In a few days, the four Ditto boys will dutifully file into our laundry room one by one, slump onto a stool as I drape a towel over their shoulders and submit to an unpleasant experience that neither they nor I particularly relish: the dreaded mom haircut.
This is a ritual that’s been going on at least once a month since they were toddlers; you’d think we’d all have settled into our roles by now. But we all truly dread it – my boys because I am not known for being gentle or patient as I wield my clippers and wrangle their heads into place and me because it’s messy, time consuming and Jack Bauer-defusing-a-bomb-level stressful.
“Barber” is a title I never sought for myself. I was actually kind of dragged into it much like someone who witnesses a mob hit and is then forced to “join the family” or else. I stumbled into my own little crime scene one night when my husband and I were engaged, and I came over to his house before we were to leave on a date.
His mom met me at the door (yes, we were both living with our parents at the time) and greeted me with the cryptic, “You’re just in time!” She then led me through the house and out the door into the garage, where I saw my fiancé perched on a stool, a towel wrapped around his shoulders, and haircutting clippers sitting menacingly on a table beside him.
“I was just about to give Logan a haircut,” my future mother-in-law said enthusiastically. “You might as well watch and learn.” My face must have betrayed my confusion. Watch and learn? Why? Aren’t there people already trained to do this sort of thing?
“My hair grows so fast,” Logan explained. “We’re not going to want to pay someone to cut it every few weeks for the rest of our lives, are we?” “Yes, we absolutely are,” I wanted to say. But instead, I leaned into my future role of “frugal newlywed” and agreed to my very first haircutting lesson.
Logan’s mom showed me how to change out the clipper guards so I could trim his sides to a smooth taper. She helped me hold the scissors just so and gauge how much hair to take off the top. And just like that, another novice was initiated into the family.
After we got married, I dutifully cut Logan’s hair every few weeks sweating bullets the whole time. No two haircuts were ever the same. Logan was supportive and assured me I was doing a great job, but it seemed like as the years went on, I got worse and worse instead of better and better. By the time he’d graduated from dental school and gotten a real job, I threw in the towel.
“You actually need to look presentable now,” I said. “I will happily sacrifice the $20 it will cost for you to get a professional haircut every few weeks.” He relented. Luckily, he went almost completely bald shortly thereafter. When God closes a door, he always opens a window.
But there’s still the four boys. Taking them to a legitimate salon for their haircuts every few weeks would break the bank, so I continue to serve as their mediocre barber – until recently, that is. My oldest son, George, somehow persuaded me about a year ago to take him to a barbershop, and his hair looked so good afterward that we struck a deal: I would pay for every other haircut at the super cool barbershop as long as he agreed to have the free “mom cuts” in between.
I always cringe and avoid eye contact when I send him into the barber after one of his grown-out mom cuts. His extremely hip barber is kind and manages to stifle his laughter, but George told me that during a recent haircut, their small talk went something like this:
George: “So how did you learn to cut hair?”
Cool Barber: “When I first started, I just practiced on my friends. I was pretty bad. My haircuts looked like … well, kind of like yours when your mom cuts it.”
Touché, Cool Barber, touché.
Julia Ditto shares her life with her husband, six children and random menagerie of farm animals in Spokane Valley. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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