I am the first to unabashedly admit that I love my daughter Frankie’s hair. It’s fairy tale hair: long, blond spirals down to the middle of her back. Little girls on the playground call it princess hair; older women stop us in grocery store aisles and can’t help but comment on how pretty it is. My daughter, to her credit, says thank you then rolls her eyes once backs are turned. I gush, “I wish it were mine!”
Just the other weekend a grandmother-type stopped us and said, “Oh, your child is so beautiful.” Luckily her twin brother who was standing next to her is never concerned with compliments of his own beyond, “You totally look like Batman Beyond in that all-black outfit!” I thought I had deftly maneuvered with a “Thank you; we think she’s pretty sweet.” But my daughter let on just a few days later -- as poignant as only a five-year-old can be -- that she was very well aware of my opinion of her looks.
Regardless of the attention that her hair attracts, Frankie has wanted to cut it for a good two years. She sees her brother get his hair cut fairly often and has begged each time to have her own turn in the chair. That begging turns to out-right pleas of mercy when I comb it after a bath. I try to be as gentle as possible using creams and potions and only doing it while it’s wet, but it still is an arduous process.
After a bath this weekend and a particularly rough brush-out, her begging for us to “just cut it off!” got through to me. I was exhausted by the process, too, and after all it wasn’t my hair. So I quadruple checked with her to be sure she really meant it. Then I texted her dad to make sure we were all on board with her first-ever haircut. Once I got clearance, I cut off at least six inches of the most beautiful hair I’ve ever seen. Then took a picture of the sad pile of curls on the floor.
I gave her a chin-length bob that turned out really cute. It makes her look precisely her age, especially with her first missing tooth leaving an adorable gap in her bottom row of baby teeth.
As soon as I decided to cut it, I decided that I would also be very positive about it just to counteract any potential regret. But she had none, and neither did I. As we walked down the street a little while later, I beamed to her, “I really like your short hair!” Her response stopped me in my tracks. Frankie impishly said, “You thought I wasn’t going to be beautiful without my hair.” I was floored. I have never in the Great Hair Debate uttered a single word to that effect. Ever! But it hadn’t mattered that I’d never said as much; she understood my hesitance to cut off her curls to mean that I thought they were beautiful, and therefore what made her beautiful.
What followed was a conversation in which I explained what makes people beautiful and that it certainly wasn’t their hair. As parents, yes we think our daughter is lovely, but we truly love her for her sense of humor, and her Vonnegut-like propensity for creating new and useful words, and her fierce love for our little clan. And as parents of a daughter, I thought we were always very conscious of trying express to her that we value her worth, not her looks.
I am glad I agreed to cut her hair. I am glad that her decision, completely lacking in even one iota of vanity, made me see she is already bucking the stereotypes even when they’d been unintentionally reinforced by her own mother. It is hard to be a girl, but I’m glad mine has a good head on her shoulders.
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