As a hairstylist and a mama, I’ve been dealing with kids’ hair issues for a long time.
Mothers who want their daughters to have “Princess” hair. Fathers who expect their sons to have a high and tight fade. Strong opinions abound when it comes to hair.
When my daughter was 4 years old and preparing for her first dance recital, we were told by her instructor that she would need to wear her long hair in a bun. Stella was having none of it. She very calmly told me that she was NOT going to wear her hair in a bun. She did not like the way it looked or felt and no amount of talking to her was changing her mind.
We discussed the fact that it would only be for the recital, that she could take it down as soon as she came off stage, but to no avail. She didn’t cry or yell. She just point-blank refused to do it. I offered to do Princess Leia buns instead of just one. I offered a practice run so she could see what it would look like. I reminded her that it was part of the costume and all the other girls would be wearing their hair that way. NOPE.
I was out of ideas.
A week later, after we tabled the discussion, Stella came to me with an idea. Actually, it was a declaration.
“Mommy, I want to cut my hair short.”
“Like as short as Daddy’s hair.”
“Are you saying this because you don’t want to wear your hair in a bun?”
“Yes. I won’t do that.”
“Ok then. Let’s look at some pictures for you to choose from.”
So we looked at pictures and she found one of a cute pixie cut that she loved. And she wanted it to be colored pink. So that’s what we did. I know that some parents would balk at this idea, but to me, it was the first time my baby girl asserted herself in a way that relates directly to body autonomy.
Her body, her choice.
We have taught our children that no one has the right to touch them in a way that makes them feel uncomfortable—that they are in charge of their bodies. Obviously, as parents, we make the final decision when it comes to health or safety. But with their hair, we give them freedom. As long as it isn’t damaging to their hair, our children can decide how they would like their hair to look.
Since Stella made her debut on stage with a magenta pink pixie, she has never let her hair get longer than a bob. She has very clear ideas on how she wants her hair styled. We have colored it many different colors (all temporary, all done professionally by me), and she has had everything from a mohawk to an asymmetrical bob to a completely shaved head. Allowing her to express herself this way has increased her confidence and presented her with opportunities to discuss independence and body autonomy with others. The times that she has been questioned or teased, she has responded calmly.
“It’s just hair.”
And yes, it is just hair. But it is more than that. If we are truly going to teach our children that body autonomy is important, we need to start small. We need to show them that we really mean it. Hair is temporary—it grows back. But we can’t miss the opportunity to let them make choices.