For the last week or so, I have had both a post-it on my desk and a Word document open concerning hair. The musings began even earlier, when I’d notice Waikā’s hair knotting at the nape of his neck, when I talked with moms of other sons, few of whom could bring themselves to schedule or do that first cut, when I read my friend Lorelle’s meditation on her son Kamal’s hair. Lorelle solved her dilemma with what I like to call “a samurai topknot”—and it is undeniable that Kamal (and his mama and papa) rock this look.
This is what I wrote to Lorelle and what I’d been musing on leading up to the haircut: “What is it about the hair of sons? I can't cut it yet either. You just know it'll grow back—but as boy hair, not baby hair. A rite of passage—passage to boyhood—happening every day in little ways. Some I celebrate, some I mourn, and some I stubbornly resist.”
The day of the haircut, I was nervous, subdued. But then the first few babysilksoft locks lay on the floor, and a new boy started being excavated, and I was too excited to stay bittersweet.
Since then, I’ve tried to write several times about the haircut, but since the moment passed, my emotions don't remain constant between stolen writing sessions. Some days I’m all acchhh, the sweet silk of his hair on the floor, shed, outgrown, babyhood gone, now I have a toddler with a spiky faux-hawk, et cetera. Other days I’m like: It’s. Just. Hair. What was I all worked up about? Still other days, I feel that he’s such a big boy, so able, so independent, so strong-willed, and I love it all. And other, other, other days, while he is in the middle of a big-boy, super-able, independent, strong-willed tantrum, Waikā stares back at me with his spiky hair and spiky eyelashes, with the angry eyes of a seventeen-year-old, and I feel very frightened of the future.
On July 2, he hit fifteen months, but of course this is the reflection of the weeks leading up. So appropriately, during the month of June, it began: Waikā became all about dad. When Dave is at work, and I am tired and having an unempathetic moment, he gets mad back at me, says dadadada. At the end of the day, strapping him into the carseat for the seventh time (or so it feels), I say we’re going to get Dad, and reflected back at me is DADADADADA! We get to the parking lot at Dave’s work and I let dog and boy out of the car, and when W sees where he is? DA! DA! DA! DA! DA!!!!! Dad kicks the ball cooler, Dad encourages W to climb and trusts him not to fall, Dad doesn't hover, Dad makes the wildest faces and the funniest sounds, and Dad’s shoulder makes the comfiest nap nook.
Meanwhile, there I am all day, doing many of the same things I’ve been doing: I … love … you!, pointing in the mirror; W gives me poker face. Whiskers! Fishgills! Elephant trunk! Not even a smile? Really?? I offer to help him climb stairs, he swats away my hands. I offer to catch him at the bottom of a slide, and he just barely deigns to accept this offer. Fifteen months and mama is lame.
Tantrums and lack of appreciation for my sense of humor aside, though, I love it, have loved it, keep loving it. Every month forward in time brings new things about Waikā to embrace. His growing independence, his sense of adventure, his beautiful and graceful ability to adapt, to trust and to surrender to the day as it unfolds. That latter ability means some days one or two or three naps; sometimes sleeping solo and sometimes with mama; sometimes lunch at 11 or 12 or 2; sometimes three square meals, sometimes what looks more like snacks every few hours; sometimes enduring four car rides (to/from D’s work) and sometimes double that (add on excursions and errands); waking early on the weekdays and adventuring right into the day versus waking later on the weekends and adventuring later in the afternoon; and sometimes staying up late for special reasons: Game of Thrones on Sunday nights (sadly on hiatus for now), or the starry sky above Joshua Tree National Park, or fireworks on the Fourth of July. Pretty much through it all, he rolls with it with the same good nature—ready to be delighted. When I really think on it like this, I guess I do still have my joy boy. Just a joy boy who also has a temper now.
What a gift it is to watch Waikā unfurl. To watch him grow his brain. I mean, I know that earlier he had a brain, but it was an animal brain of need. The more he grows, the more it becomes a human brain of desires. Dave figured out that W often melts down in the kitchen while we try to cook because he wants to see what’s going on up on the counters; now W will point to the step-stool, Dave moves it to the counter, and W is as happy as can be playing with Tupperware, or water, or dirty dishes, or the Melissa & Doug cutting board set we got him (similar to this one).
At this awesome indoor playspace in Torrance called Silly Goose, I literally can see the wheels turning as W watches the older children. They climb the ramp; he wants to climb the ramp. The first time, I help place his feet and hands and push his bottom up to give him the sense of climbing; the second time up, he can do his hands and feet alone, I just give little pushes up; by the third time up, seriously, I am down to holding my hands out just in case he falls. I mean, that is one big, beautiful, amazing brain.
It is a brain of imitation, experimentation, sometimes social conformity, and yet, thankfully, at this stage, so often shaking off those shackles with rhythm and badassedness and some deep shoulder action. I celebrate and share these things with the understanding and empathy that the world has not yet shamed him into being embarrassed about them: My son can wear my platform heels better than I can. My son loves to wear bracelets—will turn any round-rimmed object into a bracelet. My son gives the sweetest, cuddliest hugs to his stuffed kitty, stuffed bunny, and real-life dog Nahe. The rest of the time, he is doing the things society would deem gender-appropriate: slamming trucks into each other, banging things against each other, knocking down blocks, throwing things across the room or at people.