Back when Dylan was just a goofy little tyke, not yet a year old, D and I lamented over whether he'd EVER get hair. My dad is somewhat lacking in the hair department and has been since he was a young man, so as believers of the old "maternal hairline" curse, D and I resigned ourselves to the fact that we'd have a little baldy of our own in the family.
But by the time he hit 18 months, lil' Dyl had sprouted a healthy, shaggy crop of honey coloured hair. It hung around his head like a helmet-shaped mop - or perhaps a mop-shaped helmet? - and he was continuously mistaken for a girl; everywhere I went, people complimented me on my "beautiful daughters." Jade enjoyed correcting them; I enjoyed their looks of embarrassment.
D didn't care. He loved Dylan's hair - said it reminded him of his younger brother Paul, who'd had that kind of long, blonde hair for most of his childhood. Which, I repeatedly pointed out, was in the 1970's, when little boys with shaggy long hair were, you know, normal. Allowing your toddler to have long hair nowadays is tantamount to pasting a sign on them that reads, "Help, my mommy neglects me," or worse, "Help, my mommy is trying to make me look like a hipster."
Dyl's bangs got so long that he couldn't see properly. I worried he'd have chronic neck problems from constantly having to peer out from under his shag rug hair, so I called up our friendly hairdresser to come and give him a trim. I told her just to cut enough off so that he could see, and not to worry about style or anything, which was just as well since Dylan yelled and swatted the poor woman the entire time. He ended up with a 1980's looking bowl cut.
"He still looks like a girl," said D upon returning home that night and getting a look at his son's new 'do. "A girl with a bowl cut."
Then I decided Dylan's hair had to be shorter.
The second haircut was a result of several things: escalating humidity, my son's refusal to wear a hat, having to change his pillowcase every two days because his little head was drenched in boy-sweat. I figured all that hair must be making him miserable. A nice short cut would be just the thing for the summer months. It would be fine. We'd all get used to it. He was nearly three; it was time to turn Mr. Mugs into a boy.
I discreetly enlisted our friendly hairdresser to come and do the deed on a day when Grandma Lowry wouldn't see the kids and where I could duck out the door for my yoga class before D had a chance to freak out on me for scalping his son.
"Cut it off," I told her. "All of it."
True to form, Dylan wouldn't sit still and kept howling "OWIE! OWIE!" every time our poor hairdresser snipped a tiny particle of hair off his head. Bless her heart, she didn't even flinch when he swatted her and called her "DIRTY!" Finally, I put him on my lap and held him down. I was so focused on keeping the kid in a death grip so he didn't accidentally lose an ear that it was only after it was all over that I noticed enormous clumps of fluffy blonde hair on my lap, shoulders and the kitchen floor. It looked like a lot of hair.
"Oh man," I said, dreading what I was about to witness. "That looks like a lot of hair." Dylan slithered off my lap and I caught his hand before he dodged from the room. I forced myself to look at my newly shorn boy.
He did not look like my son. He looked like some tiny investment banker who drove a Lexus and talked on one of those bluetooth devices. Okay, a tiny investment banker wearing soccer print pyjama pants, but still.
"Oh DYLAN!" was all I could say.
Dylan said, "Hi Mummy!" and ran into the other room without a backwards glance.
The hairdresser laughed. "I think he looks cute! It's amazing how their first haircut changes them into little boys, eh?"
I could barely reply. I felt sick to my stomach. WHAT HAD I DONE? Why didn't I just tell the hairdresser to trim his bangs and let the little bugger sweat his way through the summer like the rest of us? Why had I tried to be so freaking practical and parentally correct? My darling moppet-haired Dylan was gone. In his place was some grown-up boy who no longer had the option of looking up at me mischievously through a pouf of hair. What would I run my hands through at night when we cuddled in bed? Would D freak out or laugh? And what would Grandma Lowry say?
The worst part was that with the new haircut, my son kind of looked like a miniature version of my brother-in-law. I love my brother-in-law, but I don't want to look up and see a weirdly familiar face when I'm changing my son's butt.
Strangely, Grandma was very supportive and assured me that Dylan looked adorable. D - not so much. As I sniffled my way through the harrowing hair-cut tale after yoga class, he just shook his head and patted me on the back in that useless gesture men all over the world use to calm semi-hysterical women.
"Kimmy, you have all these great ideas, and then when they happen, you're crushed."
"I thought I was doing the right thing!" I said into D's chest. "He's always sweaty!"
"So are you." D patted me on the back some more, then swivelled me to face a photo of the old Dylan on the fridge. "Well, I hope you're happy. You'll never have that little long-haired boy back, you know. His hair will never grow in quite the way it was."
This was true, but not particularly helpful. I choked back more tears, swatted my husband and trudged up the stairs to lie beside my little man, who really didn't give a flying fig what his hair was like. I stroked his fuzzy head (which was, of course, sweaty), sighed, and realized that this was a very minor milestone on the all-to-short road through my son's childhood.