Cutting your child’s hair should not be a heated topic in a family. Except, that in our house, it is. A HUGE topic. A divisive topic. And now, a decided topic.
You see, Principessa’s dad and I have differing opinions on the benefits of cutting Principessa’s hair regularly and what length might be optimal for our rambunctious seven year old daughter. He believes it should be grown out to reach the bottom regions of her back. I on the other hand, am a fan of a chin length bobbed look. And Principessa? Depending on which parent she is talking to, has varying opinions.
Principessa’s dad claims that I “had control” of her hair for too long. I claim that for the last three years, I have respected his wishes to have it only occasionally trimmed by an inch (or two, shhh, it can be our secret). Back and forth we have gone. Again, and again, and again.
Until recently, Prinipcessa has wavered enough on the issue, that I have not pushed my perspective too hard. But recently, she started asking about having her hair cut and given to Locks of Love. An organization that I support because it is built around a topic that is close to my heart. So I brought it up again, to her dad, and got the same response as always. Except that this time, Principessa had something to say about all of it.
A Child’s Solution
Clearly stressing out our seven year old daughter, Principessa came up with her own strategy to make a decision about whether to cut her hair or not. She had gone back and forth between opinions too many times and was no longer going to put up with our childish shenanigans. We were each to make a list, enumerating each of the reasons that supported our opinions. My list would be about what she should cut her hair. His list, all the reasons not to cut it. She would then, in the privacy of her room, cross off the reasons that were not important, and then count the ones that remained. Whoever had more reasons left on the list, would “win.”
She gave us a deadline for completing our list and off we went.
My list, typed on Evernote, because my handwriting is not always the most legible, took a big picture approach to why she should get her hair cut shorter. I came up with 14 reasons that I thought were relevant and authentic. Her dad, in his analytical way, came up wit 16 reasons using a much more critical and detailed approach.
She kept 7 of my reasons. And 11 of his. I lost. He won. She even made a poster showing the results.
I am going to be honest with you. When I first saw his list, I considered his detailed, “Daddy thinks..” and “Principessa thinks…” to be manipulative. He took the same reason and detailed it with their two different perspectives, to his advantage. I had not used this tactic, and felt like Principessa had been taken advantage of (and also? The child in me was annoyed that I had not thought of this approach myself!)
The truth though? While I still think that his approach was…not genuine, in the end, I also know Principessa. Although she did use numbers to compare the two lists, she also poured over the reasons and only kept them if they meant something to her.
I will be honest and confess that I was sad to “lose.” Not because I have a vision of Principessa with short hair, or because I want “my way.” But because I had wanted her to feel the warmth that giving her hair to Locks of Love would have filled her with. Also, lets be honest, the mornings of arguing because brushing the tangles out of her hair hurts….I was looking forward to those being DONE.
What strikes me the most, as I reflect on having “lost” and the entire process, is that the two parents that are supposed to love and nurture their child, created such an atmosphere of confusion and stress over such a non important topic (in the big picture), that our seven year old daughter was the one that had to act like an adult and take control.
Parenting involves Adult Decision Making
The truth is that as parents we have the ultimate say in most decisions about our children until they are 18. Which, for BIG decisions, makes sense. And in most cases, although we are divorced, Principessa’s dad and I are able to agree or at least come to a consensus on the BIG topics. The fact that our parental abilities shut down in reference to a haircut? Not something that I am proud of. The good news I suppose is that we have raised a daughter who was able to problem solve and devise and implement a strategy that could solve the issue. The bad news is that the fact that the issue was even up for debate, was our faults.
Decision making is different for everyone family. Some families involve children in all decision making. Others in none at all. I am an advocate for middle ground, where the adults decide the BIG things relating to health care, education, and real estate. But when it comes to other things? Like a flavor of tooothpaste, new clothing, or even what we are making for dinner? There is definite room to solicit input from children. Whether or not I use the input…or act on their opinion, is a different matter.
For now, my daughter has made a decision about here hair. And for now, this parent will respect it.