Representing the Family

When my sisters and I were small, my dad was adamant that appearances went hand in hand with being considered a good kid.

“You’re representing our family,” my dad would say to us gruffly whenever we were out of line, or when we decided that the wrinkled clothes on our bedroom floor were perfectly acceptable to wear to school. I still remember the look on my dad’s face, and the way he couldn’t speak to me for days, when I shaved the bottom of my head for a more punk look. I was only trying to find myself, to separate myself from the drones of prep students who I didn’t fit in with anyway. My mother was irritated at the action I chose to took, but decided that it was just hair, and that it would grow back. My dad, on the other hand… “You look like a butt,” my dad said when he could finally talk to me.

The thing about hair is that it has such an effect on how a person’s appearance is perceived. It can determine if you’re hard or soft, capable or inept, serious or lazy, Charlize Theron or Cousin It. And considering how many times I’ve considered calling in sick to work because of a bad hair day, hair is a very serious expression of your own persona.

I used to keep the Taz’ hair short, buzzed close with a razor. When he was younger, this look was totally him. It showed off his baby blues, and it kept a certain look of innocence to him, even when he was painting the walls with peanut butter. In recent years, however, we’ve been letting his hair grow out to, first, a non-buzzed short haircut, and most recently, to a shaggy skater haircut.  We’ve trimmed it a couple times, but the Taz has decided that he really likes it longer. And being that I’ve dappled in my own expressions with hair, I’ve decided that fighting him on it wasn’t really worth the effort. He was only expressing himself.

Needless to say, my dad disagreed.

The Taz, as you all know, is my kid who I have to focus a lot of energy on. While he has a good heart, he has a hard time making the best judgment calls. He will break the rules consistently just enough that it isn’t horrendous, but enough to have his video games taken away (this latest time resulted in a take-away until the school year is over). If I tell him to be home from his friend’s house at 5, he’ll stroll in at 5:30. His teacher and I meet weekly to work on his attention skills, or lack thereof. He will be pleasant as pie if things are going his way, but put boundaries on him and he is a caged lion with a sassy mouth.

Recently, we had the incident involving the couch and a permanent marker.  And combined with several other instances, it came clear that the Taz wasn’t going to be able to spend his afternoons after school at his grandparents’ house. It was apparent that he needed a lot more supervision than my dad was able to provide for him at the time. We took a couple weeks off of the arrangement before my parents and I finally sat down and came up with a better solution. My dad would work his out of the home office hours so that when the kids came home off the bus, he will be available to spend time with them and make sure that no situations out of boredom arise. If my dad had appointments in the afternoon, he would set them up so that he could take the Taz with him instead of letting my older daughter babysit him. But more than that, my dad set up fun activities for the kids during the week to get them away from watching TV all afternoon, raiding the fridge and eating my mom’s dinner leftovers for an afternoon snack, or marking up the couch with permanent marker. Next week, for example, my dad is taking the kids to the skate park to feed one of the Taz’ obsessions. But with my dad’s extra attention and stepping in as a role model for the Taz, changes need to be made step by step. And the first step?

“I’d like permission to cut the Taz’ hair,” my dad asked when he called me at work earlier this week. The shaggy hair went against all my dad’s principles of personal appearance. “I just feel that the hair is part of the problem. And a decent haircut will give him the appearance of a good kid. And maybe if he looks the part, he’ll act the part too.” I gave my permission in favor of my dad’s efforts to intervene and instill a more positive self-image in my son. Not only that, it was getting to the point that my son’s punkish hairstyle was looking a little more girly than punky. I usually trim my own kids’ hair, but I’m not one for changing a hairstyle completely.

Here’s what he looked like before:

Here’s the resulting look:

It’s a little crooked (hey, when you go to cheap haircut places, you get what you pay for), but I can still work with it later this week and even it out. Looking past that, dang I have a good looking kid! And the Taz loves it too. And he spent the next day styling it for school. I’m not exactly sure that this is what my dad had in mind…

And of course, shorter hair makes great bedhead…

With the hair wings, I told him he looks like one of those Macaroni Penguins on Surf’s Up.  If he’s representing our family….

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