While our families were enjoying a holiday break full of baking, gift wrapping, and joyous festivities, another family was experiencing the unimaginable tragedy: the death of their child. It wasn’t until after my daughter returned to school from a wonderful holiday break did she learn a classmate with cancer passed away due to an unrelated illness. That first day back from holiday break my daughter came home from school and said she wanted to cut her hair. She wanted to cut her hair and donate it to children with cancer. Little did I know I would be cutting my long hair that week too. Although our reasons were not the same, we both cut our hair to help make a difference.
We went to the salon, a place she had been many times before, with a mission to cut her beautiful long hair. The stylist made a long braid and let my daughter take one last peek before using her scissors to solidify the irreversible decision. My daughter was proud as she held her braid for a photo before tucking it away in an envelope for a later donation.
The next morning she woke up early and so excited to use her new shampoo and conditioner. She asked me to blow dry her hair and she couldn’t wait to get to school to show her friends. My husband picked her up after school that day. He knew instantly something was wrong but she wouldn’t share why she looked so sad until she made it to the car. She broke down in tears and said her friends didn’t like her hair. She said nobody liked her hair. He reminded her how wonderful it was she made a donation to help other children. She didn’t care at that moment. All she cared about was that her friends had told her she couldn’t put her hair in a ponytail anymore like them. She cared that her friends didn’t want to sit with her at lunch or play with her on the playground. Her feelings were deeply hurt and she was no longer excited about her hair. After hearing what had happened I told her sometimes it takes awhile to get used to something different and I bet her friends would love her hair after a few days. I told her different is just different, not bad. In between sobs she said she just wanted a time machine to go back to yesterday and get her hair. Heartbreaking.
Like her the day before, I had very long hair too. I was a teenager the last time I had short hair. I felt my long hair was part of my identity and definitely not something I considered parting with. But that day, hearing my sweet daughter wish for a time machine to reverse making the decision to cut her hair, I suggested cutting my hair too. I told her I loved her new hair so much that I was going to get the same cut. And I did.
Her confidence soared and she again said how proud she was of herself for cutting her hair. Over the next weekend she asked many times if she could fix my hair. In all the years I’ve had long hair, she has never asked to play with my hair. This was new. This was fun. This was definitely something to be proud of.
Fast forward a few weeks and several other friends at school have since cut their hair too. She’s no longer the girl with the new hair. Now she’s the girl that inspired others, including her mommy, to help those in need. She learned our physical appearance does not define a person but actions do. She also learned that sometimes first grade just feels hard and that’s okay too.
We planned a mommy daughter date at Sprinkles Cupcakes to celebrate our new hair together. Our friend Kate joined us and beautifully photographed our time together.
Cupcakes, matching hair and cheetah print shoes, and the most kind seven year old I know; the day couldn’t have been better. Set the right example. Be kind and tolerant for you never know when your little people are watching your response to negativity.