The harrowing tales of kids who cut their hair – or their sisters’ |

The harrowing tales of kids who cut their hair – or their sisters’

Alison Osius

My friend Heather at 4 had ponytails on either side of her head, until the day when her brother, Neil, 6, lopped one off.Heather walked home with one ponytail and one short sprout, a nub, on her head. She carried the amputated hank in her hand. “Look what Neil did,” she said to her mother.”Here’s the thing to do,” her mother said calmly, and cut off the other one.Still, “Neil got in trouble,” Heather remembers. “Because he had also cut up the neighbor’s lawn chair.”Last week my friend Rin walked into a room to find Ian, 7, sawing off a chunk of the hair just left of center forehead. She froze, dimly remembering advice from magazines read in pediatricians’ offices, saying that such a moment you are not to scream, but to say something nearly impossible, such as, “That looks interesting.””I guess every kid does this at some point and you are supposed to laugh about it,” she said. “It really looks awful, though. Maybe they mean you will laugh about it in a few months, when it grows.”Kids have long been drawn to the power and mystery of sharp implements. “It’s cause and effect,” says Karen Greenwood, a first- and second-grade teacher from Glenwood Springs. “They wonder, ‘Are these sharp? What would happen if?'” The problem was more prevalent when she taught preschoolers, but she must watch even her current charges with scissors. They play with them, testing: dreamily twist a blade up into their noses, gently snip the air ever closer to their shirt collars. She simply takes the scissors away, saying that if children cannot obey the rules about them, they cannot use them for a while.My own brother, Ted, at 6 cut my sister Lucy’s hair, right up to the scalp, with Frankenstein bangs, and that of all her dolls (he also spray painted some of them silver, which gets a little weird).On the morning of his fifth birthday, a few hours before his party and three days before a beach reunion with my family, my son Roy, in a moment of excited, exalted daring, chopped off a huge hunk of his hair dead-center of his forehead. Straw-straight bangs on either side framed the blank square, set off by a widow’s peak.That was the year that crew cuts were newly stylish. Both boys had been begging for them, but I had refused. The next day I took Roy to the barbershop and asked that the ‘do be evened out, with as much salvaged as possible.”Not down to a crew cut,” I said.”This part up here is really short,” she said. “It’s a one” – a millimeter, an eighth-inch, a military cut. Which presented a parental conundrum: by doing something wrong, Roy got something he wanted. My family dubbed it his prison-warden cut.I asked Roy today what “consequence” I gave him at that time, and he hurriedly tossed off a stern one, “Oh, you know, probably no dessert for a week or maybe two.”My friend Kir’s daughter Natalie at 2 had two little yellow braids. One night Kir atypically left the family overnight, with her spouse, Penn, in charge, to go backcountry skiing.”When I walked in around dinnertime, Penn met me at the door. That’s when I knew something had happened.”Five minutes earlier, he had noticed an ominous silence, and entered the living room to find a game of barbershop under way. Lacey, 4, had sat a happily compliant Natalie in a little chair and chopped the braids. They would require a year to regrow.”I was so sad. I had to swallow and remember,” says Kir, “that hair grows.”Heather Fitzgerald, a preschool teacher in Carbondale, says that one or two children a year in her class cut their hair. “It’s an obvious and easy experiment. (Apparently) hair is meant to be cut.”Alison Osius lives in Carbondale and can be reached at

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