My daughter wanted her hair cut.
While that might sound like a perfectly normal request from a six-year-old girl, it just about broke my heart.
"What?!" I half-cried, half-yelled, when she began nudging me.
"I hate my hair long," she insisted, tossing her golden locks.
Her sentiments tore at a thick veil of romantic notions that has been strung across my heart since before she was born. In my mind's eye I could always picture my daughter with a curtain of blond hair cascading past her shoulders, gently framing her shining face. It had taken me a full two-and-a-half years to even so much as trim her hair. The closest thing to a haircut she'd ever experienced was a daring two inches snipped -- and even then I'd cried.
But how could she possibly understand?
I never imagined that I would be this sentimental kind of person. One mother I'd encountered during my teen years had forbidden her daughters from ever cutting their hair -- no doubt she subscribed to the same "long-haired cherub" syndrome which I later developed. At the time, though, I thought she was really nuts. The end of that story came back to haunt me when my own daughter made her request. Her daughters cut their hair when they hit their teens. Whether it was a show of rebellion or a symbol of coming into their own, it was definite food for thought.
"All my friends wear their hair short. I think it's so much prettier that way," my daughter persisted, breaking into my swirling emotions.
I took a deep breath and with great effort subdued my knee-jerk response (an unequivocal "No!") and tried to switch to a more rational tack.
There are many issues that my daughter and I struggle with every day. She wants to wear a certain outfit for five days straight; I lay down the law. She would like to organize a sleepover party for four of her best friends; I refuse. She'd rather that my suppers consist entirely of macaroni and cheese -- every night; I cannot, in good conscience, accommodate her. Was a haircut really worth fighting over?
Was a haircut really worth fighting over? My brain was telling me "no," my heart was screaming "yes!"
My brain was telling me "no," my heart was screaming "yes!" What to do? My emotional attachment to my daughter's hair runs so deep that after my husband's awkward attempt to trim her bangs, I burst into tears, yelling, "What did you do to my baby?!" We're talking big time attachment here! Maybe, though, it was time to let go.
My brain won.
I won't say it was easy but I carefully folded up the cherished image in my heart of a dreamy, long-haired child and made an appointment at the hairdresser for the very next day.
She was so excited she could barely sit still, and afterwards she admired herself endlessly in the mirror. And me? I passed the test with flying colors -- externally, that is. I held in my tears, my raw mix of disappointment, emotion, and a curious pain, and watched the transformation between what I had wished, and what she had wanted. What I had lost, and what I had found. And when she turned to me with a smile of pure joy on her face, I knew I had made the right decision. I had let go.
I was surprised by how childish I could be. Just because I'm a mother doesn't mean I no longer need to learn to grow up and look beyond my own wants. While many of my parenting decisions are grounded in truly wanting to do what's best for my child, there are those occasional issues that, when pared down to their core, reveal an ulterior motive.
As parents, we raise our children while simultaneously struggling with being children ourselves. In guiding our children and setting up rules, goals, and structure for them, it's often hard to remove ourselves -- our own egos -- from the picture. In the recesses of our minds, we hold aspirations and images of who we want our children to be, and all too easily fall into the trap of trying to mold them into the shape of our dreams. Many of our aspirations for them are noble and will benefit our children greatly. But some dreams may be borne from pure self, desires that can sabotage our children and ourselves. It is those questionably motivated convictions that I want to become more aware of and ultimately, let go of.
I think that in letting go, I've given my daughter a gift more precious than she -- or I -- could possibly imagine. And by the way, post-haircut, she looks absolutely beautiful. Exactly the way I've always pictured her in my mind's eye.