Hair, Vampires and Vitamin D: Letting Kids Make Choices

Apr 22 2013

I want to write today but the sun is shining and it’s April and I live in Oregon. Bear with me. I’ll do what I can.

An Oregon Sun Day is sort of like a Snow Day; some people love it, some people hate it. My kids think school should be canceled. And not so they can play outside. No; my kids think school should be canceled so they can hunker down inside because “THE SUN. IT’S BURNING OUR EYES. TOO BRIGHT. TOO HOT.” Sun Day? Kid panic. And just FYI, it’s 60 degrees (15 degrees Celcius) right now. I’m raising a brood of modern-day vampires is what I’m saying. They sparkle in the sun, and it’s distracting.

I, on the other hand, am no vampire. And, look, I know we’re not supposed to have favorites, but of all the vitamins I love D the best. In Oregon, D is like the Prodigal Vitamin. It runs away. It hides. It withholds its affection and doesn’t show up for family events. Then it returns, and even though our relationship is totally dysfunctional, I greet it with open arms and celebration. Every. Time. My kids shun it. I forgive it. And I haul out the BBQ in its honor.

So. It’s summer in Oregon. For at least today. All week if we’re lucky. And we should talk summer fashion. Particularly, let’s talk fashion for 6-year-olds and what to do when one of ’em wants to go bald.

In general, our family’s philosophy around hair is “It’s yours. It grows back. Whatever; it’s just hair.” So, you know… a powerful position statement with clear do’s and don’ts. And my kids have done a lot with their hair freedom. Long. Short. Flat. Spikes. Hot pink.

photo (55)-001They run the gamut.

And mostly I’m OK with that. Mostly I love it. Mostly I buy the idea that my kids are not me and therefore don’t have to do what I would do. Mostly I believe it’s good for them to make some of their own choices. And mostly I like it when we’re somewhat counter-cultural because I don’t believe in buying into all that mainstream culture is trying to sell us.

Which is why I was surprised how much I had to think about Cai going bald. And how much I held him back. Me, the mama who had no trouble sending my boys to preschool in hair barrettes, pink nailpolish, swim trunks, parkas and rain boots. I found myself afraid of what others might think about the bald thing.

Will people think Cai has cancer? Will they think we’re being insensitive to people with cancer? What about racism? Can I allow a white boy to shave his head when he’s not, you know, actually going bald? Are skinheads still a thing? If I don’t let my white boy shave his head simply because he’s white, though, is that another kind of racism? Or is it just called sensitivity in that case?

All winter I held him off. It’s too cold, I said. You’ll have to wait for warmer weather. Hoping, of course, that he’d forget or change his mind.

He didn’t. And then the sun came out.

So I took him to get his hair cut. Like this:

photo 1 (53)-001Not quite bald. More a drastic buzz cut than bald. A brilliant compromise. A way between. The mama’s specialty, right? Finding the perfect balance.

Except he didn’t want a drastic buzz cut. And the perfect balance isn’t a thing.

He wanted it “BALD, Mom. ALL THE WAY BALD. And you said I can choose.”

And he’s right. I did. So Greg and I shaved our son’s head this weekend.

photo 3 (41)-001

So. In case you were wondering about the blinding light coming from Oregon? That’s my kid. Glowing. Body and soul. Head and heart. Eyes and smile.

As for his mama? I don’t have the answers on this one. Not for anyone but us. And barely that. But I will say this: my kid’s happy, comfortable in his extra skin, and the sun is shining. That’s enough for now.


What about you? How do you decide what you will and won’t let your kids do for self-expression? Do you just say a few Hail Marys and go with your gut like I do? Or is there a method to your madness?

Also, this question was easier for me to answer when it was on my friend Jacoba’s blog about her kid and not mine. I say we just farm out our parenting questions to each other from now on. K? K.


P.S. My bloggy friend, Carrie Cariello, wrote A BOOK, and called it “the perfect choice for Autism Awareness Month.” I’ve read it. is right. What Color is Monday? is the honest, endearing and often humorous story of Carrie’s son’s autism diagnosis and how their family of 7 (yep – 5 kids!) learned to embrace all their son has to offer. Here’s Carrie’s book trailer:

(Psst… I get no kickbacks or other benefits for promoting Carrie’s book. Other than the benefit of telling you about something rad, which is actually a pretty cool benefit. The end.)