(written with a self-imposed five-minute time limit)
I’m not exactly sure why I thought the night before picture day was the right time to cut my son’s hair. The haircut had completely slipped my mind, like a floundering eelpout, all slimy and under-pigmented.
I set him up at the kitchen island, ask him what he wants to watch on YouTube. ”Type in ‘duck calling’,” he says.
I take a deep breath, say a silent prayer to the god of the modified mullet, and set to work. I start in front, the bangs, while I’m still sort of fresh. An inch and a half drops to the counter in front of him. “Mama – that’s too much!”
Too late baby, now it’s too late. I make up something reassuring – I always take this much off, it just looks like a lot when it’s piled up on the soapstone slab.
We listen – he listens – to wood duck calls. This is how to tell them everything’s okay, just fly a little lower. Here’s an eating call – come on down, Hank, the water’s fine.
Snip snip. His hair is forgiving, with a slight genetic wave. I say this repeatedly, soto voce, a mother’s mantra. His hair is forgiving. It doesn’t have to be perfectly even. His hair is forgiving.
The video sucks. He skips to the grand quack fest finale. Snip. I scoop the hair into a sizable pile. He strides into the bathroom, hops on the toilet lid, and peers in the mirror. Silence.
He wanders out of the bathroom as I tape shut the business size envelope of his shorn locks. “Mama. I like it better when the sides aren’t quite this short, so it kind of goes into the back. But it’s pretty good.”
Noted. I date the envelope and tuck it into his baby book. Someday I’ll be able to stuff a pillow.
We snuggle at bedtime and I surreptitiously fluff his damp hair. For a split second I consider product application in honor of picture day. No. I love my boy’s pragmatic approach to his appearance. Tomorrow he’ll look the way he always looks: uncombed, rumpled, and well-loved.
Maybe he’ll even quack for the photographer. Come on down, Hank. The water’s fine.