Each of us has slivers of childhood memories — tiny memories among the vast sea of our experience that are somehow sharper than the others. You know, those painful little pesky ones that, try as you might, won’t go away. Pick at them with tweezers all you like… they only go in deeper. Maybe it was the day of a field trip when you forgot your sack lunch and had to sit there with nothing to eat and pretend it was OK because you weren’t that hungry anyway. Maybe it was when you heard your mom telling a family friend that you were “getting little boobies.” Or, maybe it was the day you got your period while wearing white pants with rainbow pinstripes and you had to ride the bus home wondering how you would get off the bus and walk to your front door without anyone noticing your backside.
We all have these hellish memory slivers, which make great stories now, but were just about our complete undoing (or so it felt at the time). As a parent, I consider it a primary goal to be as infrequent a source of these traumatized memory slivers as possible. You
just never know what it could be – some “harmless” thing you said about their favorite TV show or some unfulfilled promise for ice cream that you forgot you made. But last night my 7-year-old son, without question, had a sliver opportunity.
Just so no one thinks I am totally clueless, I must tell you that I cut my children’s hair for the first two years of their lives. Maybe it was even three. Although I am no professional, I have to say it looked pretty darn good. I have a track record and the photos to prove it. Last night was another story. All I was attempting was a simple ear trim to clean up the haircut to last another few weeks. There was no blood. But as my 7-year-old wiggled while standing naked in the shower (easier cleanup that way) I managed to make entry into the point of no return where you go farther and farther, trying to fix the un-fixable. A few minutes later, my boy was covered in hair saying “Itchy! Itchy!” and I was shouting, “Hold still, this looks terrible!!” I finally tried to convince him to just let me shave his head like Daddy’s, to which he lamented, “But Daddy’s hair looks STUPID! He never even HAS any!” He was about in tears when I eventually realized I’d better stop while I was ahead and have it fixed after school tomorrow by a professional. It was bad. Quite bad. But I tried to shift gears and say it wasn’t so bad and kids wouldn’t notice anyway and off he went to bed.
The next morning, one look at him and my heart sank. It WAS pretty bad. He didn’t say anything about that, but as the time to go to school came nearer and nearer, he started saying he hated school, hated Mondays, and didn’t want to go. I tried to ignore it until we were leaving and he asked for a baseball hat to wear to school. “Does it cover all my hair?” he asked desperately. I felt so bad. Then I realized he might not be permitted to wear a hat in the classroom, so I asked him if I could talk to his teacher about it. He very reluctantly said I could, and I did. She was noncommittal about whether he coud keep the hat on, and simply said, “We will see how the day goes.” I worried all day long.
At pickup time, what do you know, out comes my kid sans hat. I tell him we are going straight to get his hair fixed, and he said, “Aww, why?! Do we have to? It isn’t even that bad!!” While that made me feel better, we went anyway. He did great, lost a bunch more hair, and powered through it. I think the best thing he got out of it was the advice of the hairdresser, which was, “Next time you see Mommy coming toward you with scissors, you run. Run as fast as you can!”
In the end, whether traumatic or not, I know this will be something he will never forget. I know this because I also found out that school pictures are in two weeks. So yes, he will remember. But maybe, just maybe, I am the only one who got a sliver from it.