Welcome, Mamma Crew! Today is Kiddos Tuesdays when I discuss issues related to the kids.
I was a pre-teen and a teen in the 80s. And I went to a school where there was no dress code. As I walked down the hallway, I could see mods dressed in black, surfers with their hair bleached and tie-dyes and funky shirts and jeans, the potheads, the cheerleaders — they were always dressed to the nines, and so on and so on.
And of course, the 80s was the age of Cyndi Lauper and Madonna where girls color their hairs in many, many, many different colors — sometimes simultaneously, shaped after their head, one blonde, one thin, one heavier. So there were lots of ways of expressing and experimenting with their individuality at that age.
Now my mother was very conservative and I was not allowed to express myself the way that many of my peers had been able to. So I always promised myself that I would give that freedom of expression to my children. Much to my surprise though, every school my kids attended required uniforms. They were private schools but UNIFORM was the name of the game, and in one school, they were not even allowed to wear socks that were different. They had to wear high, white knee socks with their skirts or their shorts. In the winter they were allowed to wear pants — but only in the winter!
Now my husband didn’t think this was a big deal — he felt that it was more important that they get a good education than they’d be able to express their individuality, but it always really bothered me. And I often wonder if it wasn’t because I grew up in California, and my husband grew up in Ohio — which is far more conservative than where I grew up — and therefore, no doubt, this influenced our views.
Now when the girls were very young, my twin daughters, they must have been like six, sometimes, I would have a person that would come to my home and color my hair. It was not uncommon in such a small town for the hairdressers to travel. And she would put highlights and if there was just a little bit of highlights leftover, she would do like one or two on the girls and they were so excited.
But this was about as daring as they got when they were in school. Now in our home, in our private lives, they were allowed to have — and indeed had — many, many clothes. But they dressed very pretty, very girly girl, and no doubt, that was me! I was so excited about having girls, and I love shopping at Jamboree, and Carters, and Osh-Kosh, and later, Crazy Eights.
Now the girls never fussed and they never made demands, and it wasn’t until they were about nine and a half that they started having an opinion about their haircuts because up until then, I was choosing their hair as well. And I rolled with it! You know one day Andy came to me — she must’ve been around 10 and she decided to go for a pixie cut. A short, short pixie cut. Shorter than Audrey Hepburn’s pixie cut. And this was a shock for both daddy and me but I said “It’s just hair! We grow it to cut it, we cut it to grow it!” So we kinda went along with it.
Now I have to be honest with you that I agreed with Dad — it wasn’t my favorite haircut. It wasn’t that she looked like a boy. She had a lot of freedom and she was very happy initially, but eventually, she felt that she didn’t look feminine and didn’t want to wear any dresses because she felt that she didn’t look good in dresses with that haircut.
Now if she had not liked dresses, that would have been another matter altogether — I mean, I would have been okay with that but she did like dresses. She just felt she couldn’t wear them with the haircut. And in fact, she has never cut her hair that short since then.
Emmy was not quite so experimental. She always played it safe. She likes to keep her hair long — the longer the better, and we went along with it. Even when we had several episodes with lice — which are epidemic in Florida — we never cut her hair. I always dealt with the delousing requirement which took hours and several hundred dollars to get rid of the little suckers. But my husband agreed. We felt that the hair was important to the girl’s image and so we did everything we could to save it.
Now, this past year has been far more experimental than we were used to. Andy came to me and she asked me if she could have her hair half-pink and half-blue. I was a little shocked by the request only in that I understood that she didn’t know what this would require — she’s a dirty blonde and it would require quite a bit of bleaching. And I knew it would damage her hair. So in the end, we compromised. She could bleach and color the parts below her shoulders — that way, if she decided she didn’t like it or she was ready to move on, we could just snip that part off and move on. And that is in fact what we did. So for a while, her hair was half-pink and half-blue. Yep, she’s a Harley Quinn fan!
And so as the pink faded, she decided that she wanted to do that side blue so we went with it, you know, we just kinda rolled with the punches, no big deal. And then, Emmy decided she wanted to get into the game and she asked if she could dye her hair pink. So I told her the same thing I had said to her sister. She could dye the tips, you know, even two, three inches, as long as she was willing to cut them. And she agreed to it.
Now, believe it or not, the fantasy hair color was not a big deal for me. Yes, I know everybody has an opinion and some people, some pediatricians are completely opposed to it. Other people and other pediatricians don’t think it’s that big of a deal — after all, it is an expression, an exploration of individuality that kids can enjoy at this age because let’s face it, once you’re in college, you can’t get away with it if you’re interested in applying for certain internships or summer jobs. So you don’t always have that freedom, especially if you get closer to graduation.
And if the girls were in school, sometimes schools have rules. You know, we’ve all heard about the kid that got kicked out of school because he had dreadlocks on his hair. So the girls were in a position to explore their tastes in a very safe setting which is our home and our private activities. They do enjoy a lot of private extracurricular activities and our homeschool co-op.
So, not surprisingly, a few months later, Dora got into the game too, and in her case, she bleached her tips and colored them a fantasy green. But she also cut her hair and that’s when the real shock started. I was, in fact, thrilled that Dora had cut some of the lengths of her hair because her hair was long and it’s easier to take care of it when it’s a little bit shorter and it’s just a little bit below shoulder length.
And I was thrilled when Andy decided that she wanted to cut her hair shoulder-length because hers tangles something horrible! I mean, Andy can untangle it on her own, and sometimes, I wonder if I can get it untangled — it’s like a matted mess! So I was thrilled when she was willing to cut it shoulder-length because at that length, it does not matte or gnarl or whatever it is that it does. And so this was fabulous — in fact, I agreed to buy her three colored wigs because I knew it was going to make her and my life so much easier!
But then, Emmy got into it. And Emmy wanted to cut her hair, really, really short! Oh, man! And here’s the thing — I knew she would look beautiful — that was not the issue at all. I just knew that 10 minutes after she cut her hair, she was going to experience buyer’s remorse. Because you can’t go from long, below-the-bra-line hair, to a pixie cut without feeling it. And let me tell you, I’ve done that several times and every single time, I swore I won’t do it again — and then a few years later I forget and I do it again!
So I knew what was coming. But I didn’t want to stop her. I encouraged her to follow her instincts. To do what she wanted to do with her hair. After all, the darned thing is going to grow back! And let me tell you, she cut it only two weeks ago and it seems like there’s already half an inch back! I mean that girl can just grow hair! So, in the end, she decided for a short bob because she didn’t want to have a pixie-type style hairdo for her grand recitals at the end of the year.
Was I right about the buyer’s remorse? Oh, you better believe it! There were tears. There were a lot of doubts. I think I got away easy because she never turned around and said to me, “How could you let me do this?!?” She came close but she didn’t go there. And I sat there and I tried to find a solution for her and I tried to help her. Mostly, she was concerned that the bob looks like a mom’s haircut, which, by the way, it doesn’t. I mean we walked into a restaurant and there was my 12-year-old-soon-to be-13-year-old wearing red lipstick, dressed in this fantabulous, androgynous look and everybody in the restaurant was looking at her and I was thinking, “My gosh this is so reminiscent of my trips to Paris and that family connection.” And of course, people were commenting on how beautiful and sophisticated she looked — while the whole time she was complaining about the bob! Ay! Kids!
So now it’s been a couple of weeks and she’s been experimenting with it and she’s in love with it. Andy has decided not to color her hair again because she thinks that having dirty blonde plays well with some of her parts in the cosplaying that she does and she can just do wigs for the other cosplays. And frankly, I’m hoping she’s gonna keep it just above the shoulder length because she finds it’s so easy to deal with. She loves wearing hoodies and when she wears the hoodie, everything gets all messed up and tangled up. So now she can wear a hoodie without worrying about the mess.
Dora — I’m not sure where Dora is going with it. One of the problems is Emmy and Andy will forego washing her hair every day. And they’re at the age where they’re not spending egregious amounts of time outdoors sweating up a storm, you know. They do wash it when they take dance, but otherwise, they’re kind of willing to let a few days go by before washing it so the hair color always looks crisper and lasts longer in their hair.
On the other hand, Dora wants to wash it every night. So even though it’s only been a couple of weeks, it was already really fading. I think that we’re going to have to be refreshing that on a more regular basis.
So have the girls discovered anything about themselves or their styles through this experience? I don’t think so. But I think it is important that at this age, we allow our children, within our family structure, to express that individuality; to explore, to find out for themselves what they like or they don’t like as long as it’s safe. And cutting your hair, and coloring your hair seems pretty safe to me!
I’m glad they’ve had this experience. I’m glad that there would be many more to come. I plan to enjoy them all!