In the bath last night, Abby was playing with her Polly Pocket mermaids, and called to me as I was buried in homework at the kitchen table (the kitchen table is five feet from the bathroom- that’s how we roll in Little House).
“Mom! I want pink hair like my Polly mermaid and like Marissa…”
Looking up from my paper on leitmotifs in musical theater and film, I can see her in the tub, bubbles piled to her shoulders and her prized Polly in her hand hanging over the edge of the tub and dripping into a pool on the floor. Tread carefully…
I have found, as I get more experience at this parenting thing, some of my knee-jerk reactions are just that- reactions that I have assumed to be mine, but are actually holdovers of childhood and beyond that belonged to someone else, but that I assumed as my own. Reactionary decisions and reasoning that don’t come from my own thought out points-of-view are something I wish to leave behind me, and I caught myself from blurting out “No, you can’t have pink hair, you’re five!”.
Because the truth is? I don’t really care. Despite what some people might think, I cannot believe haircolor (or length on boys) really has any bearing on the character of the person. Not only is Polly Mermaid beautiful with her long pink locks, so is my best friend Mo with her short choppy hot pink spikes. How could I possibly have any credibility if I were to tell my daughter that pink hair was unacceptable? It might be unusual. It might require maintenance to look good. It might not be to everyone’s taste. But the truth is, for all of Abby’s life, a woman I love- who is like a second mother to her- has pink hair.
To Abby, pink hair is normal.
I also cannot fall back on the platitude of ‘little girls don’t get to dye their hair’ because she’s seen Mira with pink ponytails more than once, and Mo’s boys with blue locks repeatedly. So what do I say? And really, how do I really feel about it?
It kind of shocking to look at yourself and realize something you thought you believed isn’t really true at all. Especially if you realize that what you are caring about is perceptions about you, and the kind of mother you are. I have insisted my boys keep their hair short, in military cuts- mostly because I prefer the way it looks. But they’ve been bugging me to let it grow for the summer. My reluctance was not based on any real reasoning- it was based on a holdover from my own childhood that boys with shaggy hair had bad mothers. It was based on snippy comments and not wanting to be judged. So my perceptions of what my children should look like was actually based on my own desire to appear as what I had been told was a good mother.
Do I really think my parenting is tied to the length or color of my kids’ hair? No. I don’t. Am I going to go buy some Splat Raspberry and give Abby some hot pink locks? No, I’m not. But once she is old enough to manage and maintain it herself, will I freak out and demand she conform? No. I won’t. I’ll put some gloves on and call Mo and have her talk me through how to do it right. Because if my girl is gonna have pink hair, she’s gonna rock the pink hair.