I’m sitting in the living room, reading. Yitzchak went to shul.
They’re in the kitchen, playing. Shlomo is laughing, and Tova is making happy sounds. Suddenly, Shlomo comes running out, laughing, and saying, “Mama, it’s funny! Look, it’s funny!”
“What’s funny? And why are you holding scissors?” I ask, standing up. I take the scissors away.
Shlomo points excitedly. “I’m cutting her hair!! Look, it’s funny!”
* * * * * *
This morning, Shlomo took a bendy straw, part of a toy vaccum cleaner, and put the ends together, clipping Tova’s hair between them. “Look, I’m cutting her hair. Tova, don’t move, I’m cutting your hair.”
“Now your hair is cut. Right Mama, it’s funny?”
“Yes, it’s funny. But you know, Shlomo, we’re not cutting her hair any time soon. Right?” We go over a short list of girls from his gan. Only one of them has short hair. He realizes that my hair is also long; I explain to him that girls like to keep their hair long, so we’re going to let Tova’s hair grow.
I guess I didn’t realize how serious Shlomo was about the haircut thing.
* * * * * *
I’m six years old, and Esther is four. I don’t know where my mother is. Probably either sleeping, or otherwise preoccupied. We’re bored. Very bored.
We start playing hairdresser in our room. We put give each other interesting hairdos for five minutes, and then we’re bored again.
Esther says, “I want to play real hairdresser.”
“What’s real hairdresser?”
“When you cut people’s hair.”
“That’s a good idea, I’m first and I’ll cut your hair, and then you’ll cut mine.” She didn’t like that, but she agreed.
In the middle of Esther’s haircut, my mother came in.
She got mad, screamed at us, and blamed me (obviously).
Lesson: Next time, let Esther go first so that she’ll get blamed. And next time, make sure that Mom doesn’t discover you. Because whatever game you’re playing, it’s bound to be wrong.
* * * * * *
I’m thirteen years old, and Shira, the baby sister, is three. I’m babysitting her, Esther, and Noach.
Shira is sitting on my lap, complaining that her bangs are in her eyes. I pin them up, but her hair is so fine that they fall back down immediately. Sigh. They really are too long – they’re in her eyes already. Poor thing.
I give her a headband, but she pulls it off. “It doesn’t feel good,” she tells me. Sigh.
I pray that I won’t be screamed at. My mother isn’t answering her phone, or maybe I’m scared of interrupting her. I take some scissors and give her a bangs cut. It’s uneven, so I even it out. I realize that I should have done it differently, but oh well. No harm done. Her bangs end up being slightly too short, but they are even, and they look decent.
Shira is happy. I wish they’d ended up longer. They’ll grow back. It’s even; no one will make fun of her. It’s just a touch short – but hey, at least her bangs won’t be in her eyes for a long time, right?
My mother comes back. She sees Shira and screams at me. She makes me feel like a piece of irresponsible garbage, which I’m convinced I am. She comforts herself that she had Shira’s picture taken a few weeks ago, when she still looked “normal,” before her irresponsible !@#$# of a daughter decided to cut her baby’s bangs by herself.
* * * * * *
I look at Shlomo and sigh. I can’t blame him for doing something that I did as a kid. It really is a normal kid thing. I am not, I am not, going to react the same way my mother did. I am not. What Shlomo did is not dangerous or hurtful. It is just annoying.
I take a deep breath and say calmly, “Oish, you cut her hair? Do you remember we said that we’re not cutting her hair? You’re not allowed to cut anyone’s hair without asking their Mama. It’s not okay.”
He looks at me.
“Where did you cut?”
He points to the crown of her head. I see a few short wisps of hair on the floor, and pick them up. There’s another wisp hanging off her head; I take that, too, put it in the sink, and reach for the broom.
I’m kind of sad. Her hair is really pretty, and it’s growing nicely. I didn’t want it to be cut for a while.
I tell myself that Shlomo had just started, and he’d hardly cut anything. That what he did cut was very short, and only a few strands at a time. I remind myself hat her hair is baby hair, and it hardly shows; that hair grows back. That this is normal; that this is exactly the kind of problems I prayed for – not far-reaching, not bank-account-killing, not a health problem, not long term, not serious.
I make sure Shlomo knows that it’s not okay to cut hair without asking permission first. Then I tell him that when I was a little girl, I cut my sister’s hair. He looks at me, unbelieving and confused; he doesn’t know why I’m telling him this.
When we’re back in the living room, I drill him on the rules: no cutting his hair or peyot, no cutting her hair. Other children aren’t allowed to cut your hair or Tova’s hair, and you’re not allowed to cut theirs. Tova isn’t allowed to cut your hair or hers, and you’re not allowed to cut her hair or yours.
He doesn’t like that he’s not allowed to cut his own hair. It’s his hair, after all; why shouldn’t he be allowed to decide whether or not to cut it? “But I like!”
I realize that, but we just don’t do it. “When you get bigger,” I tell him, “if you have brothers, maybe maybe maybe, you can cut their hair instead of me. Maybe. But not for sure, and not until I tell you that you’re allowed.”
I tell him that when I was a little girl I cut my sister’s hair. I ask him if my mommy was happy or sad. He thinks she was happy. I tell him that she was sad and angry. I ask him what he thinks my mommy did. He doesn’t know. I tell him that she screamed at me and punished me. I ask him if I screamed at him. He looks at me and smiles, “Noooo.”
“But are you going to do it again?”
“Noooo . . . ”
Let’s hope that’s true.
And let’s hope that these are the only types of problems we ever have to deal with.