How many choices can an 8-year old really make every day – an apple over a banana, a blue t-shirt instead of red. But essentially, all decisions are made for them.
So when my 8-year old son decided to grow his hair long, it still fell back on me. Would I allow it or not? His conviction was strong, and because I couldn’t see the harm, we decided not to overrule his personal freedom and let him grow his hair.
It now reaches well below is shoulders and is causing lots of confusion. Strangers refer to him as ‘she’ and comment on his being ‘a lovely girl’. Ignoring his obvious ‘boy section’ clothing, people react only to the most obvious visual cue – his long hair – and decide, therefore, he must be a girl.
We take no offence, because at his age it is impossible to tell, and we no longer correct them, because it really doesn’t matter. But we had to learn to accept the confusion and common mistake about his gender with good grace.
To be clear, he has no gender confusion. He knows he’s a boy and doesn’t want to be anything else. So when kids at school comment and say, ‘you look like a girl,’ he simply smiles and shrugs, because he doesn’t care. He just loves having long hair.
Then this happened. One of his teachers threatened to tie back his hair if he didn’t behave in class. That ruffled my feathers. Did she threaten the female class members with the same punishment? Were the shorthaired people threatened with a scarlet letter pinned to their chest if they misbehaved? I doubt it…. but let it slide.
Then waited (somewhat anxiously) for the letter from school formally asking us to have his hair cut, and considered in advance how would I react to their request. Did they even have the right to ask? Thankfully, the note didn’t come and I breathed a sigh of relief.
….. But for the record, if we had been asked to cut his hair, I would have refused.
There is no reason why an 8-year old boy can’t wear his hair long, and it shouldn’t – doesn’t – mean anything other than the child has been allowed to make a bold, personal decision for himself.