You would think I would understand.
I’d been telling him for WEEKS that his hair must be cut before his sister’s quickly approaching wedding…..and this morning was the time. His last cut, courtesy of his sister-in-law, was a Mohawk that had been trimmed a time or two and was now terribly outgrown and certainly far too long to spike up even if he’d asked; one long hank hung over his eye and he’d taken to tossing his head to one side in order to see. Another “hunk” of it hung down the middle of his neck and was long enough to braid. Surprisingly, he was not deterred by the “girly” jokes, and had on a couple occasions proclaimed that he was going to grow a “rat tail”.
Uh, gross!! Not if I have anything to say about it….AND I DO!!!
The uncooperative and uncommunicative 10 year old sat teary-eyed and stone faced while I buzzed and trimmed and made frustratingly exaggerated movements when I asked him to drop his head one way, or “relax and just lay your head in my hand, Dec”. When I was done, I removed the plastic table cloth (classy) I’d used for a cape only to discover he had hair all over him anyway. He hates the itchy hair; always has.
“Ah, there’s my boy”, said I. “That looks MUCH better!”
No response. Oh, those watery, red eyes were saying PLENTY but he’d spoken not a word. And no shy little Mona Larry grin for the compliment, either.
He had predetermined that he would hate this newest version of himself. He ran to the bathroom where I could hear his continued disdain via the slamming shower door. The quick shower off stretched into something much longer than it needed to be and I could feel my frustration and lack of empathy for the boy growing by the minute. At some point, the little blonde one reported that he was out of the shower, but in the bathroom, crying.
I went upstairs to report the boy’s ridiculous behaviour to his father, who was immersed in something and not terribly concerned with my discontentment at his son’s actions. It was hair for crying out loud! It would grow back!! Who did he think he was…..Sampson??
When next I saw him he was emerging from his room, a hat shoved securely on his head.
(Insert eye roll here) I was unimpressed.
“You’re NOT wearing that to church” and I pulled on the brim of the hat and “invited” him into my bedroom where I proceeded to probe him with questions while admonishing him to “speak”. I got nothing, just a stare from those red, watery, hurt eyes. Exasperated, I asked him if he was ticked due to the lack of his choice in the matter or if he just really liked the long hair. My heart broke a wee bit when he answered me by holding up two fingers.
He really just liked the hair.
Frustration and anger melted. I told him that each of his older brothers had at one time or another decided to grow out their hair and he could certainly do it again. Still silent, he came in close and I opened up to him and we hugged. Eventually, he quietly spoke into my shoulder and told me he didn’t hate me for cutting his hair (a relief). I apologized for my lack of understanding; I am, after all, the adult.
There are few ways in which a 10 year old boy can express himself in terms of his appearance, and I was reminded that my boy-child was growing up. I have often thought and at times said out loud that this particular son of mine is “his father’s boy”, which anyone with kids knows actually means he’s not at all like me. This morning, however, it was myself I saw. The emotion, the thoughts, the feelings; there was a lot going on behind those eyes of his. The struggle to speak, the fear of putting it all into words “just right”, well, he is his momma’s boy too.
I’ve spent a fair amount of time today thinking about and being thankful for our dust up. I can be thankful that it was as simple as hair while giving pause to the importance of listening, be it with my ears or my eyes, understanding and communicating well with my boy. Perhaps next time I’ll use sign language; it worked for him.
Lord, help us.