Apparently, quite a lot of people. I spend a lot of my days in a nice little bubble of people who are pretty accepting of individuality. My closest friends are unschoolers, free rangers, vegans and other such folk who move to their own rhythms. Every now and then though, I’m reminded that there are lots of people who aren’t like this at all. There are people out there who care about what my son’s hair looks like. Specifically, people who care that he’s a boy and his hair is long.
Really? Yep, it’s true. And I can’t work out why. I’ve tried to imagine why someone would be bothered by a child’s hair style and these are the only possible reasons I’ve come up with:
a) In the early 21st century, in my part of the world, young boys don’t typically have long hair.
b) With more discussion of transgender kids in the media, a young boy with long hair makes them feel uncomfortable.
That’s all I’ve got. I can’t think of any other reasons why anyone would care and those reasons seem like pretty poor excuses to pass judgement on my son’s hair or on us as his parents for letting him have long hair.
It’s true his hair is unwashed, although you’d never know this from looking at him. He should be a mascot for the whole ‘no shampoo’ movement, because his hair looks and smells good despite not seeing water for many months on end. It’s also true it’s not often brushed. Autistic kids have sensitivities to some stuff and for my son, having his hair washed is akin to torture. You can’t make up the reaction he has when an attempt at washing it is made – he’s expressing real pain. I’ve been around the parenting block for almost 21 years now and I know the difference between a fake out and real pain, and for my son, he’s in pain when his hair gets washed. I don’t understand what kind of pain that is – whether he experiences it as a physical or emotional pain, but whatever, no one would ever put him through a hair wash if they’d seen how much it torments him.
Likewise hair cuts. So why would I do that to him? What message would I be sending him that he had to undergo something that caused him pain and horror simply so he would fit in?
No message that I want a kid of mine to learn.
I want my kids to grow up knowing they are in control of their bodies. That they have the final say over who touches them. I want them to make their own choices about how they present themselves to the world and not to give a fuck about the kinds of people who make judgements about them based on how they look.
My son loves his hair. He checks his look in the mirror and tells us how much he loves the way he looks. I’m not messing with that level of self love. I’m going to stoke it like it’s a little fire of joy and hope it turns into a blaze of confidence that fortifies him enough to keep those that judge him well at bay. There is strength, courage and wisdom in every strand of his hair and all power to him to grow it to his feet.