family & parenting / Wednesday, November 2nd, 2011

Spider-boy has been shorn. A quick trim to curtail the curls tickling his eyes became a short back and sides. In a sitcom moment I both showered him in compliments and kisses whilst mouthing to thathusband: ‘What have you done to my baby?’.

He looks sweet. And grown up (therein lies perhaps part of my instinctive mock-horror response, I am increasingly perturbed by the ease with which he assumes older and older guises, my fears rooted in those expressed in the post Tick Tock).

Also, however, he looks cheeky. All school boy crooked smile and sticky out ears. He looks like an extra in Just William, like if he were in short trousers and an untucked shirt (rather than the jersey and polyester of his more modern school uniform) he’d be scaling walls to go scrumping and playing practical jokes on sweet shop owners alongside a young Roald Dahl in Boy.

It is funny how a haircut can do that. It doesn’t affect his behaviour, he’s exactly as exuberant, occasionally over the top, socially confident, slightly cheeky, caring of his little friends, fun to be with, testing of boundaries, physically charged and desperate to explore as he ever was. But gets chastised more even in the few days since the chop.

I’ve noticed the snarl, rather than the benevolent smile on buses. He looks older than his years (well a crucial 18 months older, so is expected to behave like he’s in Y1 or Y2 by strangers), and combining the grown up cut with his height it is easy to make a snapshot judgement that he’s behaving exactly as young four-year-olds behave at 5/6 so ergo must be a naughty bad boy who needs admonishments and raised voices. I’ve also noticed how this makes him briefly withdrawn, confused at the less kind interpretation of his behaviour which hasn’t changed. The emphasis, happily, is on ‘briefly’ though.

He’ll cope, though, mostly as like all four-year-olds he has a brief attention span (rather than a dastardly wish to disobey), an inquisitive mind (so he tests out ‘rules’ and wants to try out things he learns but sort of understands why he’s sometimes told off for it), and is fairly water off a duck’s back with bollockings, in public at least.

I’m an eldest child and have been the oldest runner in groups, been tall and looked older than I was. I still have a ‘haircut’, or as much as can be done with a mound of untameable curls, which affects the way people treat me. Twice recently I’ve been asked about being new to my job (a field I’ve been in for nearly 8 years), treated like someone not particularly senior, by people who have merely seen the hair as I’ve arrived early, after a long journey across the country, fully equipped and ready to be professional. I am guessing it is the hair, mainly as these are the same people who haven’t made such judgements on email or the phone, but only when they’ve met me and see an overflowing barnet over a smart blue coat. Perhaps I need to start wearing a badge which says ‘I do use serum, I’m 34, I can (mostly) control my life and these are my qualifications:…’.

It doesn’t really harm, this hair judgement, annoying though it can sometimes be. And for Spider-boy I’m hopeful he’ll wind up merely a bit over sensitive to it like me, although I’m wondering if that will even be a problem. His ears may stick out more now, but he can still be selective in his hearing, an aggravation but sometimes a charm. Take Monday night, for example, when I had invoked some wrath. He paused to deliver his ultimate threat, rolling it round in his mouth and thinking over recent days at what would hurt me most before his eyes lit up. Saturday’s kiss shower echoed in his words as he shouted:

‘You know Mummy, that is it. I am not going to let you look at my new haircut ANY MORE!’

With which he stomped off into the playroom to hide the new himself from my sight.

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