My three-year old son is sitting in a chair at the hairdresser.
“How would you like me to cut his hair?” she asks. Such a simple question, but I hear something totally different: “Who do you think he will become?” and “what kind of person will he be?”
Until now, I was the one to cut his hair, but I’m not very skilled at it, so I set up an appointment with my trusted hairdresser. I tell her to do what she thinks best, and sit down to read a magazine. But from time to time, I catch a glimpse of my son, being prepared for the haircut.
“Something short and simple “she suggests, and I nod.
I look at his golden hair and wait. Wait for that pang of sadness we’re supposed to feel when we realize our children will one day become adults. But it’s not there. I feel anticipation and joy – excitement even – but no sadness.
Somewhere in my head, the question forms: “Am I wishing this away? Isn’t he growing up too fast?”
I get annoyed with myself. Why am I still doing this to myself, even after all these years? I know I need to stop; this is getting ridiculous. Why should I be sad about something that is actually wonderful and miraculous? Isn’t it incredible that in a span of eighteen years, a small helpless baby turns into an actual person?
How can this be sad? I would never go back to the sleepless baby stage or that loud and whiny toddler stage. In fact, when I look at his older sisters, now 5 and 7, I see what the future has in store for him. And that future sounds good. Yes, I am more than ready for him to move over to the next stage of life.
And so is he. He is admiring his reflection in the mirror. And as the scissors start clicking and his hair is falling down on the floor, his eyes grow wide and his mouth stretches into a smile. Sometimes he blinks as the hairdresser sprinkles water onto his hair but he seems otherwise happy.
There is something else, too: he looks relieved. Finally, the vision he has of himself fits what he sees in the mirror: not a baby, but a little boy.
We tend to equate growing up with loss: a loss of innocence, of helplessness, of cuteness.
But that’s not how children experience it. For them, it’s just shedding of unnecessary parts so that they can morph into the adult they’re meant to be. Just like his big sister is losing her milk teeth to make room for her strong new set of pearls, my son is now shedding his hair to let his personality shine through.
And when it is all done, I realize that my son has never looked more himself. I also notice small details that make my heart swell, like that he has a graceful neck and perfectly formed ears. I wasn’t able to notice that because of all that baby hair. I compare this boy with the one I took to the hairdresser this morning and realize I like this one so much better.
Michelangelo has once said “I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free.”
I saw the boy, and later the man, in the baby. And joyfully set him free as well.