Charlie took advantage of the trip and demanded to have his hair cut like Obi Wan Kenobi in Star Wars I. There could be no mistake - it had to be like in the first movie, not like in the others. With a braid behind his ear, a little ponytail and the hair on top standing on end.
So far so good. Now for the shocking part. Because all this is just a couple of children experimenting with their looks, right? Not quite.
First of all, when Marie came down with her hair mostly gone, she assumed we'd be angry. She regretted the move herself. She seems to have been under the impression that you can cut out a substantial amount of hair without anyone noticing. All I did when I saw the sorry look on her face, was give her a big cuddle and tell her it would all be fine. By the next morning, she'd moved on from regret to pride and couldn't wait to show all her friends what she'd dared to do.
Next, when I took both children to the hairdresser, they assumed that I'd been cross with Marie. They were also amazed that I would 'allow' Charlie to choose this hairstyle. It's his own hair! On his own head! I was more amazed at how amazed they were.
Finally, when they both went to school, they both got a lot of bother from other children. Charlie had a very tough time with hordes of children running after him in the playground laughing and shouting at him for being a girl. Marie got called a boy. (Both were considered insults. I will leave that to another post.) I hadn't seen this coming. It's my mothering blind spot. I can never foresee how strongly children will react to situations they consider 'abnormal'. Both of them reacted beautifully, sticking to their guns, still happy with their new styles. I was so proud I let them have lemonade.
It's only through situations like these that I see clearly how much pressure there is on children to conform. To be little gender stereotypes. To not stick out. To become tidy factory fodder that won't argue with their betters. And for the most part, it's the parents that put the pressure on. Not one parent at the school gates reacted with a 'nice haircut'. All of them wondered at how I would 'allow' my children to choose for themselves. The same goes for every wacky outfit they pick out. Children have so little say over their lives already, why not let them at least choose what they put on their own bodies? Okay, I would not pick an outfit with several different types of pink and white polka dots layered one over another, but how should it bother me if that is my daughter's choice? The other parents seem to worry that it will reflect badly on them, their taste, or whatever. It makes me sad for their children.
Only last year, a friend of mine in his forties finally dared to tell the world he was gay. In his forties. To start with, I was surprised. In this age, when being gay is supposedly normal. I am no longer surprised. If a little boy with a ponytail causes such a stir; if that little boy is made to feel that he is crossing a line of decency, of what is expected of him - anyone who is unhappy conforming to this stifling norm needs some serious guts to stand up and go against it. I hope my children will keep feeling that they can be whatever they want to be, look how they want to look, sing how they want to sing. I'm trying to raise three individuals in a society that would make them blend at all costs. I'm guessing it won't get easier as they get older.