“Touch my boy’s hair and I will break your arm.”
This is not a reasonable thing for a person to say, which I realised as soon as it flew out of my mouth.
It’s also clearly not true. #pacifist, #lovernotafighter, #wuss.
But parents are funny about their kids’ hair, and I am no exception.
The threat was made during a conversation about a story you’re probably familiar with by now – that of the Deputy Head Master of Melbourne’s prestigious Trinity Grammar school, Rohan Brown, who was fired from the school after he set about cutting a schoolboy’s hair just before the school photos were taken.
The boy in question’s hair was breaking school rules, by all accounts his family were not particularly perturbed, and the matter of Mr Brown’s dismissal is now before the courts, so that’s all we’ll say about that.
Listen to Andrew Daddo and I discussing the story on This Glorious Mess, here:
But it got everyone talking about who has the right to cut your child’s hair, comment on your child’s hair, touch your child’s hair. And that’s where things got a little defensive.
My son is nowhere near a teenager, he’s five. And he doesn’t go to a fancy Grammar school, he’s at the local kindy, but Billy has a lot of hair. Curly, fluffy, gorgeous blonde hair. And I am weirdly passionate about it.
When his kindy teacher kindly suggested that he might get it cut before school started, I took umbridge.
When friends gently suggest that he’d look more like the “big boy” he is now with a neat little haircut, I dismiss them with a snort.
When the hairdresser looks at his mop and turns their pleading eyes on me – “can I give him, like, a style?” – I stand and watch as the scissors snip. “No more!” I say, like a controlling idiot. “Leave his curls!”
What the hell is this about? It’s not about Billy. He doesn’t care about his hair at all – he cares about Lego and dinosaurs and whether his sister got more treats than he did on any given day – and I doubt he’s given more than two minutes’ thought to whether or not he should “grow up” and get a buzzcut.
No, it’s not about Billy. It’s about my idea of Billy.
To me, his hair reflects his personality - rebellious little rockstar meets mad scientist - to me, it's part of his story. Of course, Billy would be the exact same person with a sensible short 'do, but to me, his crazy hair is an expression of him.
He's also my youngest, my baby, with his beautiful baby hair. There's all sorts of emotion tied up in that tangled topper.
Every parent knows you only have a short time where you get to dictate your kid's "look" And we cling to it for as long as we can.
The day Billy declares he wants a sensible haircut to look like the other boys will knock me sideways, just like when my daughter declared - at about three - that she no longer wanted to wear all those tasteful neutrals I was dressing her in and from here on in it was all Dora T-shirts and polyester tutus.
And I'll deserve it. I don't own Billy's aesthetic, he does.
So parents are just funny about hair.
My friend's mother-in-law cut her son's long hair while my friend was out. That was 10 years ago and relations are still strained.
Another kid of my acquaintance got a trim at daycare when his hair was dangling in the paint. "We had no choice," said the carers. "He was flicking it at other kids."
And I met a mother recently who was begging her daughter's school to have the entire class photo redone because she hated the way her daughter's hair was sticking up in the shot.
We can all see that some schools have rules about hair and you'd better stick to them. We can all see that kids need to dictate when they're going to let go of being mummy's little styling pet. And we can (probably) all see that hair that dangles in the paint-pots is never good OH&S.
But still: Touch my boy's hair and I'll break your arm.
Is there something you're "funny" about when it comes to your child's appearance?
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