Brothers With Scissors And My Saturday Morning Parenting Mistake

by Elizabeth Broadbent
Elizabeth Broadbent

We made a classic Saturday morning parenting mistake. I was warm in bed. My husband came in and nuzzled the back of my neck. We fell asleep — for two hours. We didn’t even have sex. We just slept. We are an exhausted pair.

We have three boys, ages 6, 4, and 2. For two hours, they had an entire house to destroy. And destroy they did. We woke up to a mess in the living room. A mess in the bedrooms. A mess in the formal living room, complete with foam Christmas stickers stuck to the hardwood floors and a thin layer of Legos coating everything. But we also woke to something else.

“Bear?” I said to my husband. “Do you think Sunny’s hair looks a little thin?”

Sunny’s the baby. He had long, golden locks, normally sort of tousled. But this looked more than tousled. This looked…thinned. Chopped. Oh my gosh, I realized, someone cut his hair. Huge chunks were missing from the back and sides. In one place, they’d hacked it from his shoulders to 2 inches from his head.

I’m attached to my sons’ long hair. My 4-year-old had to ask for two weeks to cut his mid-back-length hair up to a short cut “like daddy’s.” I almost cried and I kept the ponytail. My oldest son is growing his hair surfer-long. And my baby — I just assumed my baby would also have long hair, like his brothers. Golden locks cascaded to his shoulders. He was like Prince Valiant or something. I actually called him Goldilocks. People always mistook him for a girl, but I didn’t care. His hair was lovely.

Now it was hacked to pieces.

The culprit quickly emerged as my middle son, August. At 4 years old, he said he wanted his brother’s hair to look just like his — he of the recent hack-off. Maybe he just thought of an excuse and wanted to play with some scissors. Hunks of golden hair mixed with the Christmas stickers on the floor. I wanted to take all his favorite toys and set them on fire.

I settled for a stern talking-to I like to call “Scissors, and the Proper Place to Use Them.”

Then I locked myself in the shower and ugly cried.

I’m not ashamed. I’m attached to the idea of having long-haired boys. It makes them different. It makes them special. And I’ve always loved the look of it. Maybe I listened to too much post-grunge in high school.

After my shower cryfest — which my mom friends said they totally understood, and were either serious or pacifying the whack-job — we had to decide what to do: either live with the Hackening, as I called it, or get someone to fix it up. I was all for living with it, because once a hairdresser got her hands on my sweet baby’s head, she was going to finish the chop job in the name of “evening it out.” My husband, who has no stake in the length of our sons’ hair, thought we needed Sunny’s hair neatened. We wrangled. He realized I was only fighting because I didn’t want even more hair cut off, and I pretty much lost the argument right there.

“It’s hair. It’ll grow back,” he said — which is what everyone says when your kid hacks their hair off, and which is totally true, and which is totally no consolation whatsoever.

So I agreed, against my better judgment, to drive up to Ye Old Kiddie Haircuttery, where someone would attempt to fix my son’s hair. It was full of colored statues of grinning scissors and combs; you got a prize when you finished, and they had TVs at each chair. Each TV played an endless loop of commercials for Ye Old Kiddie Haircuttery. They sat Sunny in a chair on top of two booster seats and wrapped him in one of those haircutting swaddles. The girl asked the dreaded question: “So you just want me to even it up?”

“No, I want you to preserve as much length as possible while keeping it socially acceptable,” I blurted before Bear could get a word in.

So she started cutting. To her credit, she kept asking, “Is this okay, Mom?” Mostly I said yes. “I’ve never seen such a bad brother haircut,” she said. “Usually, it’s just little girls chopping each other’s bangs. This one got creative.”

“It was him,” I pointed to August. “He wanted the baby to look like him.” August smiled. He knew he came up with the perfect excuse.

Elizabeth Broadbent

“That’s soooooooo cute!” she said. I resisted the urge to throttle her.

In the end, Sunny had a modified bowl cut, a little longer in the front than in the back. Sort of pop-star-ish. Everyone agreed upon his cuteness, he got a prize, and we went home. I pretended to like it. But really, I wanted his long hair back.

Months later, and it’s now approaching the length it was before. I’m grateful. We fell asleep on a Saturday morning, and it could have been much worse than a brother haircut. And they were right: Hair grows. But the guilt over passing out on a Saturday morning — that certainly lingers.