See if this sounds familiar: Parents are sitting on opposite ends of the couch, doing whatever it is parents do when their kids are quietly engrossed in play.
For my husband it means mucking around on his new iPhone, for me it means surfing the good old Interwebs.
Some people call it absentee parenting.
I call it parallel play.
Whatever you call it, for all intents and purposes the cats are away so the mice still play.
Imagine my surprise when I look up to find Ittybit, hitherto using a pair of scissors to render small pieces of paper even smaller, fluffing a rather large pile hair in the middle of the coffee table.
I sat there dumbfounded as her arms -- scissors in hand -- lift again toward her head.
“Um. … You’re cutting your hair,” I blurt out a little too sharply.
She stops mid-snip as if awakened from a dream and starts to cry.
I instantly feel horrible. I hadn’t meant to yell. I wasn’t angry I was just surprised. Her hair has always been a bit of a battleground. She never wants to get her haircut. In fact, she hardly ever wants to comb it or wash it or put it in cute little pig tails.
I take the sheers away and pick her up. I try to get her to stop crying, telling her it’s not bad. Hair is just hair and will grow back. In fact, she’s done a better job with shaping it than I ever have in the two years I’ve been trimming a little here and there to keep it out of her eyes.
I tell her it looks pretty, which I don’t really think was a lie.
My husband looks at me worriedly.
“It looks like a mullet,” he whispers. “What if the kids make fun of her at camp? She’s going to have to get that fixed.”
“When I was a kid we’d call this a shag.”
But I have to admit, with a square patch of pink scalp showing through in the back and triangular patch showing through in the front, a trip to the hairdresser would be unavoidable.
I had to phone my mother. She’ll get a kick out of this:
“Hi mom. Guess what? Ittybit got her first real haircut today at the salon.
“Yeah, the husband took her.
“Oh … because, you know, she cut it herself and looked a little too much like Billy Ray Cyrus.
“No. no! I was sitting right next to her, paying no attention, whatsoever.
“…. Go ahead laugh. It is kind of funny.”
But the DIY haircut is more than merely humorous, it’s a rite of passage for some kids.
My mom told me about how when she was about Ittybit’s age, she and a little boy in her neighborhood exchanged haircuts. She remembered snipping away at his hair carefully, trying to keep it straight. “His haircut looked pretty good but mine … well it was awful.”
Culling from my own experience, I would have thought she’d decide one (if not all) of her dolls needed cosmetic attention. I didn’t really expect my kid to play hairdresser on herself.
Apparently, the folks who fix such hairy situations don’t always see this play out this way either.
“Oh, honey? Do you have an older brother?”
“Oh. We’ll, we usually see kids experimenting with haircuts on their younger brothers and sisters.”
“I DO have a little brother,” she replies excitedly.
I guess we know what to expect next.