her ponytail to the Beautiful Lengths campaign that uses donated hair to make real-hair wigs for cancer patients who have lost their own hair due to chemotherapy. It takes about 12 ponytails to make each wig. That's a lot of hair.
My daughter and I talked about it. We talked about the people we knew who had cancer and the people we knew who were cancer survivors. We talked about what it would feel like to lose all your hair from cancer treatment. I put no pressure on her. The conversation was initiated by her.
And the seeds were sewn.
I don't want to paint her as some kind of heroic, selfless child, though. It was also winter and long wet tangled hair had become a burden. She was sick of the knots, sick of having to brush it out, sick of having to tie it up for school.