I can be kind of a drill sergeant when it comes to my kids’ behavior. Between my need for control and the tools I’ve learned from Applied Behavior Analysis, I feel like I know what I’m doing… at least a little.
But once in a while something happens that proves I have no clue. Not even a little one. I tell you this story, not to be funny (even though one day I think it will be), but to ask others what they have done in similar circumstances. I’m truly at a loss.
Friday night is our movie and pizza night here at the MacD homestead. Lucy, always wanting to stay busy, went down to the local pizza joint with Jeff to pick up dinner while the boys and I got the movie ready. All was well and we enjoyed ourselves, just like every other Friday night.
As we were getting into bed, I asked Lucy if she brushed her teeth. She ignored my question. I asked again. She looked the other way. When I asked a third time, she said “what?” like she had never heard anything like it every before in her life.
At this point, I’m a little (for blog’s sake, let’s say a little) impatient with her decision to avoid the question instead of own up to the fact that she hadn’t brushed and just gone in and done it. I lifted her out of bed and over to the sink. It was then that I noticed something weird with Lucy’s hair. Her bangs seemed to be jagged and didn’t blend into the back like they usually do. She had worn pig tails for the past two days so I thought maybe she broke a little off as she pulled her hair bands out.
Investigating, I asked her… “Did you cut your hair?”
“Where were you when you did that?”
That was just weird to me. We’ve been going to the same preschool for three years and they’re consistently on top of it. I couldn’t imagine that Lucy would have access to scissors without someone being close by to supervise.
“Where was your teacher?”
“She was outside. “
Now I’m a little nervous here and consider calling the director on her cell. I mean, who would leave a bunch of four-year-old kids unattended with access to tools?
Uh, no one, of course… as I’ll soon find out.
“Wait, so Miss K was outside? Where were you?”
“In the bathroom.”
“They have scissors in the bathroom at school?”
“No, your bathroom.”
“Ohhhh, okay. So it wasn’t at school. It was in our bathroom?”
I take her by the hand and lead Lucy into our bathroom. There on the sink is a pair of my scissors. On the floor, scraps of her hair are strewn…
Our daughter’s certainly not the first little girl to cut her hair, I get that. Heck, I’ve cut my bangs as a 30-something and probably did more damage than she did. It wasn’t the haircut that was getting to me but the lying. What do I do with that? She’s not one to play with toys or have a favorite doll. Painting, coloring, cutting and taking apart a ’67 Chevy is more her thing. So removing something from her in that moment doesn’t seem to be all that effective. She is more upset by the idea we’re angry than she could ever be losing Leapster video game privileges.
At a complete loss, I sit down to talk it out with my baby girl.
“Lucy, why would you cut your hair and then lie about it?”
“I just wanna be like you.”
“I have long hair and I don’t want long hair and I told you I want a haircut. I want to be a mommy and have short hair and have keys and a computer and a car. I don’t want to have long hair. And I don’t want it to be black, I want it to be like you.”
At this point, my heart is lodged somewhere in my esophagus. How am I supposed to respond to this? The adult in me is terrified that if she’s like this at four, what will she be like at 16? But the little girl in me was thinking, OMG! She wants to be like me?
“Sweetie, you have the most beautiful black hair I’ve ever seen. Besides, you’re like a princess. Snow White… The Princess and the Frog… Mulan… they all have black hair.”
“Mulan? I nevuh seen that,” she says.
“Well, we can see it tomorrow. She has beautiful black hair, too. I love your hair so much. You know, your brothers don’t have hair like mine and neither does your dad. We all have different hair. That’s one of the things that makes us each special.”
“Ok, but I want it short. Can I have a haircut?”
“Yes, we’ll go tomorrow. Good night, Lucy.”
She turns over in bed with a soft smile on her beautiful face as I tuck her in. How did I miss the signs? Could it be that the little girl who always chooses Daddy for everything, runs the other way when I try to hug her at preschool pickup and digs her heels in when I ask her to do something is also as in love with me as I am with her? I’ve spent way too much time worried about what she’s getting into next that I haven’t even noticed that she actually wants to be like me. I know she’s only four but she’s got this sophisticated mind that I’ve never experienced before. I have no idea how to parent someone so quick. I want to be consistent, loving and firm (as needed) but, outside of that, I’ve got nothin’.
As I kissed Lucy on the forehead, I made one small request. “Please don’t be in such a rush. You’re a beautiful, smart, funny four-year-old girl. One day, sooner than you think, you’ll be a grownup. But for now, you’re my little girl and I’m your mommy. We have enough to figure out already.”
“Okay, Mommy,” she answers in a tiny voice. “I’ll be your little girl.”
She takes a beat
“But can I still get a haircut?”