Hannah’s Hair

I have a strange relationship with my daughter’s hair. It’s a love-hate thing, an internal struggle that I’m not exactly comfortable with. I sort of want her to have long hair, always neatly arranged, attractive and well cared for. On the other hand, her hair is hard to manage (at least for me) and she generally pulls her hair clips and elastics out shortly after I put them in. I don’t want to impose my esthetic on her or create conflict over pigtails, but I also want it to look ‘nice’.

I didn’t anticipate that I would feel this way. Or perhaps I didn’t anticipate that my daughter would have strong ideas of her own at a young age, forcing me to examine myself so closely. I always laughed when I heard mothers lamenting their daughters’ decisions to cut their hair short. I felt then, and I still do on many levels, that it was wrong to feel attached to your kid’s hair. That living vicariously through your child, casting them in your own image isn’t entirely healthy for anyone.

19 months old

19 months old

I’ve always insisted that Hannah brush her hair. It’s a requirement for having long hair – you have to take care of it. In my mind it’s the same as brushing your teeth. I brush Jacob’s hair every day, and I don’t imagine that will change. Although, to be fair, it will most likely be much faster and he won’t have to sit through my styling attempts. It’s not exactly the same. There is a gender difference. Even if Jacob did want long hair, you know I wouldn’t be braiding it.

2 years old

2 years old

I really faced my inner conflict a couple of nights ago when Hannah told me she wanted to cut her hair short. I pointed out to her that her hair would be short for a very long time, and it couldn’t grow back if she changed her mind. She said that was OK, and wanted me to get to cutting. I put her off by explaining we would go to a hairdresser if she wanted a real haircut and that would have to wait a few days.

From the back at 2 1/2

From the back at 2 1/2

By the next morning Hannah had changed her mind. She told me she liked long hair. I felt relieved, then I felt uncomfortable with my relief. If my child really wanted short hair, why should I feel disappointed about that? Why did I try, in my own way, to talk her out of it in the first place?

Almost 3 years old

Almost 3 years old

Then there’s my own hair. I’ve always been a natural blond. People say that they pay good money to make their hair look like mine, and I feel completely superficial pride about that. Right now Hannah’s hair is exactly the same colour as mine. I find myself pointing out that my hair was much lighter when I was her age, that her hair is more similar to her dad’s. I’m worried that if Hannah’s hair darkens, somehow that will be a problem. That she won’t share that satisfaction that I’ve always felt with my hair’s colour. Weird, right?

Braids at 3 1/2

Braids at 3 1/2

I wonder if it is all so very bad, being caught up in our children’s appearances. Of course we want them to look good. People who look good generally have an easier time in the world. I can see why, as mothers, we spend this time on our children. Why we wrestle hair bows onto the heads of 2-year-olds. We’re just like monkeys, grooming each other as a sign of care and affection, to keep the parasites away and advance our social stature.

But this is a very slippery slope. I hardly want my child to base her value on her appearance. I don’t want her to develop a distorted view of herself. I hate to think that she may fall prey to the struggle that so many women face over their sense of self-worth and their looks. So I do my best to keep my mouth shut and to honour Hannah’s decisions about her own appearance. I let her know that I love her for who she is, no matter what. Because that’s really the truth – she is my daughter, whatever’s on top (or not on top) of her head.

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  1. At least Hannah HAS hair to cut….our children are only 6 months apart and Emma’s hair us just to her shoulders…..and I don’t cut it every.

  2. My daughter pretty much looks like a feral child because she has long hair that NOBODY is allowed to touch except rarely when she wants to be a princess…

  3. Saver Queen says:

    I don’t have kids but I do have the sense that when we have children or even new relationships begin, we are forced to come head to head with feelings that we don’t want to have. I have come to believe that over time most of the worries we have that aren’t productive just kind of slip away, and it’s okay to have superficial concerns because they often don’t last… this kind of thing usually has a way or working itself out. Of course, I’m not a Mom, but that’s what I’ve realized in my own relationships at least. I do have to say that it must be tough, wanting to strike a balance between encouraging your daughter to take care of her looks and not wanting her to have a poor body image when she grows up. It sounds like you’re doing a great job striking a balance though. Btw – Hannah is so beautiful! Both your kids are so darn cute! 🙂

  4. When I was in grade 7, my mom refused to buy any of my school pictures because my bangs — naturally curly, and naturally parting in middle if they weren’t viciously straightened every morning — weren’t “nice.”

    This is just information in case you wondered where some of the eye-rolling you get from me over your comparatively minor investment in your daughter’s hair come from. Or in case you wondered why my daughter looks like a wolf child most of the time, and why my idea of doing her hair involves taking scissors to the knots every two weeks or so.

    My damage, let me show it to you.

  5. This is a struggle every parent faces… How to give a child a sense of values but still let them become themselves. It’s hopeless, I found. In some way, who you are will inevitably shine through them. You can never do anything more than take your own experiences and draw from them to give your children the skills you hope will help them face whatever challenges and triumphs they encounter. I see you working hard to try to let your children become themselves within the structure of the world as you know it. And this is important; it must be done. You are their mother.

    With that being said, though, it’s funny; in looking back, it seems it was the little things that mattered. Not the colour of your hair or who your friends were. It was the making pancakes and licking cake batter from the bowl. It was trying to be someone you could count on.

    So be proud of little things; it’s ok. It teaches Hannah and Jacob that it’s alright to like themselves just as they are.

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  3. […] the past I have blogged about my daughter Hannah’s hair, and my relationship to it. I’ve blogged about that time she took matters into her own hands […]

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