It's a small thing, but I finally agreed to let my oldest two girls have short hair. They are now the proud owners of bobs. 'What's the big deal?' I hear you ask. 'Isn't long hair in kids a nightmare?'
Well, yes. But in term time, like any family, we're busy. In the morning, we run around checking lunch boxes and finding bike locks and brushing teeth and hopping around as we look for that other shoe, and before I know it everyone has run out the door without a hug. After school, the kids go into the garden to play; or curl up in a quiet corner with a story; or build a cubby, while I bring in the washing and cook dinner. After dinner, it's a run around the house then off to bed; but sometimes they're so grumpy that we shout and leave their room; and oftentimes we have people over so we tuck them in quickly then return to our conversation. All too easily, physical affection is overlooked.
Of course, there are afternoons when I grab a cuddle when I pick them up from school; and evenings when I tuck someone into bed then snuggle down next to them before tackling the dishes; but often I don't.
Yet I don't want to be a family where everyone inhabits their own little bubble, protected from contact with others. It's how I grew up and what I know, but I want more. I want a good hug from my busy daughters every day, even if I have to trick them into it.
One ruse I had was to insist that my daughters have long hair. Every morning, like it or not, they had to stand still while I brushed and put up their hair, then gave them a quick cuddle. It was my little secret, a way of making sure I spent a couple of minutes in physical contact with them, squeezing in a hug and even a quick kiss for the top of each head before they ran off to other things.
But those independent girls – all of six and nine, I might add – didn't like me doing their hair. They wanted to do their own hair, thanks very much. And after months of their campaigning, I finally capitulated.
Each of them was booked into a salon. Each of them had a foot or two of hair removed. And each of them emerged beaming, and weeks later are still clearly savouring their new hair-do.
I am delighted at how proudly they hold their heads, and how quick they are to get ready in the morning now they don't have to wait for their daily plaits. But there's a little piece of me that aches for the morning cuddle, those few minutes each day which they no longer seem to need or want to give. Each morning, I find myself wondering, are these growing pains I am experiencing? How did they become so independent so young? And how will I trick these clever kids now?!