As a young girl growing up I loved hair. I used to style my Barbie or Tiffany Taylor (don’t ask!) with fabulous up-do’s. By the time I hit 13-14, I was tired of my thick, long, dark brown hair (early onset brain damage – I think) and applied Sun-In to those gorgeous locks. I loved my sun-drenched look. Looking back at photos, I was a very striking orange-head (groan).
In light of my own experiences and those I’ve had with my tweens; the article “Dyeing to be Different” in the May issue of Parenting School Age, really struck a chord with me. The article offers some great advice and it made me reflect on my experiences with my own kids.
Mid school year 2009-10 my son Kevin, then age 12, wanted to let his hair grow “and just not cut it.” I was fine with that with the understanding that it was to be kept clean and combed. Not a problem. He’s a good kid. Then he mentioned that he likes it in the summer when his hair is lighter. So, out came the trusty Sun-In (my son is not a dark brunette – thank goodness) and he acquired the look of a laid back surfer.
The reaction I got from my sister and brother-in-law was something of a surprise to me. The writer’s advice to the tween “Have you thought about what you’ll say to Grandma” – would have been useful for me (insert Auntie). Although I don’t base my parenting on what other people think (even family) I never considered there’d be a negative reaction.
Turns out the negative reaction was born out of the fact that they would not let their son (my then 13-year-old nephew) grow his hair long or color it. My nephew made sure to point out to his mother how Kevin was allowed to do what he wanted with his hair at last year’s Mother’s Day Brunch!
Funny thing, the next cycle in this hair phase turned out to be “Mom, can I shave my head?” My response: “Sure, I’ll take you in on the last day of school.” This, of course, was to prevent my son – who was already the school punching bag – from incurring further harm and ridicule. Turns out he looks great with long hair, short hair and, who knew… NO hair.
My nephew found other ways to express his individuality – and his control over himself – and they weren’t as benign as hairstyles or color. Makes me wonder if he’d been given a little more latitude in the area he first requested, would he have made these other, more dangerous, choices to exert his own control? I guess we’ll never know.
As for Kevin, he’s already asking if I’ll make an appointment for the last day of school to have his head shaved again. I guess it’s about time – his hair has grown out from the last shave to about shoulder length!
Laura Taylor is the 2010 Mom Congress delegate for California.