The Time Traveling Haircut

About three weeks ago, I needed a haircut. Badly. I generally prefer my hair short. my hair doesn’t look good long. It suddenly takes on an alarming amount of volume and begins to coif in a way reminiscent of the late, fabulous Lady Di.

As Ian had been asking for, then protesting against, a haircut for weeks, I decided to bring him along with me last Tuesday. My own cut was uneventful. They have my numbers on file, and I just let them go crazy. Ian had insisted on going after me, and he watched with passing interest while we both rebuffed efforts by other stylists to get his hair clipped sooner.

When Ian’s turn came, I stared in fascination at this process I’d seen several times before. I lifted my little “crazy hair” three-year-old onto the barber’s chair.  He sat with patience, his gaze steady and stern, as his blonde locks dropped like pedals upon his penguin apron. He wasn’t anxious; he wasn’t excited; he wasn’t overjoyed.

In too few minutes later, the stylist revealed a young man, a four-year-old in place of my little “Nian.” An entire year gone with a couple of clipped inches.

Each of Ian’s haircuts has had this effect. He goes from a wild little kid to a strapping young man in the span of ten minutes. Tuesday’s haircut had the unfortunate timing of occurring the day before he turned four years old. Had we timed it right, that haircut could have literally turned him from three to four, but I’ve been asked to “quit coming up with terrible ideas for Ian’s birthday.”

It’s amazing to me how this helpless, tiny bundle has gone from neon-colored burrito to meerkat. Every minor moment in Ian’s life echoes tenfold throughout mine — which is true of any son or daughter. A new bump or word or food preference becomes dozens of concerns, considerations, or calculations. What is whimsy to him is canon to us.

So much of Ian’s life involves figuring things out for the first time. By virtue of his birth, he is our beta-tester, our guinea pig, and our Kickstarter. (Donate now, and you’ll get an exclusive artwork done by Ian, himself!)

Last year for Ian was one of personal relationships. We watched as he made friendships and lost them, as he treated others with respect and didn’t, as he adopted others’ bad habits and forgot them. “Best friends” have come and gone in as many calendar days, but what has remained is Ian’s thoughtfulness, helpfulness, and enthusiasm.

All of this, however, flew past me in the span of his haircut. Before I could adjust to the emotions this kind of rapid aging evokes, Ian was swept clean and waiting for me to set him back. Below the chair we shared, I noticed my spent hair mingled with his. I crouched down with my phone.

“Why are you taking a picture of my haircut?”

“Because it seems significant somehow,” I said. Before he could ask any more questions, I heard the stylist ask him, “Do you want a sucker?”

Then he was gone, eager for the next, tired of the last: my brand new four-year-old.