It takes several days and two mothers to cut Rowan’s hair. I begin the process in the bathtub, slicking down his hair with a wet washcloth and baby comb while he plays with Styrofoam Dora letters — “Oh! This one S!” he says. “For Tico!” “Yes,” I say, “Tico is a squirrel.”
The trick is not to let him know he’s getting a haircut, to hide the scissors quickly behind my back whenever he turns around. The trick is also, of course, not to draw blood while at the same time making it look as though a reasonable adult with a steady hand — and not, say, another two-year-old — gave him a trim. We’ve learned the secret of cutting up, not across, but that doesn’t work so well for getting things straight at the nape of his neck, the backs of his ears. Mostly, I cut relatively blind. “Well,” I say to Rachel, later that night in bed, “he has a lot less hair now.” We’ll see in the morning, when it dries, if there are any overly egregious bald spots or wavy lines.
I am mostly concerned with cutting before Rowan develops a full-on mullet, before the hair grows so thick at the sides of his head that he begins to resemble a football — what I now term wide head. Rachel is more concerned about his bangs growing over his eyes, so she takes over the next day while Rowan circles the coffee table with his toy trains. She manages several passes with the scissors before he runs away. And now we can see his eyes and his forehead again. His head is once again suitably, sweetly narrowed. I’m struck, as I always am whenever we give him a trim, of both how tiny and how grown up he is. The back of his neck is a bit of a hash: we’ll need to find a way to even up the hairline, get rid of the fine down — monkey hair, I call it — beneath it. A razor? Do we dare?
A little while ago, I was pondering a blog entry called “The day before you get a haircut”: when you’re so excited to finally get to your stylist, only to look in the mirror and realize that your hair looks fantastic and you don’t want to get it cut. With the new baby due in six weeks, Rowan suddenly became even sweeter, sunnier, more fun, and I found myself wishing we had more time with him alone before forever altering the dynamic.
Fortunately, however, things seem to have shifted. Our sunny toddler has become recently, rabidly passionate about most decisions: putting on a hat, sunscreen, his shoes, going inside. As I sat on the sidewalk yesterday, holding him in my lap while pinning down his arms so that Rachel could wrestle his (carefully chosen, 100% organic cotton) hat on his wailing head (only to have him rip it off repeatedly, yelling “No no no no no no no no no!”), I got a close-up view of the back of his sweaty, sunburned, messy little neck. We’ll need to fix it up one of these days.