The other night, after giving Sweet Pea a bath, I dried her hair with the hair dryer (or “woo” as it is sometimes called in our house). After I turned off the dryer and brushed her golden locks into place, I declared her “sparkling.” Sweet Pea, however, looked in the mirror and started crying. She scrunched up her face and began pulling at her hair. Alarmed, I asked her what was wrong. Through her tears, she looked in the mirror and said with utmost conviction, “That’s not the real [Sweet Pea]”.
I was flabbergasted. What did that mean? Not the real Sweet Pea? So I asked her. Repeatedly. But Sweet Pea couldn’t really articulate what the “real” Sweet Pea was. At most, all I could decipher is that she was upset about her hair.
Prior to that moment, I had no idea that Sweet Pea (1) had such a strong feelings about how she “should” look or (2) cared about her hair. If you ever saw her post daycare hair, I’m confident you would have a hard time believing that that girl could be the same girl in this story. But, she was. And as the days wore on she got more and more upset about her hair. There was no way I could style it, no way I could fix it that made her see the “real” Sweet Pea.
So, I started asking her questions about what the “real” Sweet Pea looked like. Sweet Pea wasn’t able to articulate much, but between my questions and looking at pictures, I was able to decipher that – at a minimum – the “real” Sweet Pea has bangs. So, on Friday night while KJ was at hockey I took Sweet Pea to the salon. I let her climb up into the chair by herself and get all settled with the cape around her. And when the stylist asked me how I wanted her hair cut, I told him to do whatever Sweet Pea said.
The look the stylist gave me assured me that no mother in the history of time has ever let her four-year-old dictate a haircut before. But to me, hair is just hair. It will grow back. And while I may think Sweet Pea is ready to grow her bangs out, I care way more about how she feels about herself than I can about what her hair looks like. I wanted her to see her “real” self, whatever that may look like.
I’ll admit, I had a bit of fear as I stepped back into the waiting area and let Sweet Pea talk the stylist through her cut. I was close enough to see and hear what was going on (and honestly, intervene if she asked for a mohawk or something), but Sweet Pea did a fantastic job articulating what she wanted. And the stylist did a good job of listening to her. At one point, about 10 minutes in and at a completely random point in the cut, Sweet Pea looked in the mirror and, unprompted, said, “There’s the real [Sweet Pea].”
Of course, the stylist had no idea what “the real [Sweet Pea]” meant, but he went with it. And when her cut was finished, she looked fabulous. Older, but fabulous. In addition to having hair she liked, Sweet Pea’s bounce was back. She felt like herself and as quickly as the crying had started, it stopped. The “real” Sweet Pea was back. And we’re so glad to have her. Even if she does have those bangs I wanted to shed.