It was only a week ago that my 12 year-old-daughter first asked me, “What if I shaved my head?” to which I immediately responded, “What? Why?!?”
She replied softly, “I don’t know. I was just talking about it with my friends.”
I took a deep breath and thought about her question for a minute before replying a second time. And though still not thinking she would actually shave her head, I began to feel the question was not as hypothetical as I’d first imagined.
“Well, if you did, you would rock it,” I said, which was received with a smile.
“Yeah,” she said, “that’s what my friend said.”
Over the next few days, the shaving the head idea picked up steam. She asked her dad. She asked more friends. And with each person she told that did not find it to be the craziest thing they’d ever heard of, the idea became more real.
“What if I shaved my head?” quickly became “When can I shave my head?” followed closely by, “Who will I give it to???” Each question brought with it a new google search. Soon she had all her answers.
She saved an inspiration photo on her iPad of a cute teen girl (not a star, just a girl) sporting a t-shirt, killer smile, and a buzzed head in all its glory.
She found a non-profit that would not charge the child receiving her golden locks on the other end when it became a wig. She read about the organization and the medical conditions that caused children her age and younger to lose their hair. Fuel to the fire.
This. Was. Happening.
I texted my hairdresser for reassurance:
We went to the dentist the next day and when they asked us what’s new, my daughter told them, “I’m going to shave my head.” I loved the way they received this news. “It’s only hair!” and “It grows back” and most encouraging of all, these words from the office manager, “Good for you! Will you send us pictures?!?!” I could see my daughter’s confidence growing.
Once home her google searches still read “donate hair” and “buzz haircut girl” while mine still read “girl pixie haircut.” Evidence of my resistance filled my iPhone camera, pictures of longish short hair cuts for girls. I told myself they were for “just in case she gets halfway in there and changes her mind…” but they weren’t. They were for me. “Well hey, look at this one of Gwyneth Paltrow with the cute little bobby pins holding back easily five-inch long front hair locks. This would look nice.”
The day after we’d made the hair appointment, I panicked. Had I been doing my job? What if as “mom” I was supposed to be the one resisting the idea? What if moments after her hair was cut into two 12 inch ponies wrapped in rubber bands, she looked at me with disappointment in her eyes? Disappointment from a decision she made without me throwing detours or even a road bump in its way?
The next day we were alone, driving in the car. Reilly was talking about her future buzz which I seized as an opportunity to fulfill my maternal obligation to offer her pause. I asked her, gently, “What if you don’t like it??? What do you want me to say to you if you cry afterward?”
To this my daughter, without getting defensive or taking this to mean I didn’t believe in her, answered, “Just remind me that it doesn’t matter what I look like. Remind me I helped someone.”
“Okay, sweet girl. But that’s not going to happen, is it?” I thought.
I grabbed for her words, saying them over and over in my head, so I would remember them.
“It doesn’t matter what I look like…”
My daughter knows what is important and what is not, I thought.
The next day, she fearlessly sat in the barber chair with a smile spread ear to ear as long clumps of hair left her head, only stopping to furrow her eyes and scowl at me, now and again for taking too many pictures.
My kids have always taught me plenty, but this time, I felt like I was getting a reminder of not only what is important in this life, but what gives it meaning.
“I helped someone.”