A story of hair lost in adulthood is often a very different tale to one of hair removed in youth. Just the other day, I gifted my two-year-old son with a haircut so dreadful that it left me blubbering in a pile between towel rack and bath tub – what seemed at the time to be my very own ‘rock and a hard place’. “How could I have done this?” I kept muttering to myself in disbelief as my tears hit the floor; each time highlighting new puddles of blonde. Shamefully (in hindsight), I didn’t move for some time. Instead, I sat heavily amongst what reminded me of a thousand autumn leaves scrunched in irregular plots, and I grieved for the trivial loss of my son’s former hairstyle.
Some time ago, I was guilty of expressing my nonchalant confidence and skill when it came to cutting Percy’s hair at home. Admittedly just a baby, I remember the wisps of fair gold slung into wet portions that were manageable and easy to slice away on an otherwise preoccupied bundle. Nowadays, the hair is thicker and scissors are a problematic prop; one that my son always seems to want to snatch away from me in order to replicate a medieval battle with an invisible opponent. And so the time came when I reluctantly accepted that the need for a hairdresser had arrived; and in turn had to admit my own defeat on the hairdressing battlefront.
Why as mothers do we always feel like we need to tick every box? Why does a wash of failure stain our self-worth when we can’t do everything for our own children? Or are we simply too close to the project? After what seemed like a never ending talent casting, we finally discovered a hairdresser that was not only wonderful at her craft, but a hit with Percy. No tears were shed, fresh cuts were made, and compliments were given post visit to our favourite lady with the clippers. Upon our next visit (said day of dreaded hair removal), we were both disheartened to learn that our hairdresser had moved away. A replacement willingly stepped forward – and just as an episode of The Apprentice would play out – my discerning toddler was quick to dismiss her in his own colourful way.
Home, scissors in hand, and toddler balanced on bar stool in front of mirror was the next directive. Once the towel was clipped in place with a clothes peg, I began to perform my own version of the failed professional attempt earlier that day. Hair tickling ears and eyes became banished, and in reality I should have stopped there – then I saw my husband’s clippers…How hard could it be? As soon as the clippers hit his neck, Percy’s head whipped around like a startled snake to investigate the noise – CLIPPER-ME-TIMBERS! In one foul swoop the back of his head had been transformed into a runway for a light aircraft. And as panic crept in, I strangely became filled with an urge to rectify the bald spot by applying the clippers over and over again in a calm manner so that Percy might not become discouraged enough to want to dismount and run for the hills. When I realised I couldn’t fix it, it was too late; and that’s when my heart sank.
Famous Scottish novelist, George MacDonald (1824 – 1905) once said; “to be trusted is a greater compliment than being loved”. These words made my head heavy, as I pondered the notion of trust. Here, next to me was my altruistically positive and warm-natured son; hugging me close and asking if Mummy was ok. I had just destroyed his hair in a matter of minutes, but he couldn’t care less. His opinion of me had not changed, and I was in awe of his unwavering love and affection. This forced me to collect myself immediately and entertain the reality that the beauty of tender age was the ability to see past ideas of beauty in a modern age. Thankfully, he saw nothing wrong with the act, other than the way I acted in response – a lesson to grip onto with gratitude, and never repeat.
My mum once cut my entire left eyebrow off when trying to correct the length of my fringe, and I remember her getting just as upset with herself for doing so. Having now done a similar thing, I feel the need to dissect my disappointment. Hair grows back – this was not the issue. My son, to me, is beautiful and kind despite the hairstyle he sports or clothes he wears – this also wasn’t it. The failed attempt with good intentions – this was it. I couldn’t believe that despite every preparation and ounce of channelled effort and focus, I still managed to fall short of my own expectations. Or were they my expectations of Percy’s favourite former-hairdresser and what she had previously achieved?
As mothers I feel we sometimes carry the baton beyond our stretch, and run ourselves down when we can’t keep up. I often refer to myself as many things, including but not limited to; nurse, housekeeper, food tester, errand runner, toy repair expert, art director, potty trainer, boo-boo fixer, stain remover expert and story teller – hair stylist may have to get the chop.