Friday, May 7, 2010

Not Your Mama's Haircut

Today Mister got his first official barbershop haircut. Between early attempts to connect with college student makeshift barbers and today, his curly locks had been subjected to the unskilled hand of his mother. And I am ashamed to admit that Wal-Mart clippers and a folding stool had been our practice for over a year and a half.

Even before Mister came home I had been making preparations for his hair. I was reading up, polling students and soaking in the responsibility and opportunity afforded me by meeting my Black child’s hair care needs. Then the well-studied adoption concept became a real little boy in a photo. Then that real little boy came home and was terrified of strangers and new places. And was so compellingly cute that I single-handedly decided that the #1 all over and some lotion would suffice. The first time I sat Mister down on the folding-stool-step-ladder my husband gently reminded me that I was steering off course. “You are not going to be that White lady.”

“What?” I said, acting like I wasn’t the one who had read him searing memoirs of African-American children who had been subjected to the loving ignorance of well-meaning White parents.
“Tony says you don’t line-up babies. Mister was so scared anyway. I think I can do this.”
He shook his head in disappointment.

I recently learned (by way of a gracious friend and the business card she slipped in my pocket) of a potential barber in the area. So I steeled myself against the tear-rimmed puppy dog eyes of my stranger-phobic son. I cushioned the bad news with promises of treats from the bakery across the street, but not even chocolate chips could change his mind. “I don’t want to. I don’t want to. I don’t want a haircut.” I promised to hold his hand. I promised it wouldn’t hurt. I promised to buy him a pony.

When it was his turn he climbed reluctantly into the chair and commenced to pout. He held still, with a furrowed brow and tense shoulders, reaching for my hand from under the apron. My secret plan was to watch and learn and replicate at home. The barber patiently explained his methods and process, but five minutes into the experience I knew I was unworthy of his informal apprenticeship. Not only was he skilled, but he had more tools. He kept changing clippers and deftly moving around my son’s head. So I stopped watching and turned my attention to the waiting area where Sister was pushing the stroller in tight circles, Peanut smiling and intermittently tasting the warm string cheese which had assumed the shape of her palm.

I decided that some things are for learning and some things are better left to the experts in the growing village of people who bless our family. Ten dollars means my son gets properly cut. “Wait ‘till Dad sees me,” Mister said in the car. “He is going to be so proud.” Of you and me both, little man.