Saturday I took my son for his first haircut. His first professional haircut. Before then my wife would lay him on her knee as he slept and comb out his hair, trimming the ends of it onto a towel in the dim light.
But on Saturday we went to Sport Clips, the masculine barber where you can get a Varsity haircut and watch the game at the same time. We prepped him, repeating the phrase “haircut” and messing with his hair. We even showed him videos of another child getting his haircut.
Daddy went first. I put on my cape and sat like a hero, giddy to have the smooth comb and scissors run across my scalp and lop off hair. It’s hard to show enthusiasm when you have to sit still.
We gave my boy his cape and sucker. He sat patiently. The barber began to work her ways on his little head. The first few snips were fine. After a minute, it began to feel pesky. He has come to the age where people and things in his face are indeed annoying and he will not hesitate to brush them away. We kept him occupied long enough to shorten his hair, and at the end he had a hair-covered sucker and a sticky, hairy chin. And his little strands of angelic hair had been cropped to resemble something less of a jellyfish mullet and something more of a boy whose hair had obeyed the careful blade and retreated to show his whole face, ears and neck.
He looked older.
He’d begun to grow heavy over the past month, in a way that finally began to tire me. He’s been throwing tantrums and shutting himself in his room when upset. But until I saw his hair I hadn’t actually looked at him and seen a boy who was growing older. Not for several months had I thought this.
Yes, funny how the shedding of hair to reveal the same face seems to call our attention not so much to the change in hair, but to the change in the face around it. Like a curtain we draw again every so often, revealing another season on the soul of the face.
Yet to my son, all that happened is that someone played with his hair, and some of it fell on the ground. And he is still a boy. His hair, like mine at his age, is still blonde, and has yet to turn brown. Until that time, it will be hard for me to call him anything other than a baby.
I turn to face my balding self, and see a face fighting age.
Hair. Cut. One word sends countless messages of life and warm-blooded variety. The other, the swiftness of a thing being divided, shortened, taken away, even hurt. We go through it when we feel a change is needed, a way of taking control over how we shape the seasons that seem to bind us. We control our hair as we can not control so much about ourselves and the world around us. No matter what, my boy is growing. And rather than resist the change, I will adapt. We will cut his hair, and take ownership over the changes of life. We do this again and again. And we grow, and cut again. We look in the mirror, and hope we are pleased.
On that day, I was pleased.