It was a ridiculously emotional moment for me when my daughter bobbed her gorgeous, long hair last month. But as my son so thoughtfully pointed out: “But mom, you get emotional about everything.” I couldn’t really argue with that as the last time the daughter cut a large chunk out of her hair, aged four, I cried on and off for three days every time I looked at her. She on the other hand was not entirely sure what the fuss was about. We took her to the hairdresser, who gave her a bob with a fringe that framed her cross, little face – she seemed to have a permanent frown at that age and if you tried to help her with anything, would growl “I can do it”.
This is the child who had a Spiderman party for her second birthday, who would launch herself into the pool with no armbands - half-drowning herself in the process - because she wanted to be like the older kids. She was the one who insisted on lighting her own birthday candles (I can do it) at her nursery school and when she started at prep school, we were not allowed to walk her to her classroom.
Her independence upset her big brother.
He was about six and she was three when they were in the garden and he told her not to pick up a bumble bee, and carefully enclosed it in the magic circle of a hula hoop. As soon as he turned away, she picked it up and yes, it did sting her. He was beside himself and yelled at her through his tears. She roared with pain for a few moments but to be honest, he probably cried more than she did. A few months later she got into the lift at a Sun City hotel and pressed the button to close the door before anyone else could get in, her brother thought she would be lost forever and was inconsolable. She, on the other hand, was very pleased with her solo adventure.
Back to the hair.
About six years ago I decided that I wanted to go grey, as I was fed up with the skunk stripe and the mind-numbing boredom of having to get my hair dyed every six weeks. Not to mention the expense of it. I had also had a photo taken with my daughter after we’d both had our hair straightened. Hers was a gorgeous, glossy chestnut, mine was a sort of flat brown with an orange undertone (not unlike the Trump’s face) from having been dyed too often. My hairdresser needed extensive counselling to get used to the idea of me going grey but eventually acquiesced. I had it chopped into a very short pixie cut which I thought looked great. The children did not agree. They were in the pool when I got home, I went to say ‘hello’ to them and was met with open mouths and a stony silence. My daughter did not speak to me for three days. They told me that I no longer looked like me – my daughter was also put out because our hair no longer matched.
But that was then.
Now she is a teenager; quirky, artistic, a talented musician and a very good swimmer who spends hours in the pool every day. But those hours in the pool also meant hours spent washing and drying her waist length hair. Such beautiful hair. I would constantly encourage her to wear it down, she would roll her eyes and immediately twist it into a bun. It was part of our morning ritual for me to plait it every day before school and to dry it at night for her after swimming training. I agreed that she could get it cut at the end of grade seven, but I could see that she was tired of it and finally gave in and made an appointment at the hairdresser. I plaited it for the last time and our lovely hairdresser, Storm snipped it off.
I had a quiet weep afterwards, not because we no longer match (my hair is long now) but because she’s growing up. And I know from my experience with her brother that high school goes by in the blink of an eye and my time with her is limited. I don’t mean that she will leave home and we will never see each other again. I mean that every-day-being-involved-in-her-life kind of time. Where each day when she gets back from school, she comes and lies on the bed in my office and tells me about her day and I give her advice and she says, ‘oh, mom’ and ignores it. Where she just sits down at the piano and teaches herself a song she’s heard on the radio, and her brother looks up from his computer and casually harmonises with her. Oh, how I will miss that.
But even though this new haircut signals the passing of time, her growing up and eventual moving out of home, it has to be said that she does look gorgeous.
And that plait that was chopped off will be donated to the Cansa Association. It will go to make a wig for a child who has lost her own beautiful hair and that makes me happy.