It was my weekly (or bi-weekly) day to brush Thing One’s hair. She has that long, fine, golden little girl hair that curls at the ends like the ribbon on a birthday present. It is also sticky as spider’s web and every night she goes to sleep and magically wakes up with three long dreadlocks on the back of her head.
When this weekly brushing occurs, my daughter immediately runs—and screams. I make my token groaning sound and stomp around the house looking for both brush and detangler, which are inevitably in two different places; one of those places usually ends up being the kitchen floor for some reason. We then sit together on the floor and I start with the little blonde threads at the bottom, working the bristles on the brush up toward the really nasty tangles. There is a running commentary of “Ouch! Mom, you are moving my head!” Which is her weird way of saying that I am pulling her hair. I then respond with, “If you would just let me brush your hair every day it wouldn’t get this bad!” followed by “I’m sorry, I’m sorry. I’m almost done.” But I’m never “almost” done. Combing Thing One’s hair is like unknitting a sweater. There is no meter to gauge which one of us hates this task more.
What never occurred to me before Thing One started preschool was that other mothers don’t endure the torture that is the detangling of kid hair. The other girls in Thing One’s class all have adorable little bobs, or hair that is just long enough to make a cute pony tail, but not long enough to strangle her while sleeping. These girls have smarter mothers than Thing One. They take their kids in for haircuts at regular intervals.
My daughter’s first haircut was this year, at age four and a half. Her first professional haircut, anyway. When she was two and her curls were just becoming a little more than fuzz and branching out below her neckline she had her very first tangle. It was one of those terrible knots that becomes a little ball, not even the finest pick comb can get through it. I had no patience to sit and whittle away at the knot, and she would have never let me, so I snipped it out, pruned it like a stray vine. Later that year when her hair started to look less like baby down and more like a little kid’s messy frizz, I could see the spot on the back of her head where some of the hair was much shorter than the rest.
For a long time Thing One didn’t want a haircut because she was certain that it would hurt. Not just hurt like brushing, but she was under the impression that cutting her hair would be the same as cutting off her pinky toe. We never discussed the logistics, but I wouldn’t be surprised if she had thought that a hair cut involved bleeding. I finally convinced her after four years to let me give her a little trim at home—not my specialty, as I mentioned—but her hair had grown well past her tiny shoulder blades, and the curls at the bottom made her hair look uneven anyway. I cut off an inch and she looked exactly the same.
Every time I brush her hair now and she cries and cries, I always offer up the haircut as an option. I would be happy to get the hair cut off, I would be happy to not go through the awful brushing routine, making her so unhappy. But she always says no, and I always think to myself: You would never cut all her hair off. First, because her hair is beautiful, she my beautiful little ladybug; second, I’m too lazy and too cheap to get an appointment at a salon. I haven’t even had my own hair cut for almost two years.
So, this process of waiting and waiting until the dreadlocks are so fat I can hardly find a strand to start with will continue, and I will pull and pick at all the tangles; she will cry. Eventually she will grow up, and perhaps someday she will have a daughter of her own to comb through. She will endure the torture because she will remember how her mother used to do this to her when she was little, just the way mine did to me. And someday she will cut it off and miss how long her hair used to be, not realizing just how long it takes to grow back.