Parenting

10 reasons I’m delighted my daughter cut all her hair off

19 January, 2017

My children have a very beautiful relationship with creativity. At Christmas I made some dough and got out the festive cookie cutters and before I could say Jingle Bells the girls were on the table pressing their toes into the squidgy mass with joy. We get the paints out and they carefully and lovingly dabble a bit on the paper, and a bit on their face, a bit on the paper and a bit on their hair, their bellies, their knees.

“Show me your painting Juno!”👌 (Are kids the ultimate teachers of abandoning ourselves to the moment or what?) 😆

A photo posted by Lulastic & the Hippyshake (@lulasticblog) on

Early on I learnt to bite my lip; I didn’t want them to feel controlled by my arbitrary ideas about what counts as “art” and what counts as “mess”. Who am I to judge their own creations?

Whenever we get scissors out to cut shapes or paper people, they do the same thing; a snip of the paper, a snip of their fringe, a snip of a magazine and a great big walloping chunk out of the middle of their forehead. A few weeks ago I came in and they were surrounded by felt tips, shreds of paper and hair. Ramona had cut Juno’s hair down to one inch all over. It looked amazing. In a bald-patches kinda way. And they were both utterly stoked. They had a vision for their art, hair, whatever, and they made it happen. They did a little dance together, sang a song about being hair twins.

Ramona had cut all her own hair off a short while before. Well, she cut almost all of it. She left a 15 inch long plait at the base of her neck. Technically, it’s a ratstail. Hairstyle of the rebellious teenage boy in 1992. But to Ramona it is simply “her long bit” – the bit that means she has the best of both worlds.

My children love cutting hair so much they want to share it around. My mum and dad are visiting us from the UK next month and we wrote a big list of all the things we would like to do with them while they are here. Number seven is “Give Nana a hair cut”…I just know she is going to be SO EXCITED about that!

Ha.

When my children cut their hair I usually have one reaction – to fetch them sharper scissors. No-ones got time for a haircut executed with those tiny yellow giraffe schnizzors.

You see, when my kids cut their hair, I delight in it. For me it as a chance to send an important message to my daughters.

And it’s a chance that MANY parents get. Almost every child I know has picked up a pair of scissors and had (or tried to have) a little snippitysnip or a big chunkycrunk at their hair. My sister and I did it – she chopped off one of my pigtails. One kid I know experimented with an electric razor. Jeepers. Even if your child doesn’t give themselves a jazzy new style, there is still the same opportunity whenever they visit the hairdresser.

And in every instance we are invited to share a lesson with our kids about consent and body autonomy.She cut off all her hair, and her sister's. Here's why I'm glad.

So here we go- ten reasons I am happy about my daughter cutting all her hair off:

1- It is her body. She is the boss of it. She gets to say what happens to it. Either I mean this, or I don’t. If I do mean it this involves stepping back and watching her cut all her hair into a ratstail two weeks before a family wedding – even if she has been asked to be a bridesmaid.

2- It is her body. Nobody gets a say in what she does with it. I want her to continue in this vein for her whole life; giving Zero Effs to what other people expect her to do with her hair, face, or body.

3- It is her body. She does not belong to me. No child is the possession of their parents. We are here to guide them through this tricky world, not treat them like they are ours.

4- It is her body. It is her human right to have autonomy over her body. I’m not being dramatic.Body autonomy is one of our most basic human rights and forcing a kid to have a hair cut, or not have a hair cut is a violation of that right. Everyday we can choose to not infringe on rights of children in our homes.

5- It is her body. When I stand back now and let her do what she wants with her body, she learns a lesson that will serve her for the rest of her life.

6- It is her body. My daughter’s experience of body autonomy through my response to hair cutting will form a part of her ability to say a clear no to unwelcome touch, and is a key part of protecting her from sexual abuse.

7- It is her body. My daughter is at the start of her identity journey and getting to know herself, and love herself, and expressing herself with her body is something only she can do.

8- It is her body. No one should ever force anyone to do something, or not do something, with their own body. This is one of the fundamentals of dismantling the rape culture we live in.

9- It is her body. Giving herself a haircut and not coercing or manipulating her to do something more “socially acceptable” creates a culture of consent in our home. One of the greatest wishes I have for this world my girls are growing up in, is that our rape culture will be replaced by a culture of consent.

10- One last reason; It is her body.

I have a load more reasons in my head, just so we are clear. For example, wanting to save my children from the knowledge that society judges people by their looks. If I don’t blink when they do something dramatic to their appearance whilst they are young, perhaps that will provide a buffer of sorts to the stark fact that we can be a shallow, judgemental bunch. I could also have spoken about gender stereotypes and the good message that is given when I am not precious about her long hair. I could also have made a point about how practical and unknotty short hair is- quite frankly, it is mindbogglingly amazing.

But all of these pale in significance to the one clear truth that my child’s body is her body and she can do what she wants with it.

I want my children’s relationship with their body to be like the one they have with art; expressive and loving and fully autonomous.

NEW VIDEO

(Forgive these capital letters, melodramatic titles, it’s kinda the way Youtube works… meh.)

PS- I write with almost all the privilege there is and want to recognise that body autonomy looks different for those without the same privilege. I enjoyed this article about how to support a child who needs blood tests whilst upholding their body autonomy.  I would love to hear from others, to hear of how you support your child’s body autonomy whilst not being healthy or wealthy or white.  A little while ago my children got sick with something the internet told me was an illness that impacts mostly poverty stricken households. We were in a bad space for a few different reasons and I was feeling really nervous about taking them to the Dr, with their dreaded hair and felt tip all over their bodies and this Thing. I was worried they might ask questions, dig deeper. I scrubbed up, I put on the smartest clothes I had, and put my shoulders back and acted as if I hadn’t a care in the world. It was an awful, tragic glimpse of how lucky I was that I could do that. It was one of my first insights into how privilege works, and how my privilege is related to all these parenting choices. This radical, rights-upholding, respectful parenting is being done by a huge, diverse array of parents… but we must acknowledge the role of privilege.

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31 Comments

  • Reply Cookiessix 19 January, 2017 at 9:49 pm

    Completely agree, Lucy. My daughter has been having her hair cut very short for a few years now. I love no7 – it’s so important to let our children make their own journeys. I want her to know that she can be herself and is supported, that she does not need to feel pressure,from us, to conform to societal expectations or consent. That’s not to say that I don’t worry about judgements being made on her or her being put under pressure, particularly as she transitions into secondary school, in this still quite stereotypical society we live in. No parent wants their child to be the target of ridicule. All I can hope is that the unconditional support she receives at home regarding her body choices will give her the confidence to get through.

    • Lucy
      Reply Lucy 19 January, 2017 at 9:59 pm

      Yes, there is that. It is SUCH a shame that we have to accept that if our children make radical decisions with their bodies they will be shamed or ridiculed in a big or small way 🙁 Thank you for your wise comment!

    • Reply Jem 19 January, 2017 at 11:11 pm

      I had my hair cut incredibly short when I started secondary school and I distinctly remember on the first day a boy came and sat next to me, and we were chatting for over and hour, and then he asked my name… I told him Jemma and he wouldn’t believe me. He was convinced that I couldn’t have a girls name because I had short hair and therefore must be a boy.

      It was hilarious at the time but really should have been an indicator of how short-sighted people are even now. I regularly get called Sir or mistaken for a man despite having giant boobs (and often being in a dress while it happens)

      Anyway, I commented just to reassure you that despite the odd daft comment, my peers were far more accepting of my haircut at secondary school than you qould expect and I’m sure your daughter will be fine. 🙂

  • Reply Jem 19 January, 2017 at 11:03 pm

    Interesting! I consider bodily autonomy important but I told my daughter not to cut her hair when she was little. Not because I don’t want her having short hair (that would be hypocritical) but because if she wants it cut I’d rather a professional did it. Mostly because she had to go to preschool back then / has to go to school etc and obviously have certain rules about dress code and appearance.

    It can be a delicate balance, fitting in “yes it’s your body and you can do what you please” against the realities of a “regular” school/rule-driven childhood.

  • Reply Rach 20 January, 2017 at 12:46 am

    This may seem like a daft response, but this article has totally given me the confidence to book in my next haircut, get the fringe that I wanted the last time the but the stylist said no to, and whilst I’m at it get a whopping great undercut that I’ve been dreaming of because it will make my hair less heavy… but the last time I had one got told I look like a thug.

    I’m gonna be thirty soon, it’s about time I gave myself some body autonomy and cared less about what others think… basically it’s time to be more like Ramona!!

  • Reply Gem 20 January, 2017 at 9:14 am

    Great post – totally agree!! My son has his hair long long and I love it. He is mistaken for a girl daily – even in the most ‘boyish’ of clothes. He wants his hair long ( me and his dad have long hair too – perhaps that’s why?), however the other day we walked past a hairdresser and he said maybe he would get a haircut. My initial reaction was saying noooooooo! And then I thought- who am I to say what he does with his hair or any other part of his body and quickly corrected my self to him. He hasn’t mentioned it again but if he did decide he wanted his hair in a different style then I’d be right behind him.

  • Reply Sydney 20 January, 2017 at 9:27 am

    Yes! I love this. I am a mom to a boy with long hair, and it is amazing how much coercion there is for him to get it cut. He loves it long. He is serious about it. He is 3 and knows what is up with his style and body.
    Live Ramonas rat tail. It’s awesome, and so is that grin that goes along with doing exactly what her heart wanted to do!

  • Reply Jo 20 January, 2017 at 9:36 am

    This is great. Except YOU cut MY pigtail off

  • Reply Emily@ juicer healthy 20 January, 2017 at 3:27 pm

    Yeah. Completely agree – agree with your opinions. I had cut my hair like a boy when I was 4 years-old. And now I still keep all the photo. Since I know my hair is mine, like my body is mine, I love myself so much more. And now, I teach my son this lesson again.
    Emily@ juicer healthy recently posted…Detox recipes for juicing (get the glow)My Profile

  • Reply andi 20 January, 2017 at 9:14 pm

    You’ve taken me back to aged 9 when my best friend got dragged to the hairdressers by her mum. My friend screamed and protested. The poor hairdresser didn’t want to treat such an hysterical little girl. My own mum whispered an order that I was to say it looked nice. The day traumatised the pair of us. My friend had a tempestuous relationship with her mum from that day and has now completely lost touch with her.

    • Lucy
      Reply Lucy 20 January, 2017 at 9:54 pm

      My goodness. That is so sad.

  • Reply B 21 January, 2017 at 1:34 am

    I 100% agree. When I was a kid my mum made me and my sister get identical page boy type haircuts before being bridesmaids. I hated it I didn’t want it done and the memory of that feeling is still strong. I decided with my daughter that she could decide herself how she wanted to dress etc. When she was two she decided she didn’t want me to cut her fringe, I was fine with that. After all, she only wanted to grow it out like mine! It’s never been cut since and it’s beautiful. She’s talking about getting a bob now 🙂 one of the things I regularly hear her say is “it’s my body!” And I love that so much!
    Recently I talked to my mum about the enforced haircuts and she said “oh but it looked lovely” and I was like “no I hated it!” And she said I was lucky because her mum wouldn’t let her get her hair cut when she wanted to. And I said “but don’t you see, that’s exactly the same?” My step dad said “yes, like ‘I’m the mother and you WILL have your hair how I want!”
    Later my mum apologised and said that her parents had been very authoritative and she sees now it didn’t have to be that way.

  • Reply Lucy 21 January, 2017 at 11:12 am

    It’s so hard because any parenting decision you make seems to be seen as a direct raponse to your own upbringing. My mum is always feeling as though she has to justify her patenting of me when I make a comment about child rearing. I find it so odd that my opinion would be viewed as an attack on someone, rather then just ‘my opinion’
    I imagine Lucy will get some fairly strong responses to this because others will feel judged by her choices. I find this so strange that we get so worked up about other people’s choices as if they are a direct comment on our own.

    • Reply B 22 January, 2017 at 8:15 am

      You’re so right! I chose to become a vegetarian 20 years ago, and I can’t tell you how many times I have had strange conversations with people where they are so defensive and almost angry that my choice is sonehow a judgement of their choice to eat meat! And I’m not judging them at all for making their own choice. I’ve had the same more recently for not wanting to share images of my kids on the internet. People I know getting very defensive as if I’m somehow criticising their choice to share images of their own children. At the end of the day we’re all human and all different and all trying to do what we think is best for ourselves and our families.

      • Reply Nathalie 24 January, 2017 at 12:14 am

        I agree. My husband stopped drinking alcohol a year ago and it’s crazy how many people – even good friends – took it as a personal attack on their drinking habits (even though my husband couldn’t care less what they do).

  • Reply Kitty 22 January, 2017 at 11:54 am

    I broadly agree, but think this can tricky territory. For greetings and goodbyes, I won’t force my kids to kiss or hug anyone. They often do, because they have European relatives and it is just what they see with them all the time. But it is fine if they want to wave – they don’t have to touch or be touched. And one of mine has cut her own hair too – her hair was going in her eyes when she was playing and cutting it just got it out of the way. It looked great – a very cool fringe, if a little wonky and extended. Now she is older she likes going to the hairdresser twice a year and getting a small hot chocolate and probably won’t cut it herself again, though she could. But I think there are some tricky limits and it is really important to understand about consequences too – I know people who regret tattoos they got once because they could do want with their own bodies. And haircuts that were regretted, too cold in winter etc. And scars or dressings that just had to be changed. So body autonomy yes, but thoughtful autonomy and with context. And drawing with a felt tip on a sibling is fine, if they also consent, but not with permanent marker that itches and is sore. I think helping our kids understand decisions, consequences and context is an important part of parenting.

  • Reply Rebecca Beesley 23 January, 2017 at 5:04 am

    this is brilliant! My daughter had a huge chunk of hair cut off at school by another child and the teacher was furious about it all – I found it funny. It was kids being imaginative and role playing and I knew the hair would grow back. Off to read the article you link to about blood tests – my 4 year old has had blood tests every few weeks since she was two due to JIA, as well as the weekly methotrexate injections to keep the pain at bay so any tips like that to help would be welcomed.
    Rebecca Beesley recently posted…Aquabeads Star Wars Playset reviewMy Profile

  • Reply Nathalie 24 January, 2017 at 12:05 am

    Thank you for this article! “It’s my body” is a very important message. I find it easy to let my children decide on hairstyles and clothes and the like (resulting in really lovely and imaginative combinations). I am curious what your opinion is on underage teenagers who want tattoos or other permanent alterations. Do you find it disempowering to say “Wait till you’re 18!”?

    • Lucy
      Reply Lucy 26 January, 2017 at 12:59 pm

      18 is SO arbitrary. I got tatts and piercings under 16 and don’t regret any of them 😛

      • Reply Dave Smith 30 January, 2017 at 11:04 am

        Having autonomy is one thing, adhering to the (perhaps stupid) laws of the land is another. It 18 yo for a tattoo in the UK by law.

  • Reply C Kilgour 24 January, 2017 at 12:22 pm

    I have three children, all boys. They have all through personal choice had long hair. Not just a little long but as in gone years without a hair cut long. The oldest one still has hair over the back of his collar as he just does not like people touching his head/hair.

    I can name three other boys they play with regularly that have long hair. Plus other boys they have spent time with over the years that have had really long hair.

    As my two older boys would say to adults who commented on their hair, “just because I have long hair does not make me a girl”.

    It isn’t just girls that have pressure to appear a certain way and I am glad that my children have the opportunities to decide for themselves. I tell them about their uncle who was a camp counselor and would spend the summer growing his hair and a beard to shave it all off in time to put on a suit to go back to the office once camp was over.

    • Lucy
      Reply Lucy 26 January, 2017 at 12:58 pm

      Oh I totally agree! It is ridiculous how long haired boys get so much crap!

  • Reply Becky 26 January, 2017 at 8:05 pm

    I do love you Lucy and your fresh perspective. You are so right it is her body and long long may she know this
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  • Reply Vicki 28 January, 2017 at 2:16 pm

    I find that there is a societal expectation that girls have long hair and boys have long. It is bogus. Just last night my 6 year old daughters friend referred to her hair in a negative way because it is “short”. Apparently girls do not have short hair. Hers is shortish which she chose because she never wants to brush her hair EVER which is fine by me. Short hair for her is easier to manage. A few years ago I watched a couple of friends go through a head lice epidemic at their school. The girls all had long, thick hair which took forever to brush, forever to treat with goo and the girls were miserable for months. Most of the time it is not about what the kid wants, it is about the parents and their daughters looking a certain way to fit an expectation of what someone who does not even know you says is “proper”. Pffft plus a few expletives.

  • Reply Vicki 28 January, 2017 at 2:17 pm

    Oops that first line is meant to read “boys have short”….where is my editor 🙂

  • Reply Emma 28 January, 2017 at 10:57 pm

    Absolutely it is her body. What an amazing gift of empowerment you are giving her. My son has long hair and rocks it. He gets a hard time from others sometimes but has the strength to follow his own path.

  • Reply Parenting with Radical Acceptance | Happiness is here 12 February, 2017 at 9:22 pm

    […] our child ‘should’ behave and instead responding to them moment by moment. We let go of what society tells us children ‘should’ be, our own ideas of what a ‘good‘ child is, our biased […]

  • Reply The Hippy Christian Mum 15 February, 2017 at 1:44 pm

    Fabulous. So glad I found your blog, so much wisdom & freedom. I was heart broken for my daughter when we went to the hairdresser and she wanted her hair cut into a bob and the hairdresser talked over her to me asking if it was ok, then tried to ‘talk her out of it’ then just cut it totally different to how she asked. I knew she didn’t like it so I asked the hairdresser to cut it again shorter but it spoiled the experience and made it something else entirely. Needless to say they were gobsmacked when it was my turn and I had a subcut. I’ll never go back there & I’m gutted we chose that place. It would have been better to let her do her own. I loved watching your vid & how you cut your fringe when you’re excited!

  • Reply Maria 28 February, 2017 at 10:21 pm

    She looks so cute 😉

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