Wednesday, December 2, 2009
The First and the Last
It started innocently enough. I rumpled Sam’s hair as he walked by me at dinner and I realized it was time for a trim. Sam has thick hair that wants to be curly. I am always afraid that if I let it grow out too long he will soon be sporting a full afro. I keep it trimmed close to his head and assume that some day in the future, around the time he is celebrating a birthday with the word ‘teen’ in it, I won’t have a choice anymore and he will insist on growing it out. Don’t be surprised if we don’t take a Christmas card picture that year.
So I got out the trimmers and scissors, as I have for so many years, and I bribed my little guy onto the hair cutting stool (also known as the drummer’s stool when they are playing Rock Band). He offered up his usual protest and I offered back my usual answer, which goes along the lines of, ‘Yes, we are cutting your hair. No, you don’t have a choice.”
By the time I made it halfway around his head, my oldest son decided he could use a trim too. After all, his hair had grown out to a full half inch in length. The drag of all that extra hair was slowing down his running times. I finished up with the fidgety little one then started in on the taller one. We discussed just how short ‘shorter’ was and in the end I still cut it shorter than he had wanted. Who knew there could be such a drastic difference between three eighths of an inch and a half an inch?
My newest teen, Isaac, is going for the shaggy look so I was banned from touching his locks, but before I packed up the clippers I took a little off the top of hubby’s hair too. A pretty successful night of hair trimming that started as a need to just clean up one kid’s threatening afro.
As I tucked the hair kit back onto the bathroom shelf I started to wonder just how many times I had performed this ritual. My boys have never been to a barber. I first cut Jeff’s hair when we were in college and he was two thousand miles away from the only person who had ever cut his hair (his mom). He made a great guinea pig as I tackled a new skill. I’ve been cutting his hair ever since.
Which leads to a whole heck of a lot of scissor snips. Between the three boys and Jeff, I have seen my fair share of time behind the Rock Band stool. It has been a common ritual for my boys since their wispy baby hair grew long enough to get in their eyes. It is not something I enjoyed, but not something I hated. It is just another way I’ve taken care of them, not unlike cooking their dinners and washing their smelly socks.
And for some reason it now makes me think of the future day when I will not be their barber. In a very short time my oldest son will not live under my roof anymore. When his hair reaches that unruly length of an inch or more he might have to seek out someone else’s scissors. And my job as his full time hair dresser will come to an end. Quickly, yet naturally, I will be relieved of my services.
It makes me wonder how many of these rituals have fallen by the wayside, unnoticed. As parents we are all about firsts. The first time they smile. The first time they sit up. The first time they walk. Even their first hair cut. We mark it in the baby book and live in awe of their blossoming maturity. But we rarely notice the lasts.
I couldn’t tell you the last time Michael sat in my lap as we watched TV. I never wrote that in the baby book. I have no idea the last time I helped Isaac with his bath or carefully dried him off afterward. Suddenly he was just an independently showering child. For years I brushed and braided and pig tailed Meredith’s hair. But when was the last time I did? When did she totally take that job back from me? Her baby book holds no clues.
They grew up way too fast, just as the grandmas in the grocery stores told me they would when we walked the aisles picking out canned beans and tuna so many years ago. In those days their lives were all about what was ahead. New ways they would change and grow. And now suddenly I sense we have racked up as many lasts as we have firsts.
It somehow makes me sad and happy, all at the same time.