My husband grew up having haircuts given to him for free by his mother–a hair dresser. As a wedding gift, we received a set of hair clippers. We bought a pair of hair cutting shears to round out our hair dressing supplies, and I started giving Mike his haircuts.
Well, I started trying…it took several attempts before I provided anything approximating an actual haircut. But I got there eventually (after multiple follow-up trips to Great Clips). I wanted to learn to do this–and to do it well–not only for my husband but for our budget.
After a while, Woodrow came along, then Garfield, too. And I’ve cut their hair for as long as they’ve needed to have haircuts–which was years after they were born, since they were total cue balls until about age 2. For their entire lives, they’ve had only one haircut in a salon (with coupons in 2013).
Every 4 to 5 weeks, I announce haircut day, and we drag a chair outside along with an extension cord so I can plug in the clippers. After this many years, Woodrow has learned to sit still and endure the cut; for the first several years, though, there were many tears and much squirming around. Same with Garfield.
However, Garfield–now age 9–simply hasn’t arrived at the place of being able to hold still in order to persevere through the dreaded cut. Every single haircut, he cries and agonizes. I’ve always known he has sensitive skin, and the hairs falling on his neck make him extremely uncomfortable, despite the cape I wrap around him before I start cutting.
This past weekend, I gave haircuts, and the saga continued. He sobbed throughout the entire process, flinching every time I snipped with clippers or scissors. Near the end of the cut, Garfield would duck and twitch and try to dodge me–accompanied by much sobbing–even before the scissors came near him. He confessed he was afraid that he’d get cut or scratched by the scissors, which he’s told me before. In the past, I’d be a bit offended by this, thinking he didn’t trust me (but this is not the issue). Throughout the cut, I offered calm reassurance (with intermittent pauses to bite my lips and breathe deeply because I was getting MAD and the cut was taking FOREVER). But it didn’t alleviate Garfield’s concerns.
Later, he told he, “It’s just my instinct!” when I asked why he felt afraid and felt the need to pull away each time I tried to make a cut. I finally–finally–clued in to the fact that, all this time, he’s been afraid. Every month, he gets anxious and tense and tells me a haircut is “torture.” And that makes sense to me, as I watch him go into fight or flight mode. A few times throughout the years, I told Garfield he could participate in the haircut I gave him, or he could get his own money to pay for a haircut at a shop–which is, let’s face it, a gigantic stick and a non-existent carrot.
But that one time he received a haircut at a salon? He sat still, watched himself in the mirror, and stayed calm. And the hairdresser had no personal engagement in the procedure–he’s not her son, so she was simply doing her job, not wondering how this ordeal might affect her relationship with Garfield.
After this weekend, Mike said to me: Let’s just take him to a salon. It’s not worth the tension it creates for him and for me, and we won’t make him pay for it. Because the issue is not really about obedience (eventually he does sit still long enough for me to finish the cut, even if it’s twice as long as the time it takes to cut Woodrow’s hair). We’ll cover the cost and hopefully provide a much saner experience for the whole family.
It’s a great solution, and I credit my husband for saying aloud what we all needed to hear–permission to go a different direction. However, I’ve long been the haircut giver for my family. It’s part of the efforts I make to save our family hundreds of dollars every year. So not only is this a different direction, it’s a departure from the way I serve.
Thankfully, my identity is not “money saving mama.” It’s never been “stupendous haircut giver,” either, that’s for sure. But the work I do to serve my family truly needs to serve us, and if that work doesn’t actually serve, it’s time to reassess.
I’ll continue giving haircuts to Mike and Woodrow (unless they ask to go elsewhere) and will cut Garfield’s hair again one day if he can tolerate it. But now the better way to serve my family is by spending a little money instead of saving it this time.