When my nephew was a baby, about 18 months old, he had this strip of hair that was always in his eyes. It drove both of us crazy. So I cut it one night when I was left on my own with him, just that tiny piece at the front. His mother was furious, she'd never cut his hair before, ever. I couldn't see what the big deal was back then, it was 10 years ago, and I thought I had done the kid a favour. The mother in question went on to shave the little guy's head a few months later, which baffled me even more.
But, a few months ago as I stood in front of J, a pair of scissors in my hands and tears in my eyes, I finally got it - that first haircut is a big step. J hardly had any hair for the first 11 months of his life and when it did grow it grew fast and in patches. When it came time to trim the few errant strands that he did have, I was heartbroken and insisted on doing it myself. I kept those few precious locks in a little envelope in his baby album, for no one's sake but my own. Of course, it was a complete hatchet job and we had to take him to a real hairdresser a few days later, but it was important to me that I could say that I had given him his first haircut. We went along to a small salon where they had a ride-on car and TV screens to distract the little ones and we took photos. It was all over in a matter of minutes and he looked like a new kid. Not only that, he looked like a little boy. To me that first haircut was like a rite of passage - it marked the start of toddlerhood. My little boy was no longer a baby. It was also the end of my haircutting days...
J now has quite a bit of hair. It's growing thick and fast and evenly, all over his little head, finally. He's had a couple of haircuts since that first one, and he's hated every minute of it. He thrashes about and cries and clings onto one or both of us. The last one was such a disaster it looks like I did it myself.
Here the local Chinese believe that if you shave a baby's head, he or she will be blessed with thick lustrous locks their whole life. There are a lot of babies getting around with buzz cuts, even little girls, and I find it a little disturbing. The little baldies look like mini prison escapees, or like they've had a nasty head lice infestation. Apart from the whole lifetime of enviable hair thing, there are advantages to taking to the little one's head with the clippers. With his perpetually snotty nose and bad, homestyle 'fro, J's a set of scabbed knees away from looking like no one loves him. At least he's robust and healthy looking, so it's obvious that he's well fed, if not well groomed.
I'm on this topic tonight because we've been delaying another haircut. Part of me wants to let it grow out until it's a mass of unruly blonde locks, but I do like a short back and sides. I'm sure no matter how I cut his hair, at some point J will want to shave his head, or dye it blue or something equally outrageous just to scare his mother, but for now, while I can't stop him from growing up so quickly, I can keep his hair out of his eyes.