I look to the shampoo chair and she’s beaming as the stylist scrubs, washes and conditions her hair. I explain that months ago, she’d cut her own hair and it had taken ages to grow long enough for a proper cut. I agreed that she could have it chin length, as she wanted, and when we left my daughter couldn’t keep her fingers from weaving in and out of the smooth, pale yellow strands.
The next day I joked, “Your friends at school might not know who you are. They might not recognize you with that neat and tidy haircut.”
When I picked her up I asked, “Well? Did they recognize you?”
“Mooooom,” she groaned, “Of course they did.”
If there was anything wrong, I couldn’t see it then.
At bedtime we did our usual routine. We chatted as usual, talked about her grandmother coming to visit soon. I gave her the usual hug, the usual kiss and as I was walking out the door her face crumpled. She blurted out “My friend said my hair cut was horrible and I hate it!” Tears fell onto the coverlet of her bed and I scooped her up to cradle her in my arms.
“Is your friend mean to other girls or just you.”
“She’s mean to other girls too.”
“Honey, your hair could be shaved with purple spikes and it would still be beautiful, do you know why?” She shook her head. “Because who you are makes your hair beautiful – your hair doesn’t make you beautiful. Do you really hate it? You liked it before she said that didn’t you?” She nodded her head yes. “It only matters what you think. You don’t worry about what mean people say. There’s probably a reason that she’s mean to you and other girls at school. Do you know what that reason might be?”
I had her full attention, puzzle solving and riddles ensnare her mind just like they do mine. And this was a puzzle I’d solved long ago. I only wished there was an easier way to impart this knowledge onto her aside from watching her go through something painful like this.
“Some people don’t have very nice lives. Maybe she is sad a lot. Maybe there are sad things in her life, things that hurt her, things we can’t understand. Sometimes, people say mean things to make other people sad so they won’t be alone. It doesn’t make being mean okay, but it helps us to understand that this isn’t about your hair. It is about her being sad.”
“But mom, bullying awareness week was last week. If she keeps being mean, she’ll turn into a bully.”
“Maybe that girl needs to be aware of herself,” I said.
“Moooooom,” she groaned again, this time laughing.
We chatted a bit more and she said she felt better and that she didn’t really hate her hair. She said she knew what to do if her friend was mean to her again. She said that she knew she had friends who weren’t mean and that she would play with them at recess instead.
“Tomorrow will be a better day. Right?”
“Yes, mom. It will be a good day.”
“I love you, goodnight sweetheart.”
“I love you too mom.”