My son has a cool new haircut and suddenly he can’t stand me
It’s been very exciting getting haircuts, hasn’t it? I genuinely feel like my car goes faster and better when I have filled it up with petrol, and that’s how I felt when I got my hair cut: I was immediately more confident, I had a swagger in my step and I was ready to go back out into the world with my levels of sexiness restored to their usual intensity.
Our children have had to suffer the most. The experience of getting them to sit down for a trim has been akin to trying to settle the rowdiest of sheep for shearing, with the sheep constantly bleating about wanting to get back on to their PlayStations. After the trauma of that, they go to a mirror and collect more evidence that we, as parents, are the enemy. I can admit this now: every haircut we have given the boys in the last year has been absolutely unacceptable, and I would like to take this opportunity to apologise to them.
My wife took them to get their first post-lockdown pro haircuts the other day, and they were very excited. The two younger ones got their usual and they looked very cute, but our 11-year-old asked for something a bit different; something cool. He came back from the hairdresser looking all edgy and teenagery. And I have to confess to finding it quite upsetting.
Even when your children are little, you have to accept the fact that at some point, and for an unspecified period of time, they are going to decide that you are abhorrent and they don’t want to hang out with you. This happened to me when I was about 13. I remember coming back from a school trip, my parents coming to pick me up, and me suddenly finding everything they did completely embarrassing to the point where I started to become convinced it was by design.
From then on, and for a number of years, while I would begrudgingly accept their love within the confines of the home, I would do anything I could to distance myself from them publicly. Out shopping, I would bump into a mate and he would say, “You just doing some shopping with your parents?” and I would reply, for example, “Only because I had to, otherwise they wouldn’t know what to buy because they’re idiots and everything they do is wrong.” And then my friend would look surprised because he didn’t find my parents embarrassing like I did. Then I might be at the park and I would see him with his parents, and he would say, “I can’t believe I’ve had to come to the park with my parents. I’d rather be dead.” Or something like that.
I have been aware that this was going to happen with our boys at some point, but I wasn’t prepared for it to be this early. Eleven? I realise, by the way, that this seems an overreaction to a haircut, but it’s a clear sign that image has become really important to him, and what’s not cool for your image as a child is openly professing your love for your mum and dad. I contemplated executing the strategy I had always toyed with, which was to go the other way and become as embarrassing as I possibly could for my own amusement. My dad once did this to me when he picked me up from school in denim hot pants. One day recently I thought it would be funny if I shouted to my son how much I loved him and how much he meant to me at the school gates. I thought he would be funny-embarrassed. He wasn’t. He looked around at me with the fury of 1,000 hulks.
So I have accepted it. We just have to wait it out now. I am hoping he’ll be through the other side by about age 19, so it’s just a little eight-year wait for him to want to be around us again. The younger two have no idea how many compensatory bowl cuts they will be forced to endure in the meantime.