The Tortoise and the Hair

B&B: “Oh we’re doing it.”

Me: “We don’t have time.”

B&B: “We DO have time”

Me: “We have to leave in,” I glance at the clock, “8 minutes!”

B&B: Eyebrows raised, “It’ll only take 5.”

No it won’t.

But his mind is made up, so it’s pointless to argue.

Me: Sighing: “Fine.”

B&B removes his shirt, smacks my unsuspecting behind, and hollers, “Kenyan! Outside! Quickly!”

The Kenyan stops running his circular pattern in the family room long enough to mutter, “Huh?”

B&B: Calling down the steps, “Come on, we don’t have much time!”

The Kenyan bounds the steps into the kitchen two at a time. Looks at me, looks at B&B, looks back at me. “Is it time to go?”

B&B has a wild look in his eye: “Almost. First I’m going to cut your hair.”

Kenyan: Covering his head protectively, “Oh, no. Never again. You’re not cutting MY hair.”

B&B: Exasperated, “Come on, Kenyan!”

Our son backs away, hands still protectively clasped over his overgrown hair. He shakes his head, “No. Nope. No thank you, and no way.”

B&B looks at me for assistance.

Oh, no, leave me out of this!

B&B: “Mommy, doesn’t he need his hair cut?”

Apparently, after almost 18 years together, B&B still cannot read my mind.

Me: Clearing my throat, “Ahem. Yes. He does.”

B&B, Looking at the Kenyan, “See? Mommy agrees with me.”

Kenyan: “She agrees I need a haircut. You’re not touching my hair.”

At least one of them can read my mind. Well done, Kenyan.

B&B, looking once again to me for assistance, “Mommy, doesn’t he need his hair cut right now? Before his first race of the season?”

Nope. It’s a fakakta idea. There’s no time. Oh, and there’s that small detail I’ll leave for last…but certainly not least…that you butchered him the last time you cut his hair.

B&B: With a note of hysteria, “Mommy?! Doesn’t he need it now?!” Eyebrows raised, palms skyward, promise of serious spousal dispute in front of child if I disagree.

Me: “Um,” I look at the Kenyan, wrinkle my nose, squint one eye, shrug the opposite shoulder, “Kenyan, I bet he’ll do a better job this time.” Hoping my voice, which is 3 octaves higher than usual, doesn’t illuminate my lack of confidence in B&B’s clipping skills.

The Kenyan looks at me, narrows his eyes. Removes his hands from his head and they fall to his sides. “Ugh! Fine! Not as short as last time though!”

B&B’s face illuminates. He claps his hands and shouts, “Woohoo!” then hastily disappears from the room to gather his equipment before the Kenyan and I can change our minds.

I put my arm around the Kenyan. “I’m proud of you, buddy. Trusting Dad to do this means alot to him.”

Kenyan: Grudgingly, “Yeah, well it better come out better than last time.”

Word.

Me: “It will.”

I glance at the clock,  “B&B, you have 5 minutes.”

He escorts the Kenyan to the back patio, where the scalping cutting commences. I shake my head, filling water bottles and packing fruit while I wait.

I don’t have to wait long…

“What?! Oh! Nooooo!” come the Kenyan’s cries from outside.

Oh dear.

Kenyan: “I look…I look TERRIBLE! You did it again!”

Oh, crap.

Kenyan: “I’m never letting you cut my hair again!” Sob, sob, sob, sob.

Aw, shit.

I knew it. Terrible idea.

I hear B&B quietly coaxing the Kenyan, “You look great. It’s only hair. Think of how fast you’ll be. It’s not nearly as short as last time.”

Once the Kenyan commits to a feeling, he cannot be coaxed into un-feeling it. So, B&B has his work cut out for him. And so do I if I’m going to get him to track on time.

Kenyan: “No! NO! I shouldn’t have let you! I knew it! You’re never cutting my hair again! I’m not going anywhere! I look…I look WEIRD!” sob, sob, sob

I wait inside. Clearly, I’m tasked with supporting this ridiculous decision to shave the Kenyan’s head. To compound that, I will undoubtedly be recruited to step in for moral support. I’ll wait right here until the time is right.

B&B: “Kenyan, it’s only hair, this is absurd behavior, it’s time you man up…”

And, that’s my cue.

I step onto the patio,  “Hey, what’s all the fuss about out here?”

The Kenyan is the palest of our offspring. He is bright white in August, after spending the entire summer with his skin exposed to the strong summer sun. Shaving his hair down to his scalp, which hasn’t seen the light of day in a solid 5 years…well, it’s a dazzling effect to say the least. His head is glowing. Like a beacon in the ocean at night, he stands like a lighthouse, the glare of his almost bald head illuminating the way for ships in peril.

Except there are no ships in peril on our back patio. Just a 9 year old little boy, who is now running late for his first track meet, devastated about his new haircut.

And, yowza, I could cry too. It’s too short. By next week it will be just right. But, today, and for the next 6 days…too short. I’m careful to hide this from my face as he looks at me with tears running down his face. And I’m extra careful not to make eye contact with his father, whom I could murder.

I reach out and rub the peach fuzz for good luck.

Me: Smiling, “Buddy, it’s short, but that face is so handsome, you don’t even need hair!”

Nothing.

Me: “You look great!”

Nothing.

Me: “It’ll grow quickly.”

Nothing.

Me: “You’ll run faster!”

Nothing.

I break into an interpretive dance…to no music…just to make him laugh.

And…nothing.

B&B: “Kenyan, I appreciate your agreeing to this so last minute. So I will buy you the Lego set of your choice to reward your behavior.”

Something. A chink in his armor.

Kenyan: Hiccup, “A small set?” Hiccup, “or a big set?”

B&B: “Well, look at all of that hair on the ground! I’ve seen dogs with less hair. That much hair deserves a big Lego set.”

The chink breaks into a giant crack…quickly fracturing the anger and despair that’s shrouded him for the past 5 minutes.

When all else fails…bribery. Funny, the experts always leave that chapter out of their parenting books. It’s the cold, hard reality of getting things done with children. Bribery.  When I write my parenting book, that will be my title…Getting it done: The Art of Bribery.

The Kenyan is on board. B&B whisks him up to the bathroom to rinse the hair off his neck. I wait in the car, muttering a slew of curses at the time on the clock and at the current state of my child’s head.  And I know we’re out 100 big ones for the promised Lego set.

Jesus Christ Almighty and the donkey he rode in on.

tortoiseandhair

What a start to my Saturday.

B&B and the Kenyan emerge from the house. B&B, sensing my anger, race walking to the car. The Kenyan, who has not exhibited urgency a moment in his short life, lollygagging his way to the car.

B&B: “Good luck, Kenyan!” To me, “I’ll call you.”

I have many things to say, but none of them can be uttered in front of our child.

I peek in the rearview mirror at the Kenyan. Holy cow, his hair is short. Really, really short. I look at the clock…we have 17 minutes to arrive at our destination, which mapquest predicts is 34 minutes away. Goddamn it. B&B’s timing is as impeccable as his trimming skills.

I breathe deeply, but quietly, in an attempt to calm down. Futile. I need to start practicing yoga. I turn on the radio, hoping a song can lighten my mood.

“can be addicted to a certain kind of sadness. Like resignation to the end, always the end.” The Kenyan begins singing along. Somebody That I Used to Know is an enormous hit in our house.

I smile, listening to his singing. My mind wanders…

He has a great singing voice. And he is unabashed in his singing. I bet he makes Boy Choir just like Waldorf. Waldorf sang in the chorus of the Wizard of Oz last night. I was so proud of him, standing in front of the audience, singing with his friends. He had a ball! I wish I had gotten his hair cut before the show, but he still…

Oh. Dear. God.

I pull over immediately. Turn down the radio. Click on my hazards. Grab my phone and, with shaking hands, text B&B the words…

“Please DO NOT cut anyone else’s hair without my permission. Or, at the very least, until I get back home.”

He immediately texts back, “Wait….why?”

Good grief.

I reply, “Just don’t. Please.”

Put down my phone. Turn off the hazards. Turn up the radio. And continue driving.

Miraculously, we arrive at the venue a mere 2 minutes late.

Me: “OK, Kenyan, here we are! Your first competition. After 2 months of practice, you’re ready for this! I want you to remember what Coach told you. And do your best. And have fun!”

He nods his almost bald head, which I slather with sunscreen on this beautiful May morning.

Kenyan: “Let’s do it, Mommy.”

Love. I run for more reasons than I can count. The fact that the Kenyan loves to run…well, it gives me one of my biggest reasons to continue lacing up my sneakers.

The first parent we recognize from our group takes one look at the Kenyan and, before I have the chance to give her my warning eyes, asks him, “What happened to your head?!”

Oof.

Me: In a voice much higher than usual, “He’s aerodynamic! His Daddy cut it this morning, just in time for his race!”

The Kenyan rolls his eyes. But he smiles a little bit too. I direct him to join his teammates for his warmup laps.

While he jogs, I talk to a few other parents, warning them not to make a fuss over his new haircut.

We grab a spot by the fence and wait for our kids’ races. And wait. And wait. And wait. By my calculations, 90% of the females 10 years and under in the tri-state area compete in track. And every one of them showed up today. The Kenyan splits his time equally between asking me “how many more girls are going to run?” and scraping deep enough into a pine tree that his hands are sticky with sap.  He’s on the cusp of rigging a spout to tap the syrup…and smelling suspiciously of Christmas…when his race is called.

Me: Clapping, “Woohoo! Kenyan! Get to it, big guy!”

The first heat runs. He’s not in that group. The second heat runs. He’s not in that group. The third heat runs. This is his group. I even took video…

I lean against the fence, asking the Dad of a fellow teammate…the same Dad I had just blasphemed to, “How long do you think until he runs? I thought he was in the 3rd heat.”

As I’m asking, the pale little boy who’s crossed the finish line waves at me and smiles. What a friendly kid, he must recognize me from practice. I raise my arm to return the wave and realize that this pale child is indeed the same one I gave birth to 9 years ago.

Mother of the year.

Me: Whispering to the parents around me, “Holy shit, it WAS his race! I stopped recording! His first race ever, and I didn’t even see him cross the finish line! Goddamn that haircut, I didn’t even recognize my own child!”

I clap and yell, “Great job, Kenyan!”

I grab the arm of the man next to me. I ask, “Who won? The boy in the white shirt?”

He nods his head, “Yes, the pale kid won first place.”

Mother humper. I will KILL B&B.

The Kenyan won. HE WON HIS FIRST RACE!!! Our little boy won his first race ever, and I didn’t even recognize him. Because of this stupid haircut.

I clap again, yelling, “First place, Kenyan! Way to go, buddy!!” He smiles, and gives me a thumbs up.

I text B&B immediately, “The Kenyan placed first in his heat!”

He replies, “Yes!!!! Tell him it was the haircut!”

I shake my head. Figures B&B would credit the stupid haircut.

I look up to see my son heading my way. The shorts of his track uniform are shorter than he’s accustomed to wearing. Behind the safety of my sunglasses, I’m able to drink in every inch of him as he approaches. When did he get so tall? And his legs, have they always been so strong and sinewy?

I want to jump up and down, cheering like a fool, but I won’t make a scene for fear it will embarrass him. Instead, I smile, open my arms, and he rushes into them. With one arm around me and the other clutching his blue ribbon, he buries his head against me.

Kenyan: “That. Was. Awesome.”

So are you, my love.

Me: “First place, Kenyan. FIRST PLACE! I’m so happy for you! You’ve worked hard all season, and you earned that ribbon. I’m so proud of you!”

Kenyan: “It was really close. That other guy almost beat me.”

I smile and nod, implying that I’d actually seen him finish. Bad Mommy.

Kenyan: “You know why I won?”

Hard work? Determination? Improved stride? Months of practice?

Me: Smiling, “Why?”

He reaches up and rubs his head. “It was the new haircut. I didn’t have all that hair slowing me down.” He looks down off into the distance, smiling, “Daddy was right. This haircut helped me run faster.”

First place…because of that haircut?!

The haircut that made him cry?

The haircut that cost us the price of a big Lego set?

The haircut that contributed to my blowing the speed limit to get here on time?

The haircut that elevated my blood pressure before 7:30AM?

Me: “That Daddy. He sure knows what he’s doing.”

I look at my boy…clutching his first place ribbon in one hand, absentmindedly rubbing his buzzed head with his other hand. Smiling as he mentally places his Daddy high up on the pedestal where he belongs.

All parents should be so lucky to be such giants in the eyes of their children.

Life is good. The Kenyan won his first race. My blood pressure is down. And the haircut debacle has resolved itself brilliantly.

I will be purchasing sunscreen in bulk for the next few months though. To keep that beacon the pearly white it belongs.

Costco, here I come…