Monday, November 19, 2007

The Pledge

My younger son and I have been having a battle of wills over him getting his hair cut. I don't insist that he have his hair a certain length. It can be long; it just occasionally needs to be trimmed so it looks like some attention has gone into his grooming. Actually both my husband and I have a problem with the longish hair because our son also neglects to comb it. So our two rules are as follows: he has to comb it before he goes to school, and he has to get it trimmed once in a while. But even these (to my mind) reasonable and minimal requirements get a lot of eye-rolling, sighing, door-slamming and stomping when they are enforced. This week I had had enough. I came up with a new plan: the no-advance-notice haircut.

Today when I picked him up at school, I had a croissant for him to eat. We drove to a nearby shopping street because I said, "we had an errand." He was happily eating his croissant. While I put money in the meter, he asked me where we were going. I pretended not to hear him. We walked down the block and I stopped in front of the only hair salon he will consent to frequent. He said, "Why are we stopping here?"
"Because you're getting your hair cut." He looked at me for a moment, shocked, and starting backing up.
"Yes," I answered. He stood there for a moment, then walked in. To his credit, he did not turn around and run down the street, which he could have done. But I could tell he was really mad. He avoided my eye and his eyes looked moist. I told him I would tell the haircutter to keep it long, and just trim it. He didn't respond. I began to regret my plan. He did not speak to me during the ten minutes we waited for his turn. Then he got into the chair with a stony face. The haircutter looked at me anxiously.
"He really likes his hair long," I explained. "He just wants a little trim, to keep it neat."
"A half inch?" she asked.
"Fine," I said.
She began cutting. I thought I would feel satisfied, but all I felt was that I had tricked him and that some part of him wouldn't trust me anymore. It was a rotten feeling. The haircutter was true to her word and only took 1/2 an inch off. You could hardly tell he had a haircut. He didn't speak to me the whole way back home in the car and went right downstairs when we got home.
Later this evening, I apologized to him about the no-advance-notice haircut.
"I can tell it made you upset. But I'm just so tired of all the drama every time I ask you to get a haircut," I said.
"You said we were just picking something up," he said, not looking up from his computer.
"Actually, I just said we had an errand." If he were able to express it, he could have accused me of lying by omission, but he didn't.
"Why couldn't you have waited at least until Thanksgiving break?" he grumped. "Then other people might have gotten their hair cut, too, and they wouldn't notice so much."
"I'll tell you what," I said. "I won't do that again. I pledge to give you advance notice when you need to get a haircut, but I need you to pledge that you will cooperate, and not give me a hard time when you need a haircut."
"Okay," he mumbled.
We left it at that. I felt like I got something, but like I lost something, too.

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