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How to Survive Your Daughter's Horrible Haircut

Photograph by Getty Images

It was supposed to be a pleasant outing to get haircuts for both my kids. They were excited about the lollipops they get at the end, and I was looking forward to seeing their faces without all that hair in the way. There were auspicious signs along the way: a parking spot in front, minimal bickering from the children, and my favorite '80s song playing when we walked in (Madonna's "Borderline").

Having long ago decided not to power struggle with my 6-year-old daughter about her hair, I let her do the talking. Because I theoretically support her autonomy and right to manage her body, including her hair, I have to let go of how long or short she wants it.

As Madonna faded and the opening chords of the Go-Go's "Vacation" piped through the salon, I listened in as my daughter told the hair dresser, whom I'm sure is a very lovely person, that she wanted her hair cut to her mouth. My daughter lifted her hand until it was even with her lips. "Right here," she said.

Autonomy, schmatonomy.

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"Um, Sweetie," I said, as I sidled over to butt right in. "You know you can't wear a pony tail if you have hair that short." Honest to God, I was trying to be practical, not controlling. There's a difference. Also? My daughter has thick wavy hair and the shorter it gets, the more it resembles a mushroom. I love her, but it's true.

I stopped listening and started gathering the mounds of my daughter's hair pooling at the base of her chair. I may or may not have been weeping softly.

The hairdresser looked at me, and we shared a moment. She leaned close and whispered, "chin-length bob?" I winked and nodded, and I'm not even a winker. We shared one last glance in the mirror, confirming that we, the sage adults, knew how short was too short for my little fungi-head.

Convinced the situation was under control, I joined my son and his stylist. I gave her minimal instructions. "Short on the sides, longer on top, clean by the ears." My son's a squirmy 4-year old, so I stuck around, singing like Belinda Carlisle in his ear. Strangely, he was not impressed.

Out of the corner of my eye, I saw my daughter's cut was well underway. When my eyes focused, I saw that on the right side her hair was cut well above her chin and her mouth. It was cut up near her eyebrow. I wanted to remain calm so as not to freak out my daughter, but it took every ounce of serenity to casually speed-waltz over to my daughter's stylist to find out what happened after our "moment." (So much for inviting her over for Christmas dinner.)

She said she cut it shorter "to frame her face." I stopped listening and started gathering the mounds of my daughter's hair pooling at the base of her chair. I may or may not have been weeping softly.

The last thing I wanted to do was inflict my daughter with any of my angst, so when she said, "It's a little short, but I like it," I assured her I did, too.

Of course, it's only hair. It will grow back. There are kiddos out there dealing with serious health issues. I've got no business moaning about a couple extra inches off my daughter's hair.

However, if you find yourself in this position and want to know how to move forward, here's what worked for me:

1. Text your husband and best friend telling them how terrible you feel for not protecting your daughter from a mushroom-y haircut.

2. Swear to anyone who will listen you will never, ever step foot in that salon ever again.

3. Tip the hairdresser 15 percent because you're not a monster.

4. Beat yourself up for tipping someone who steamrolled over you and your daughter.

5. Binge on chocolate-covered almonds.

6. Google pictures of people with adorable short hair. Go heavy on Audrey Hepburn, Anne Hathaway, Lupita Nyong'o and Michelle Williams.

7. If, in the next few months, mushrooms are on your grocery list, let your husband buy them.

8. Consider getting your hair as short as your daughter's in solidarity.

9. Hug your daughter all the time and remind yourself that she's so much more than her hair.

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10. Explore your bias against short hair and consider how the dominant beauty paradigm might come between you and your daughter.

11. Vow never to let anything as dumb as hair length come between you and your adoration of your daughter.

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