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Archive for the ‘autonomy’ Category

Something upset me yesterday at soft play (again – why oh why do we still go there?) – my son’s hair is getting quite long now, which hasn’t escaped anyone’s notice, and people frequently say it needs cutting. That’s just water off a duck’s back. I have asked R several times if he would like me to cut his hair for him, and the answer is always the same – No, he wants to grow it long. So I’ve asked if he would just like me to trim his fringe for him. The answer is still No, he wants to grow that long too. So, that’s the end of the matter as far as I’m concerned. Until such time as he says Yes, he would like it cutting, it will remain uncut. My family have suggested I do it anyway while he is asleep, but I absolutely will not sneak about in the night doing something to his person that he has expressly said he doesn’t want doing. I just won’t. It is dishonest and disrespectful, and aside from anything else would seem very wrong.

So, back to soft play this morning. R’s hair was mentioned several times by several people. We had the usual boring conversation about how he won’t let me cut it, and how he’s said he wants it long, and how neither of us are particularly bothered about it. Still the comments persisted, and at one point it actually felt quite threatening, with one of the women saying she had some scissors in her bag and would do it now for him. I actually had to move away from her. R just looked a bit bewildered by everybody going on about it all the time, and I said something jokey about not coming here anymore if people were going to start threatening us with scissors. But really, I was upset. As I’ve said the bottom line for me is that R has said repeatedly he doesn’t want it cutting, so I won’t cut it. It’s a simple as that. But it seems for most people the idea of actually respecting your 3-year-old’s wishes is absurd, and they think I should ignore what he says and cut it anyway. I really wish it wasn’t even a topic for conversation. I really wish it mattered as little to other people as it does to us; but this letting his hair grow seems to be taken as some kind of sign by people – a sign of otherness, of difference, something that sets us apart, and they’re all desperate to cut it so we can be the same again, and they can feel comfortable with us. It’s bizarre.

Anyway, my point is, our hair – yours, mine, our children’s, is ours and nothing to do with anyone else. Nobody has any business making anybody else (and that includes children, of course) feel pressured to cut it, don’t cut it, dye it, don’t dye it, tie it back, cover it, or anything else. There have even been stories of schools refusing admission to 5 year olds because their hair is ‘too long’. This morning was a vivid illustration of the way people think they can act for and on behalf of children without their consent. People also have no qualms about commenting on the appearance, demeanor, personality and everything else of children, as though it’s any of their business. One of my old friends’ son came home one day at the age of around 11, having been to get his head shaved without telling her what he was doing. She was plainly disgusted with him and told him he looked like a “thug”. What a message to send to the poor child. All that disapproval, along with the brand new label of “thug” on his young shoulders, where it didn’t belong. All he had done was shown a bit of autonomy, a sign that he could think for himself, and look where it got him. I don’t think for a minute that he was seeking her approval by doing that, but wouldn’t it have been nice if she could have reacted more positively? As with my own son, even at the age of just 3; it’s his hair, and his decision.

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