Illustration by James Callahan
We are a pretty agreeable bunch at Parental Rites headquarters, but there is one topic that is hotly contested, and that's hair. Not Tad's, because he shaves his off, and not mine, because it hasn't changed much since college. It's The Boy's hair that is controversial, which almost makes me proud to say, because we need all of the "conventional parenting" points we can get! Hair is a classic parenting issue if there ever was one. Chalk up one Ward and June point for us, and act like you don't notice that it's all alone up there on the scoreboard.
The Boy was born with a luxurious head of thick, dark hair, which lightened to golden blond by the time he was a year old. The day before his first birthday, we toted him up Forest Hill Avenue to Doc's Barber Shop and had him transformed from an unruly little dandelion to a picture-perfect baby straight out of a 1950s Gerber ad. Buzzed short on the sides and just long enough on top to provide an adorable wave, it suited him, and he seemed to like it fine.
A few haircuts in, we got the idea that a simple 'do like The Boy's could be done at home with a pair of clippers and a dropcloth. Tad got out the clippers and set to work. We were right: Technically, it was a decent haircut, but Tad didn't have the same nuanced hand as Doc when it came to blending the longer top part into the buzzed sides. It looked as if we'd given The Boy a bowl-on-the-head haircut, but instead of a bowl, we'd used a bread-and-butter plate. I thought he was absolutely adorable, but my mom gave us a peeved side-eye when he came trotting up her front walk with his new 'do.
Once The Boy was verbal enough to convey his opinion, he balked at the length, a problem Tad was able to temporarily solve by dubbing the style "a Clone Trooper haircut" and convincing The Boy that, underneath their helmets, all Clone Troopers were sporting a similarly austere cut. That worked until The Boy was no longer interested in Clone Troopers and instead yearned to look like an anime villain with electric blue spikes. Tears were shed. Tad didn't have the heart to power up the clippers, so, for lack of a better solution, we let it grow.
It might make sense to mention that Tad's hair is so incredibly thick and fast-growing that it grows out instead of down. Like a Chia Pet, only not curly. Actually, like a Monchhichi monkey. It's an enviable head of hair, but it drives him crazy, so he shaves it all off. The Boy inherited Tad's hair. After only a few weeks on the no-clipper regimen, he was sporting an impressive puffy dome around his head that my mom found adorable, but that made Tad itch just looking at it.
"That can't be comfortable to lug around everywhere," he wheedled in one of many failed attempts to persuade The Boy to submit to a shearing. "It looks like you borrowed a wig from somebody with a head twice your size." The Boy stomped out of the room and refused to speak to Tad for the rest of the night, after handing him a carefully printed note that read "DON'T BRAG ABOUT MI HAIR." He did eventually learn the difference between bragging and insulting — and we determined that as long as his hair stayed long enough that it could be spiked up on top with a dab of gel, he was happy. We resigned ourselves to paying $12 at the mall every few weeks for a gum-cracking 20-something to clean up his edges and spritz him with spray.
Sometimes we get lazy or busy or both, though. That happened recently, and suddenly it was as if we were living with Cousin It. The Boy could not have been prouder, dampening his hair in the tub and carefully shaping it into a bro-metal fauxhawk with the aid of a little shampoo.
"You're getting a haircut tomorrow," Tad groaned. "You look like a dimetrodon." The Boy beamed, because what kid doesn't want to look like a dimetrodon? And what kid doesn't want his dad to be a little disgusted by his hair?
It was a short-lived victory. Tad took him for a trim the next morning.Now if he'd just turn down that noise he calls music, darn it, we could get a moment's peace.