Ever since I first let my husband take Older Boy to get his haircut without my supervision, my darling husband has been encouraging Older Boy to get a Mohawk. The vision of my firstborn sporting a Mohawk was not one I was interested in seeing become a reality, so Older Boy had to make do with faux-hawks instead. For two years, Older Boy would climb up into the haircutter’s chair and eagerly request a Mohawk, and evil Mommy would put the kibosh on it. Having been the subject of bullying on-and-off while growing up, I didn’t want Older Boy to become the subject of ridicule because he chose to look different. He’s just a little boy, I reasoned every time he would pout while getting his haircut. I’m only protecting him.
Older Boy’s desire for a Mohawk only grew after we became friends with Will, a 6-foot something former military guy who sports a mean Mohawk most days out of the year. I remember walking in on conversations between the husband and Will during which they were assessing the best way to get Older Boy’s hair into a Mohawk. So when Will and his family came over for dinner during mid-December, I knew immediately what was up when Will, Older Boy, and my husband were suddenly nowhere to be found. I walked into the master bathroom to the sound of electric clippers, and I found my son standing in the middle of the bathtub, absolutely giddy over his honest-to-goodness Mohawk.
How we managed to get him to go to sleep that night, I’ll never know. What I do know is that I was absolutely horrified about his hair, though I tried my best not to let on to him. The next morning, he shot out of bed and eagerly danced in place while my husband styled his Mohawk. He was so ready for his friends to see his “cool Mohawk.” As he raced out the door to the bus stop, I put my apprehensions aside and hoped that everyone else would love his haircut as much as he did.
Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case.
My father, who walked Older Boy to the bus stop, reported that the other kids made fun of his Mohawk. Instead of bringing home a green card that evening, he brought home an orange card – he’d had significant problems behaving that day. He didn’t seem to care that the orange card would preclude him from being able to wear his hair up in the Mohawk on Tuesday. And Tuesday morning, he refused to go to school, admitting to me that some of the kids at school had called his hair “stupid” and made fun of him.
I was crushed. To see my enthusiastic, happy, and social 5-year-old change into a sad and wary child, overnight, tore me up inside. And to know that my husband had made this happen, indirectly, by encouraging Older Boy to get the Mohawk and then setting it up to happen – well, that infuriated me. I pulled very few punches in relaying to my husband that Older Boy’s Mohawk had not, in fact, been warmly received by his schoolmates. All day, I fought the urge to call the school up and find out whether he was still being picked on. I spent my free moments that day researching ways to fix a Mohawk. I couldn’t stop thinking about my forlorn little boy. I couldn’t stop thinking about having been picked on myself. I couldn’t stop beating myself up for allowing this to have happened.
I hurried home after work that Tuesday, determined to ease Older Boy’s upset. There were 2 days until Christmas break – if he didn’t want to go school for those two days, I wasn’t going to push him. If he wanted to get the rest of his head buzzed off, I was going to take him to get it done. I was going to make this better for him.
Only, as it turns out, I didn’t need to.
I walked in the house to find Older Boy happily sitting at the dining table, doing his homework. He excitedly told me he had gotten a green card at school that day. And he asked if that meant he could wear his Mohawk to school on Wednesday. Confused, I asked him why he would want to wear his hair like that again, after all the other kids had teased him.
“Because I think it’s cool. If anyone else says it’s stupid, I’ll tell them to stop. And if they don’t, I’ll tell their teacher.” He sat up straight in his chair. “I know who everyone’s teacher is.”
I was stunned. There I was, ready to race in and save the day, pitying my poor child for not understanding the consequences of looking different, and, instead, he taught me a lesson about the resilience of children. He didn’t need me to save the day. All he wanted from me that evening was some cuddling and a bedtime story – he didn’t need me to figure out the solution for him, he just needed me to be there for him. For all of my worries, my anger at my husband, my anger at myself, it all came down to letting my son be himself.
Older Boy proudly wore his Mohawk to school on Wednesday. He thought it was cool, and that was all that mattered.
To say I was proud would be a massive understatement.