I had no idea that a haircut could make me so emotional. It made me nervous, it made me beam, it made me angry, it made me cry. A simple haircut, and all it represented.
I took the Laid Back Kid in for a haircut about a week ago. This past year he transitioned to a barber shop from the kids’ haIrcutting place I used to take him to. We had to wait over an hour for his turn, and when he sat in the chair, he told the barber “I want a faux-hawk”. I looked on nervously. While he’s laid back, his outward appearance since he was tiny has not always reflected that. He’s always buttoned his shirts all the way up. I said “Why don’t you leave one undone?” but he refused. He has had the same hairstyle his whole life. When I suggested spiking it a little, or making a change, he announced “I want it nice and neat and flat. That’s how I like it. If I change it, I won’t look like me!” Suddenly, there was a change, and I was nervous. Such a small thing…a haircut, yet it was a big step. It felt in that moment that he had grown so much. My baby was finding a new way of doing things, and i needed to adjust.
The barber clipped. He buzzed. He chatted. He snipped. He styled.
And my son?
He looked in the mirror.
He beamed from ear to ear!
He chatted, he grinned, and he asked if he hair was “spiked enough”.
That night I called the barbershop and left the guy a message, expressing my appreciation for a job well done, and for a child who came home so happy with his new look. I smiled from ear to ear…the kid’s joy was just contagious.
For a few days, we styled his ‘hawk, and all was well. Then a day came where he wanted to leave it down. He didn’t want to style it up. I didn’t think much of it. Yet days went by and still, he didn’t want to do the hairstyle he had loved so much. I asked him “did someone say something to change your mind?” He said no. I asked him again a day or so later. I wanted to know what had changed. He replied “Why would I make a decision to not like something I like based on one person’s opinion? Or even a couple of people’s opinions?”. I smiled. This kid had more sense that I did.
Late that night, I thought about it more, and I got incredibly sad. Was I simply assuming the worst? Was I throwing a negative spin on it? Or had someone indeed said something, or made him question the choice? Had I, by my very question, given him reason to second guess himself? I hoped not. One day, somebody will try to steal his self esteem, or his self confidence. Hopefully I can raise him to not let that happen, but frankly, the odds are against me. They will do this to my daughter as well. I know this, because they did it to me, and it’s what all too many people do.
I make no secret that I’ve always cared way too much what people think of me. The realization that I have invested way too much time worrying about what other people think hit me hard the past year or so. I remember being a kid and simply liking what liked, wearing whatever I wanted without a care in the world. I miss those days. I’m not sure what changed me. Maybe it was images in the media. Maybe it was a cruel kid (there were a few of those). Maybe it was growing up in a “what would people say?” environment. Maybe it was a fear of letting my parents down. Whatever it was, I lost some of that free spiritedness. I lost a little bit of joy. I remember liking things, and then someone would put doubt in my head. I would feel great about myself one day, and then one small comment would bring me crashing down, losing that spark.
I wanted to throttle anyone who would do that to my kids. I want them to love themselves, so that they can love someone else fully one day. I want them to be content in who they are. I want them to feel confident and strong, and not second guess their opinions. Lastly? I want them to see me be like that. Why? I want to lead by example. I want them to see that it can be done. Also? I want them to be proud of me too, because their opinions DO matter. The naysayers? The gossipers? The people who don’t like me? The people who felt the need to bring me down? They don’t matter. They never did. It just took me 40 years to realize that, and I’m sure it will take me time to unlearn the behaviors and mindset.
I have work to do. I need to bolster those kids up and lead by example. I will falter, but I’ll bounce back. I have to unlearn many, many years of behavior that I somehow picked up. I need to take a lesson from my 8 year old. Why should I base my decisions on other people’s (people I don’t even KNOW, for God’s sake!) approval or disapproval? Why not just be me, and be comfortable in my own skin? Where did I lose that confidence? How can I get my children to keep a tight grasp on their self esteem and self confidence? How can I balance that with also preparing them for a world who won’t always see them as wonderful as I do?
I believe that part of being a good parent is also teaching the kids that the world isn’t always fair, sometimes people suck, and that there are bad people out there. Why? Because it’s true. To not prepare them is to fail to teach them as the world really is. I need to provide tools to them to combat the negative. It’s a fine balance, and one I am often concerned about. At the root of it all, is me learning from them, and them learning from me. Frankly, I need to learn their solid sense of self assurance, self esteem, and how to trust in themselves, so that I can mirror these positive attributes. I’ve clearly gotten rusty along the way. If they can see me exhibiting these traits, hopefully it will reinforce that they are on the right path.
Wish me luck.