She’d been asking for over a year. “Mommy, can I have a haircut?” And for a year, I’d been stalling. “I just want you to make sure…” But, really, I wasn’t ready.
I told myself, it’s just hair. Just dead skin cells that are coming out of the body. It doesn’t mean anything. But it did, to me. Having a five year old with long, beautiful hair meant so many things. It meant that I got an extra five minutes with her after bath times where we would sit and talk while I brushed her locks into submission, then braided them together in the tradition of so many generations before us. It meant that she was THAT girl. The girl whose mother had the time to delight in her. The girl so put together, that even her hair was beautiful, braided, bunned, French braided into a crown. Her crowning glory. And a little bit mine.
But brushing out tangles day after day, well, that has a way of undoing motherly resolve. So, Tuesday was the day. I had brushed her hair in the morning and by noon it appeared as though she was growing dreadlocks. “Do you still want short hair?” “YES!” she replied, lit up with the thought. “Okay, let’s do it.” And so we sat, on wooden chairs in the kitchen. Mother and daughter. And began the cut.
I will admit that it took me 6 tries before I actually cut any hair. I held the scissors up and put them back down 5 times. How am I so vain? But, finally, I did it. We did it. Twenty minutes later, and eleven inches of hair less, she was finished. She reached behind her and for the first time in years, there was no hair on her back. I shrunk inside myself, she’s going to cry, I just know it… And she laughed. She opened her eyes wide in wonder and laughed and laughed. The deep belly laugh she has, where it sounds like everything in her is in on the joke; where she is so taken with joy that it makes her whole body join in. Contagious laughter. I couldn’t resist. With tears in my eyes, I met her there.
She’s been bouncing around ever since. Even telling the crossing guards at her school that she got a haircut. She loves it. She looks for her reflection in everything, smiles when she finds herself. And I find myself smiling too. “I look like you now, Mommy!” she says with a glee that might not follow that statement in ten years. So I bask, I wade into her joy, and let it envelop me. She looks like me, now. All this time I thought it made me a better Mommy for her to have what I didn’t. I was wrong.
I am not a good Mommy because I can sustain waist length hair on a five year old. She is not beautiful because she has fairy tale hair. Cutting Rapunzel’s hair has turned into the key that unlocked us both and set us free from the tower I had built. I just needed to let the princess lead the way.