What Not To Do When Your Child Chops Off Their Hair

by Joelle Wisler
Originally Published: 

My 5-year-old has a creative mind. Which is a really nice way of saying that she likes to create enormous messes out of glue and whatever she can dig out of the recycling bin. She also has a particular affinity for mud-based work and is able to cover large surfaces quickly. This makes cleaning a full-time job around here. But yay! Creativity!

Recently, my creative child started talking about wanting short hair. She saw a girl in her gymnastics class with the cutest blonde bob, and she told me about it constantly. I was weary of our daily hair-brushing struggles and wanted her to have some autonomy over her appearance, so I finally booked an appointment for her to get a haircut.

But then, after weeks of begging me to have her hair shorter, she sat in the plastic fire engine at the kiddie salon, gleefully watching Tom and Jerry on TV, and calmly told the stylist that she wanted her hair to stay long. She even shrugged, like, “No big deal. I haven’t been totally driving my mom crazy for a month about this.”

I almost fell to the ground and concussed myself on the rack of $20 bedazzled hair ribbons.

OK. But whatever. A girl can change her mind. No problem. Trim it up.

So to recap, I have a very creative child who has been obsessing about cutting her hair and then randomly chickens out when faced with actually doing it. You see where I’m going with this? My older sister even called it.

“She’s going to do it herself, you know,” my sister told me one day.

“No way. She’s 5. She totally knows better,” I said. But then I paused. “Right?”

I could practically hear my sister’s smirk over the phone.

On the morning it happened, I remember that my daughter was very quiet. I’m sure I congratulated myself on raising such a self-sufficient person. I’m sure I was smug about all the work I was getting done while she was gluing and cutting and taping and doing whatever it was she was doing.

As the two of us sat down for lunch, though, I noticed that all of her hair was swept forward in a strange way and was dangling in her face. So I pushed it behind her ear and noticed with alarm that she had bangs. The problem was that her bangs started in the middle of her head and curved around the side of her head where bangs should definitely not be.

I’m sure she knew shit was going to get real when she saw my face.

Now, I’m not weirdly attached to my child’s hair, but the surprise of the whole thing caused me to do and say things that, as I look back, I’m not particularly proud of. So here are a few do’s and don’ts in case you ever find yourself in the same predicament.

Don’t: Go into complete shock and sputter nonsensical words, flailing your hands and groaning “Why?” over and over. This will scare your child into hiding, and then you can’t holler at them anymore.

Do: Calmly ask, “Why did you cut your hair?” Try to really listen to the words that are coming out of their mouth instead of rocking on the floor in the fetal position.

Don’t: Freak out and tell your child that they are never allowed to use scissors again for the rest of their life, then, in your tantrum, hide all the scissors. Why? Because you just might forget where you put them.

Do: Be a proper grown-up and calmly talk to your child about what they did, offering more appropriate creative outlets for their energy. And then explain why it’s better if all hair-cutting is left to a professional.

Don’t: Think about the family pictures that are coming the next week for which you’ve already paid a deposit to the photographer. Just don’t think about that at all. Nope.

Do: Text your partner (if they are more accepting of your child’s “creativity”) and ask for some calming advice. I think mine went something like this: “Holy shit. She just chopped her hair. I’m really mad. I need perspective.” He sent one back saying, “Breathe.” It helped.

Don’t: Cry over the garbage can as you dig out the clumps of your youngest child’s hair — or contemplate hair extensions for the next six months.

Do: Buy a shit ton of barrettes and just let it go while reminding yourself (over and over and over), “It’s just hair. It’s just hair. It’s. Just. Hair.”

I’ll leave it to your imagination as to how well I handled the situation. Let’s just say I hope you do better than me, and please never underestimate the power of a creative child’s mind.

Also, I still can’t find the scissors.

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