"Nothing major," I said. "It's just—I can't see your eyes."
"Yeah. As long as it's just a trim," he replied.
"Don't worry. It'll be super minor."
I've been cutting Archer's hair for many years with no issues, and while his cuts aren't exactly perfect, they're fine and I take great pride in my mediocre work. I mean, I have zero haircut training and yet I cut everyone's hair in my house. (And yes, I realize Hal doesn't have any but I have been known to shave his head on occasion, behind the ears. You know, where I'm needed.)
This wasn't the first time I screwed up my kids' hair but it was the first time it MATTERED and oh, yes, it mattered. Ten-year-olds are not toddlers.
I knew it before he did, of course. I knew it before I even had proof. I was cutting too fast and then BAMHAKJSHDAJKHKJA. And for a moment, as I deliberated between admitting defeat and trying to justify it, I realized that instead of fighting this one, I was going to accept it. This one's on me.
I stood in front of the wave of regret and let it wash right on over me.
"Perhaps, this is a one of those pivotal moments in my parenting career," I thought, "the kind where I take a good long look at myself and realize, in the words of every single thing ever written about parenthood, I can't do it all and I need to stop trying."
Not that I ever thought I could, but I do have a very hard time delegating/asking for help/admitting that I cannot be the family barber shop as well as the family doctor, lawyer, cleaner, etc., etc., etc., infinity. I tend to insist on doing all the things myself. Not because I can do them well but because I have decided that, well, how hard could it be?
The answer, of course, is: HARD.
Anyway, as I stood there, with my son's botched bangs in my hand I realized that no only was it unfair for him to have a bad haircut, but it was unfair to me to assume I was some kind of hair stylist. Which, no. (Although I am pretty damn good at the Louise Brooks bob for toddlers.)
"Archer? I messed up," I said.
"I'm sure it's fine, Mom."
"No, dude. It's actually not fine."
"What do you mean? It's just hair. I don't even really care that much about—"
"Noooooo. This you're going to care about."
I started to cry.
"Mom! It's OK! Why are you crying? It's just hair!"
The floodgates opened as soon as I turned Archer toward the mirror and read his expression.
"MOM! WHAT DID YOU DO!?"
"I'M SORRY! I'm so sorry."
Through my tears I asked if I could attempt to fix it. And attempt to fix it, I did well do. But it only made it worse. And then I collapsed in a pile of hair and defeat.
"It's OK, Mom. It doesn't look that bad, " Fable said, handing me a glass of water. Meanwhile, Fable's face was all, "WHAT HAVE YOU DONE TO MY BROTHER!? HOW COULD YOU!?"
"I'll never be able to show my face at school tomorrow," Archer said. "Or ever again."
That's when I pulled myself together, procured Archer a baseball cap and the three of us got in the car, sirens blazing, to the nearest barber shop.
Which was closed. So was the second barber shop. AND the third.
Fourth time was the charm, however, and as we parked the car, everything suddenly became very funny. Archer, deciding his hat was too small, covered his head with a book, and Fable had the giggles and pretty soon we were all laughing, arm in arm, running as fast as we could towards our local Supercuts shouting, "HAIR EMERGENCY! COMING THROUGH! EXCUSE US WE HAVE AN EMERGENCY!"
Archer was in tears laughing by the time we got to the front desk of the salon and I was not about to temper his enthusiasm. My poor kid was laughing. It was my job to boost morale however I could. Fable joined me and together we rallied a lobby full of reluctant middle-aged men to contribute their own stories of yesteryear's bad haircuts.
The hairdresser to whom we were assigned was not amused by my story and quickly brought Archer back down to earth with, "There's nothing I can do to fix this, but I can cut your hair to 3/4ths of an inch all the way around."
Archer sank into his chair. I sank into the floor.
And then... the hairdresser proceeded to cut what was left of his hair off his head. Archer closed his eyes. I closed my eyes. Fable closed her eyes, too.
I hated it at first. So did he. Fable tried to make lemonade, but, like—yeah.
"You look so ... short-haired!" she said as we wandered back out into the afternoon.
You look so short-haired.
The next 48 hours were a bit of an emotional roller coaster. And then, that was it. Archer woke up two days later and told me he loved his new haircut. That he wanted to keep it short "like this" forever. And I forgot what he looked like any other way.
"I'm glad it all turned out OK," I said.
"I told you, Mom. It's just hair."
"I know you did. I love you."
"I love you, too."
Which brings me to today, three weeks later, with my retired scissors in an out-of-reach mason jar and my son doing his homework across the table from me with a haircut I caused by my mistake. With a haircut he has long since forgiven me for and miraculously, grown to to love.
And while I will never attempt to cut his hair AGAIN FOR AS LONG AS I LIVE, there will be countless times, metaphorically speaking, when I will botch his life in some way—thinking I know best when I don't. Not even close. There will be time after time when I will attempt to help and instead hurt. When I will believe that I can but cannot.