Thursday, November 19, 2009

The Big Deal About Hair

The other afternoon the principal emailed all the parents to inform them that a large number of students in the school have been diagnosed with lice, and in order to prevent the further spread of lice --in addition to the normal precautions of staying home if you have the little buggers-- she's "requesting that all children come to school with a fitted head covering that remains on their head all day." Sounds reasonable, although I have to admit that, being the Baptist-bred girl that I am I had a little giggle at the term "head covering" and wondered if it was in fact April 1st. No, it is not, so stop giggling.

The quibble began that night, as soon as I told my very long-haired daughter of the orders from the higher-ups. Without a pause she proclaimed, "everybody's going to be wearing their hair down, mama!" Oh. So apparently that email from the principal was a joke? Dubious.
The next morning I proposed a cute idea for putting her hair up, and if she didn't like it she could change it, as long as it was ok'd by the teacher. But she still had to have her hair up. Up is the point. No dangling hair swishing around, picking up lice. So I do her hair in the cutest little low-pigtail-braids-looped-under thing and send her off to school.
She looked worried.
She nervously fondled her braids.
She schemed.
I took Morgen into her class, and then out of curiosity, went to Korah's classroom to check out how other kids were creatively carrying out the principal's orders. These were the teacher's words: "I saw Korah come in with the super-cute braids, then she ran to the bathroom and came back with her hair down."
My heart sunk. There she was, long hair swishing around, with a brown knit beenie, rockin' the "hipster or homeless" fad. Gone were her American Girl looped braids I'd worked so hard on, as if they'd never existed, her hair still damp from her morning shower.

I am angry. I can't believe she just wasted my time, totally went behind my back, purposefully waited until I wasn't looking to take those braids out...!
Now, something that I'm discovering about myself is that anger is my go-to cover-up for pain. Anger comes easy for me as a learned and rehearsed response. Anger makes me scary and then I can control people, muahahaha! It works great with kids. Of course, the problem with anger is that it sabotages every other parenting goal I have, like communicating unconditional love to my kids. So now the question is, what hurts? Is it that she didn't like my hair-do? That she is risking putting us through Lice, a.k.a. Hell On Earth? That she didn't ask the teacher like I'd suggested, she just changed? That she was kinda sneaky about it? And then I realize what is hurting me the most.

I am a control freak. For 10 years give or take I have been in control --and rightly so-- of what my kids eat, drink, watch, wear, who they hang out with, where they play, what they play with... it's my job. And I love how being responsible for these little lives has caused me to think twice about everything I do, why I should make certain choices and how I need to grow as a person. My own faith has been strengthened as I am challenged to figure out what I believe and to live out the Gospel in front of my kids so that it's not just a fairytale cliche to them. But kids grow up and become adults, obviously. Adults who need to decide for themselves what to wear, how to do their hair, who to play with and what to eat! I have had this goal in mind for my children all along, but if I am really honest about myself I would have to admit...(gulp)...that I am hurt that I have to let up some control over Korah's life. If she gets lice, she will have some consequences to be sure (we all will). But if I make her hair into a big, huge My-Way-Or-The-Highway deal, of course she's not going to trust me with her opinion, her heart. She'll just wait until I'm not looking and change it.

I'm stepping into a new role. Well, not new entirely. I believe that if you're paying attention, God eases you into these new stages. But in this new era of fighting over stupid things like hair-do's, skinny jeans and attempts to consume candy en mass, the bottom line for me is to love my kids no matter what. If you haven't yet walked through puberty with your kids, you will think that is a no-brainer. Of course I'm going to love my kids no matter what! But this particular morning I struggled with that. I struggled with forgiving my kid for having her own opinion about hair for Pete's sake, and for not needing or wanting my help.

And this is where I deepen my understanding of...
a whole lotta things. If I love my daughter, I will let her make choices and take appropriate risks. I will leave room for failure or disappointing consequences. I will be prepared to be on her team, win or lose, cheering her on, being her biggest fan. I always used to think that would be easy for me, seeing as how I intensely want that same respect from my parents. Well, that and how I love my kids so much and they are so amazing and how could our family not be that anomaly of perfect relationships? But in real life, your kids grow up faster than you ever expected, and your role warps and changes before your very eyes and is quite a malleable thing (you are now realizing), and no matter who you are, this is largely a train-on-the-job experience. But that's where unconditional love can be learned. Right now, marriage is teaching me the same thing: how to love like Jesus. And every time I take a step toward giving up the idea that my relationships aren't solely about me and my own happiness, my heart opens up and I see how deeply God loves me, giving His Son to live, struggle and then die selflessly on my behalf. And geez...that Love is so huge, it's way bigger than any hurt I could ever receive from my husband or my kids.

I want to end with a little excerpt from Sacred Parenting (Gary L. Thomas). I haven't read the whole thing, but I'm glad to know that this book is based on an idea that God is already in the process of teaching me: that marriage and parenting can change my character, make me more human, more dependent on and like Him if I let it...
"When a child disobeys, God calls us to respond in love. Anger may become a servant of love, but it must never define it. Children need to see our total commitment to them, so they realize that our angry response does not reflect self-seeking (as though the greatest offense is the embarrassment brought on us) but rather shows a fierce and passionate concern for their well-being. Anger that mirrors God's own anger is thus a selfless anger. One element of self-interest remains -- grief that a relationship has been betrayed and that trust has been broken -- but the grief tilts toward what the offender has lost and toward our hope for their welfare." Sacred Parenting, Gary L. Thomas; chapter 7: Burning Love

That is what I hope to look like as a mom...

**PS- do you like my Donald Miller-esque bold paragraph headings? For some reason I hated that he was doing that and now, for some reason, I'm feeling compelled to try it out! What is that all about?!


Sarah said...

ha! i totally noticed the miller-esque-ness. i tried it once before too. i kinda like it. but it doesn't show up so well on my black with white.

sweet post by the way. :)

Carine said...

Wendy, I always love your FB statuses, and I do read your blog updates. I feel in the same kind of shoes these days (one child less than you guys, though), with our oldest being 11y'old and some more months, it seems like we are on the brink of teenagehood which then turns so fast to adulthood. She most likely has lived most of her years with us already... and our relationship is shifting to something different these days. So anyway, reading your post today rang a bell (a cow bell even, one of the big ones) for me.

Shannon Luders-Manuel said...

Tell her when lice went through my school I got it and all my hair got chopped off. Maybe that will scare her into submission. ;)