By Melissa Casto, MA
Haircuts are very personal, at any age, and most people take a great deal of time planning their next haircut or hair style. Going to the barber or to the salon is something that most people enjoy doing. For some children living in relative caregiver homes getting a haircut is a luxury that has never been afforded to them. The cost of living on a retired income is difficult enough, but when you add caring for children on top of regular living expenses, caregivers may have to make difficult decisions on where to spend their money. Additional expenses, like haircuts, may be cut.
Friday, August 14, 2015 was a special day for one little six-year-old boy who lives with his grandmother. This was the day little Ian received his first haircut. This might sound small to you or me, but to Ian it changed his world. Ian had never experienced having a haircut before. He came to live with his grandmother full-time a couple of years ago due to his mother’s drug addiction. When he came to his grandma, he was a very shy and quiet child, often withdrawn from his peers or others in a group situation.
To look at Ian, you may describe him as angelic. He is one of the most beautiful children I have ever met. Ian has crystal blue eyes and hair a beautiful shade of blonde. His hair was so long it went all the way down his back to his pant waist. Ian’s hair was nothing short of beautiful, and he was often mistaken for a little girl.There were many occasions when he corrected someone who referred to him as such a “cute little girl.’ When this occurred, I can only imagine this already vulnerable little boy might have struggled with his self-esteem or his identity.
However, on that Friday in August, Ian made his voice heard loud and clear at the Annual Kids Central Back to School Bash in Marion County. For this event, Kinship obtained a hairstylist who donated her time and talent to cut the children’s hair at the party. Ian was delighted when he saw the other children receiving their new haircuts. He asked his grandmother to cut off all of his hair for school. Ian’s grandmother was very hesitant and denied his request. Ian did not let up, he continued to plead and beg for a haircut. Finally, grandma gave in to his request and allowed him to receive a haircut.
When all of his hair fell to the ground and this precious little boy looked into the mirror, you could have heard a pin drop in the room. His eyes began to sparkle, and his face lit up with the biggest, most beautiful smile for all to see. He was ecstatic. He turned and looked at his grandma and said, “Wow! No one will even recognize me on the first day of school.”
Grandma looked at me with tears in her eyes and said, “I can’t believe I am crying over this! Why is this tougher than sending him to kindergarten? You know what it is? I mentally prepared myself right along with him for preschool, I really put a lot of thought and effort into making that transition as easy as possible for him, and although I never would have thought that not allowing him to cut his hair would hurt him. I was not prepared for his reaction. I am so happy for him.”
For Ian, this haircut symbolized freedom. He was finally able to choose how he wanted to look, and when given the opportunity, he grabbed it with all he had. He made a personal decision to change, and he felt empowered by being able to cut his hair which enabled him to look like a little boy. For grandma, it was one of those tough life lessons that we learn about being a caregiver or a parent: your kids grow up so fast, and you might realize you want to hold on to something that maybe you shouldn’t and releasing control over some things is really in the child’s best interests. It empowers them.
So I will ask the question again, “Imagine what a haircut can do?”