It’s just hair.
That’s what I keep telling myself. It’s just hair. It will grow. Quickly.
My nine-year-old daughter recently told me she wants a hairstyle change. After growing it out for several years, she wanted shorter hair and side bangs. While she and I have completely opposite hair color, we have the exact same hair. Straight and fine. I’ve tried the short ‘do many times, and everyday I battle a fresh love/hate relationship with my bangs. I knew what she was embarking on, but for some reason every time I tried to warn her, she rolled her eyes at me. My baby rolled her eyes at me. About a hairstyle. Does this sound familiar to any of you?
I do know why she wants it – I remember exactly how it felt at her age (and let’s be honest – every other age) to want to do a little something different. I remember watching Mary Lou Retton flip her way to gold in the Summer Olympics and thinking that cute bob haircut might be just what my eight-year-old self was searching for. Surely it would make back flips easier – the ease and bounce of the haircut might just lift my feet right off that mat and into a round-off back handspring.
I thought that haircut was going to be perfection, but it ended up being a daily reminder of a mistake – my naturally straight, fine hair would not just “bounce” out of bed. My mom had to curl it under every. single. morning. It was excruciating for me as a third grader. Just imagine how excruciating it was for my mom. If she ever considered it a mistake, she never let on. She’d calmly curl it under every morning while I winced (screamed) every time the curling iron got too close to my forehead or neck.
I wanted to tell my daughter it wouldn’t work. I wanted to tell her having to care for new bangs is a huge pain in the rear, and only on certain days – when the humidity is just right and the stars are all aligned (which is NOT in June, July, or August in Charlotte) will those bangs look right. I wanted to make her understand that she has her entire life to look at herself and want someone else’s hair – please don’t start now. I wanted to tell her to love the ease of her hair for just a few more years – before she buys in to what magazines, videos, and boys tell her is beautiful. But I couldn’t – I had to let her do it because I’m her mother and that’s what mothers do for their daughters – whether we like it or not.
Yes, it’s just hair but it’s really so much more than hair. It was the first time in my daughter’s life that she wanted to do something to herself that I wasn’t quite sure of. Actually, I was quite sure of what the outcome would be, but I couldn’t tell her that and have her believe me. And really I didn’t want to – I wanted her to learn for herself. Isn’t that the really hard part of mothering a daughter? Watching her try new things that you’ve tried a zillion times in your life and biting your tongue through every single one (unless, of course, her future would be compromised – this is not one of those times)?
We had never been down that road as mother/daughter, and I felt like I was setting myself up for our future. If she’s OK discussing a new haircut with me, then maybe she’ll be OK to talk to me about a boyfriend, an argument with a friend, her dream job, or a tattoo she’s considering (Ahhhh!!!). I want to wrap up her complete transparency with me, keep it high up in the gift closet, and open it when she’s in high school and wants nothing to do with me.
Luckily, she chose a more conservative version of short and our hairstyle choices aren’t completely limited, but those side bangs are now her reality, which means I have a new reality. Those bangs happen to coincide with her birthday – she turns nine this week. NINE. I’ve always equated nine with “halfway.” She leaves me when she’s 18, and suddenly we’re halfway there. And also quite suddenly, she’s flipping her hair, texting a friend, and telling me to use the term “bathroom” instead of “potty.” It’s all so very clear now – when I look back on these years, I’m going to see that “it” – the sass, the eye rolling, the growing up – all started with the side bangs. Yep, all the blame will go right back to Them.
I have so many more years of beauty and fashion hits and misses to live through with her (please, Lord, don’t let big bangs come back in style – she isn’t tough enough for all the burns on the forehead!). I just hope she envisions us doing it together; I also hope my tongue doesn’t fall off from biting it so much.
I only have nine more years to teach her everything she needs to know before she leaves for college. That’s a whole lot of everything with not much time to spare. I’ve really got to get to work – and I guess the first thing on my list will be how to style side bangs.
Yes, it’s just hair. It will grow. Quickly.
Just like her.