Thursday, January 13, 2011

In which I am yet again shown up by a two year old

My two year old announced that she'd like a haircut. She's my last baby; and her hair still has soft curls. I love to slide my finger into the ringlets, or to pull them gently and watch them bounce. When her hair is cut, the curls will go, and I'm not ready to say good-bye to that final sign of babyhood. I said no.

She begged, 'Pease may I haba haircut,' and she's so polite, in fact so unbelievably adorable, that I said I'd consider a fringe. She hates clips and bands, but her hair grows straight into her eyes and picks up hommus every lunchtime. A fringe makes perfect sense.

My daughters have their hair cut at a friend's house. The next time we went, I asked my friend what she thought. While kids tore around shooting water pistols at each other and I sheltered my cup of tea, my friend took a look at my two year old. She pointed out that my daughter's forehead is shallow and her cheeks are round. A fringe might make her face look a little squat; and it would need a trim every six weeks. So we decided against it.

Instead, my friend braided my daughter's hair across the front of her head and down the side, so that it hung away from her eyes. And then, because my daughter whips out every hairdo within half an hour, my clever friend held her up to the mirror, and suggested she might like to keep it in to show daddy.

To my surprise, my daughter did. She kept that braid in for three days, and showed everyone.

It finally slipped out. I can't braid hair, especially not soft baby hair; and in any case my daughter takes anything I do out. So she's had her hair in her eyes for another few weeks. Until yesterday. While I was working upstairs and my husband was in the shower, she found a pair of scissors and, like her sister before her, carefully cut herself a fringe.

Remarkably, she did an exquisite job. It's straight, it's halfway up her forehead, no more; and she took out none of the surrounding hair, just the section that falls into her face. Now you can see her enormous blue eyes and her high cheek bones. A ratty bit of hair, constantly knotted and frayed by adhesions of jam, has been removed. She looks fantastic.

I feel like an idiot. She needed her hair out of her eyes; and she hates any sort of hair ties. Only because of some pathetic vanity – oh, her beautiful face may look a little squat – my friend and I thwarted her plans. I am ashamed. For all my words to my children about our worth being about how we act, not how we look, they're pretty hollow if I won't give a two year old a haircut in case she looks fat.

Well, she showed us. Not only can she articulate what she wants, she will do it if the adults won't let her. It reminds me that she's not just a baby. She is two, with a strong personality and good cutting skills; and she's shown me time and again that if I'm going to block her on silly things, then she's going to do them anyway.

I find her engaged in a forbidden activity; she looks up and says 'I'm ALLOWED to'. 'Who says?', I ask; and grinning, she answers, 'Me'. A child with this much sense of self is not easily thwarted; and if I have any nous at all I'll get out of her way. Give her a haircut when she asks; let her wear the clothes she wants; turn a blind eye when she mixes Vegemite and honey on her sandwich. What does it matter if she's not perfectly groomed? Her life revolves around chickens and puddles and painting and mess. She experiments daily with sticky things; she loves glue; she loves mud. Any decisions about clothes or hair should make her play more enjoyable, not be about how she looks.

Yet again, a two year old has shown me my weakness; and I'm sure it will happen again. In the meantime, I can console myself with the thought that this time, I'm not a mess of tears. When her sister cut her own hair a few years ago, I sobbed. There's some improvement, at least.

So we'll keep cutting her fringe until she's old enough to want differently; and perhaps we'll finally learn to let her have her way on more of the little things. We should know by now that if we insist on less, we give us all a break; but we're slow learners. At least we've realised that if we reserve our energy to fight the good fight, she will know, when we fight things, that they matter.

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