Hair Experiments

I have this daughter. Well, I actually have three of them, but only one of them is the focus of this post. She’s a young teenager and I let her experiment on her hair.

I don’t just mean I let her cut it or get highlights or even put a bottle of Miss Clairol on it once in a while. I mean I let her get color in her hair. In fact, I usually do the honors myself, beauty school wannabe that I am. And just yesterday I let her get a daring (and darling) haircut, although we visited a professional for that one.

Sometimes people don’t understand why a girl her age would want, say, a large green streak in the front of her hair. I don’t pretend to fully understand it myself, although I have been known to sport the occasional purple highlight, or pink for breast cancer awareness. My husband, who is a fairly conservative guy (okay, he’s a REALLY conservative guy, and he’s mine and I love him), especially struggles with understanding this desire to decorate our heads and change hairstyles as often as we change socks.

But we want to be understanding to our girl, and that’s why we let her express her personality through her hair. We want her to walk around with the assurance that Mom and Dad love her no matter what style she is sporting on her head. That she is beautiful in her Father’s eyes and ours, always.

We’ve all seen those young ones in the mall or somewhere else, and their hair color is something more at home in a box of crayons than on a human head. I see them when I go through the pick up line at the high school, and even at the middle school. I will confess to some silent judging in the past, thinking that there were parents out there who were slacking by letting their kids play Paint By Numbers on their heads. I lumped Startling Hair Color into the same category as Ear Gauges and Excessive Facial Piercings and considered each one a sign of trouble. And if they had more than one? Yikes! Kids like that were the ones who had behavior problems, right? I mean, they can’t even commit to a conventional personal appearance. How could we expect them to follow the rules of polite society?

I am so wrong for doing that – judging someone on the basis of appearance. I should know better.

Because then my own kid asked if she could color her hair.

My knee jerk reaction was exactly the one you might expect: No! But when her face, which had been cautiously hopeful when she asked, suddenly closed up as she turned to walk away, I had to ask myself Why Not? Why not, indeed?

I asked her why she wanted to color it, and she said she just wanted to try it and see what it was like, and she thought it would look cute. The teen years are all about discovering who you are and what you want to be as a person. Why NOT experiment on your hair? (And why limit self-expression and self-discovery to teens? But let’s save that for another blog post.)

We’ve tried to teach our children that it is not necessary, or even desirable, to follow the crowd. You don’t have to wear the same brands or styles as everyone else or feel like you need to blend in. Wear what is comfortable and what you like to wear, as long as it’s modest and appropriate for the occasion. (This is why I have one child who almost exclusively wears oversized hoodies, but that’s her choice) I don’t want my children to bow to peer pressure when it comes to clothing or hair style. I have tried to teach my kids that they do not need to live their lives based on someone else’s opinion of them.

In addition, this child is extremely creative. Music, writing, drawing, painting – it never ends. To her, hair is just another canvas on which to express her personality. And so we put a big ol’ green streak right in the front of her hair. She loved it!

Is hair style an accurate representation of a person’s spiritual state? Of course not! At least I would hope not, because more and more supposed “grown-ups” are taking on Skittles-like hues these days. It appears to be a “thing”, so maybe my daughter is being a trendsetter. I’d much rather see her blaze a trail than blindly follow her peers. But I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that I worry just a little bit about how her style choices might affect the perception of someone who doesn’t know her. And then I remind myself that this is precisely the thing I tell my daughters NOT to worry about. As long is it’s not immodest, immoral, or illegal, what’s the big deal?

After all, it’s just hair. If she doesn’t like the color, she can change it to something else. And if she really doesn’t like it, she can always cut her hair short and start over.

Yesterday she did just that. After several days’ parents/daughter negotiation, I took her to a hairstylist who spent a solid 15 minutes discussing with my daughter what style she wanted and what would look best on her. In the end, the stylist lopped off several inches of my daughter’s dark blond bob. In the back and on the sides it is very, very short. In fact I stopped myself from typing “as short as a boy’s haircut” just now, because who says that only boys have very short hair? In the front she has a long sideswept bang that can go to either side. And the piece de resistance for her? A portion over her left ear was shaved to the skin. The mile-wide grin on her face when she saw her reflection in the mirror, well, it was worth every penny I paid for that appointment. You can’t put a price on that kind of confidence boost.

She walked out of that salon like she was walking on air. There’s just something about having a vision for your hair (or your clothing, or your life) that brings such joy when it’s fulfilled.

I think we won Parenting yesterday. At least until the next time we cross swords over screen time or homework.

Here’s my beautiful baby from the outside in: