“It’s a rite of passage.”
“You’ll laugh about this one day!”
That’s what everyone said. And sure, they may have been right, but on the cold November day my daughter cut her hair off, that was the furthest thing from my mind. That day of course, was the day Margot, my vivacious and fashion-centric 3 year-old, decided her shoulder length blonde hair was in need of a DIY haircut. Right down to the scalp, matter of fact.
My daughter cut her hair off with safety scissors she had confiscated from her 5 year-old sister, Nora. Nora had also taken off two large chunks of hair from around the front of her face. Not quite as severe, but equally as devastating for mama.
“Mommy, Hazel cut her hair off!” (Who is Hazel? I still haven’t gotten to the bottom of that mystery, but I suspect she is an imaginary scapegoat.)
The irony is of course, that as my daughter cut her hair off, I had been downstairs tending to my squishy 6 week-old newborn son. My daughters were playing peacefully in their bedroom during “quiet time,” or so I thought. I vividly recall smugly thinking to myself, “Wow, I’m starting to get this parenting thing figured out aren’t I?” Famous last words for any parent.
You can imagine my horror as I watched the long strands of hair slowly float down the staircase, closely matching the speed at which my heart was sinking to the pit of my stomach. I audibly gasped and dropped whatever I was holding (not my newborn son, thankfully).
After my initial shock, my mama instincts quickly kicked in. I registered the fear on my daughter’s sweet face as she realized what she had done, and worse, the way she had let me down (heartbreak!). The last thing I wanted was to make this worse for both of us by shaming her. I instantly changed my facial expression from one of horror to one of reassurance.
“You’re going to look just like Eden now!” Eden is her much-adored older cousin with an adorable pixie cut. I struggled to keep my tone upbeat and optimistic as I recalled her telling me the very night before how she wanted waist-length hair, just like her other cousin, Rosalie.
“Remember when Mommy used to have short hair?” I had just grown my own hair out from a very short haircut, and was all too familiar with the time and patience the process requires. How do you explain this to a three year old who has no real concept of time? Or patience, if we’re being honest.
She asked if I could still put her hair in two braids, her favorite hairstyle. I consoled her as I held her tight and explained what happens when we cut our hair off. I calmly asked her why she cut her hair off, which was a fairly useless question. She looked at me with a puzzled expression.
Why do children make the decisions they make? Curiosity. Like most parents, I encourage both curiosity and creativity in my kids. I’m also a big fan of natural consequences, and this was one consequence that would surely make a lasting impression.
Once Margot’s tears had dried and her devastation faded, I took stock of the situation atop her head and allowed myself to think about how to deal with this from a logical perspective.
My daughter cut her hair off. Strike that, TWO of my daughters cut their hair off.
This was no simple chop. My very creative daughter cut her hair off with intention, time, and careful thought. No doubt she utilized the mirror I had so thoughtfully hung at child height in her bedroom.
In several places on her head, the hair was snipped down to the scalp, while other pieces remained shoulder length. This wasn’t something I could easily fix with the haircutting shears I keep in my medicine cabinet. This was a job for a professional.
As I swept up the impressively sizable pile of hair (some of which had been taped to construction paper…. toddlers), the panic I had suppressed immediately resurfaced. Their long beautiful hair is gone! No more pigtails! No more braids! The timing couldn’t be worse - next week is school picture day (you can be sure I bought those photos, by the way).
I was flooded with emotions of loss, fear, and defeat. Who knew I could be so attached to hair that wasn’t my own?
I quickly called my go-to parenting resource, my sister-in-law Jessica. She has 6 kids under 10 and has most certainly seen it all - nothing shocks this woman. Tears welled up as I began to recount the story over the phone, “my daughter cut her hair off!”
Having been there before (naturally), she lovingly reassured me. “It’s going to be okay. Your hair styling routine is going to get so much easier now!” She referred me to some local kid-friendly salons, and I was lucky enough to find a salon that was able to get us in that same afternoon.
My husband was working this particular Saturday, so Jessica kindly offered to meet my three small children and I at the salon. Beyond child wrangling, she knew I would need moral support. I didn’t need to say a word to the receptionist as we walked into the salon, for it was quite obvious the reason we were there.
Still, I offered an explanation. “My daughter cut her hair off.” She didn’t bat an eye as she led us to our chairs. I’m sure we aren’t the first family to walk in with this predicament. The entire salon staff was compassionate and gentle with us, which was much needed in the moment.
I held the girls’ hands as their stylists skillfully transformed the homemade haircuts into something that somewhat resembled a “normal” child’s haircut. Margot’s new hairstyle was reminiscent of Mia Farrow in Rosemary’s Baby, and was actually quite fetching, especially when styled with an adorable headband or bow.
Her stylist remarked on how impressed she was that she was able to get so close to her scalp without a single knick. Perhaps she has a future in hair styling? If I had a nickel for every time I’ve heard that over the last nine months…
As quickly as it happened, it was over. As the girls happily enjoyed their post-haircut lollipops, I breathed a sigh of relief. With the help of my sister and some very patient hair stylists, I officially survived the day my daughter cut her hair off.
Since this whole ordeal, I’ve shared our story with countless friends and strangers. Most, if not all, have shared their own tale of how their daughter cut her hair off, or how they chopped their own hair as a tot.
In hindsight, the whole event was far more traumatizing for me than for the girls. Their adventure in homemade haircuts taught them a good lesson, but it was me who learned the biggest lesson of all. Not just that we should keep better track of kid scissors, but that life with kids is unpredictable.
I’ve learned the importance of not being too attached to my ideals about what they wear or how they style their hair. Since then, I’ve grown to really enjoy seeing the ways they express themselves through fashion and hair styling. As long as it’s seasonally appropriate, I’m cool. For example, I don’t say a word when Nora chooses a wardrobe consisting entirely of turquoise, or when Margot wears socks with sandals, six necklaces, and two giant bows. And we’re all happier as a result.
I’m also happy to report that their hair has grown out beautifully.
Of course, she’s since chopped her bangs again.