The Sunday after school started, I returned home to find my five-year-old and eleven-year-old boys with Mohawks. Not faux-hawks, as I’m accustomed to, but full-on, shaved on the side Mohawk haircuts. I stared disbelievingly and curiously for awhile, somewhat bemused at the hardened blue-and-green Hawks-inspired gel that made strips of their hair – from the napes of their necks to their foreheads – stand up like porcupine quills. My brand-new Kindergartner, who had just three days of elementary school under his belt, sat on the couch with a hairstyle that seemed so grown-up, so Billy Idol or Brian Bosworth, so punk rocker, that I could hardly take him seriously. And then four words flew into my brain:
School pictures. Two weeks.
I hit the roof.
Then shot right through it and continued into orbit.
I was angry. Mad. Furious.
“I’m livid,” I fumed.
“What’s that mean?” asked my Fifth Grader Rassy, thus turning it into a vocabulary lesson.
Fearing a call from the Principal about the Monica boys being classroom distractions, I came up with two choices: don’t use styling products during the week or return immediately to the hair place and get the rest of it buzzed off. They opted for the former. I solidified my overreaction by continuing to make my opinion loud and clear: nope, I didn’t like it. Not one bit. Didn’t care for it in the least. And I would take them to get it shaved off again before school pictures or they would do retakes at a later date. Period.
The next morning, I stifled a smile as Rassy woke up with second thoughts. “I don’t want to go to school. Why did I get my hair cut like this?” he asked. We talked about having an eye-catching, severe haircut and how people were bound to have an opinion. He set off that morning with his baseball cap on, ready to tackle whatever was in store. When both boys got off the bus that afternoon, they shared how they’d gotten mixed reactions. Big brother’s teacher loved it. Little brother’s teacher didn’t recognize him (I could relate). But by the next day, Rassy had come to a new conclusion: “Mom, you know what I like about my hair? It’s unique. Not everybody has it.” And with a twinge of guilt, I agreed. He then set off for the bus with no baseball cap on.
And so I’ve spent the past couple of weeks looking at moles and divots on their heads that I didn’t know existed, watching beads of sweat literally form on their noggins, observing the temple muscles moving as they ate dinner, listening to them delight in the fact that they look like Seattle rapper Macklemore (which I’ve come to learn is technically incorrect—his style is a Pompadour) and tenderly reminiscing at the faded stork bites on the back of my five-year-old’s head.
I’ve listened to—and watched— lots of reactions. Nearly all positive. Coaches: “Sweet hair,” “I love your haircut – what’d your mom think?” Moms: “It’s awesome!” “I love it.” “It looks great” and “It takes a certain kind of confidence to wear that kind of style.” And with a touch of pride that my somewhat reserved guy would step out with such a bold look, I agreed.
It seems that creative expression has found a new form in our household—not just in the ways I’m used to like, words, birthday poems or the colors of our walls—but through hairstyles.
So this morning they headed off with their picture day order forms and checks in hand. The Mohawk brothers—with their strips of glistening, California-blond hair spiked up atop growing-out, not-quite-bald heads—will be preserved for all posterity, in the only yearbook they’ll appear in together during their school years. And should there come a day when they look back and wonder why, I’ll say—although it eluded me sixteen days ago—with a big, fond grin “That was all you. I had nothing to do with it.”
I’ll also remember what those Mohawks really stood for: brotherhood, uniqueness, creativity and confidence.
No, they still aren’t my favorite ‘dos.
But they brought with them mom’s first big lesson of the school year:
creative expression comes in many forms.
Sometimes in double doses.