Saturday, January 26, 2013

Being bored at the hair salon

My nine-year-old, my four-year-old and I were hanging around the hairdressers as my six-year-old had her hair cut; after months of her begging, I had finally agreed to a bob. Another four-year-old was waiting there, too. As her mother read a magazine and had extensions and highlights tended to, the girl wandered around the salon touching things. There was a plastic ice cream cone in the window display. ‘Put that down,’ said her mother. There was a plastic lemon. ‘Put that down too!’

The girl headed to the door to stare at the busses and cars trundling past, and to watch the people walking to the shops. ‘Get out of the doorway,’ said her mother.

The girl had a notebook and a pen. She brought them over and gave them to my nine-year-old without a word. ‘Oh, leave those people alone,’ her mother said. But my nine-year-old smiled, found a blank page, and carefully drew the girl a picture. The girl grinned.

I pulled out some storybooks to read to my four-year-old. The girl wandered over and leaned against my knee. ‘Come here,’ her mother said.

‘It’s alright,’ I said and asked the girl what she liked to read. At home she had some Dora books, and some Barbies. My battered Little Golden Books didn’t look like much chop to her, but she chose one and we read bits of the story. She didn’t have the patience to sit out a book, or even a whole nursery rhyme. Instead, we’d read a bit, then she’d wander to the door, be told again to get out of the doorway, come back and listen to more.

After a while, I gave up trying to read from beginning to end. Instead, we looked at the pictures and talked about what might be happening; then checked some of the words to see what they said. I gave her a book to look at. She held it upside down. I was trying to work out if she knew it was topsy-turvy when her mother interrupted my little experiment. ‘Give back the book,’ she said.

Books exhausted, my own four-year-old became so bored she started rolling off the couch in slow motion, her eyes bulging out of her head. ‘I think she’s dying,’ I said to the girl, ‘it’s slow death by boredom.’

The girl looked at me seriously, then noticed a bag of rollers dangling from a nearby trolley. She picked up one and posted it through a slot in the trolley, where it fell back into the bag. My youngest daughter’s eyes sparked. She flopped off the couch and posted a roller, too.

The girl’s mother apologised for her daughter again as our girls turned rollers into dolls, walking them up and down the sofa, and stopping for chats, cuddles and kisses. Then they turned them into salt and pepper shakers, and put too much pepper in their soup. ‘Be careful,’ said the mother to her daughter. ‘Don’t break them.’ I don’t know how a four-year-old could break a plastic roller, but there you go.

I’m not sure why the mother thought her daughter should wait for hours while she had elaborate things done to her hair. I’m not sure why she was reluctant to have me read to the girl, sitting in plain sight with my own kids with me. It was no skin off my nose; in fact, it helped dissipate the frustration I was feeling from being made to wait forty minutes past our appointment time, and then getting a hairdresser who kept stopping to chat with other adults in the salon.

I’m no saint, and I’m not much of a kid person. I’m grumpy and tired and at the fag end of the school holidays when all I want to do is tell every kid I see to go away. But in the salon with my daughters, feeling annoyed by the hairdresser and bored out of my wits, it cost absolutely nothing to chat with another bored person, even a little one.

More than that, her presence was a small gift, a welcome focus and an ease to the frustration I was feeling. I only wish I’d thanked her mother for the way the girl brightened my day.


  1. Photo of the hairdo! :)

    1. We're going through a 'no pictures' stage so I'm trying to get one by stealth. Quite unsuccessful so far!!! Wish me luck!


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