My 5-year-old cut off my hair and learned about what beauty really is

April 2 | Guest post by Ozma Bryant
My ponytail and me!
My ponytail and me!

It is somewhat hard to begin this story because it could start in so many places. Like when I was younger and my theatre teacher told me to grow my hair out because I needed to look more "feminine;" or the countless times I have seen ads, commercials, or any other media outlet showing beautiful women with equally gorgeous, flowing hair.

It could also start when we found out my mom had cancer, although she was more frightened about losing her breasts than her hair.

Most recently my 5-year-old daughter, Olivia, came home from her preschool and announced she needed to have long hair to be "pretty" and it wouldn't hurt if I could put her in a dress for school. Initially I didn't think much of that comment, but it bothered me.

I promptly told her she was pretty no matter what she wore, including messy, short hair and muddy shoes. She furrowed her brows and said, "No, mama. I need to wear a dress, I am supposed to be beautiful, and boys are supposed to be handsome." I tried not to scowl as I said, "I think boys can be beautiful too, and some boys also like to wear dresses." She quickly dismissed me and went to put on a princess dress.

When she emerged later as Cinderella, I said, "Remember when we talked about hair and you want yours really long? That is ok Olivia, if you want it long that's great. I have a question: would mommy still be beautiful with short hair?" She thought for less than a second before responding loudly, "Yes!" I laughed and said, "It doesn't matter what my hair looks like, or what I am wearing. It doesn't matter what you dress like or how you wear your hair, we are both beautiful because of what is inside our hearts. It is what is inside our hearts that counts."

In our home I want my daughter to feel free to be a ninja or a princess, but I do not want it to stop there. I want her to feel she can also be this way OUTSIDE of our home, whether that is at school, a friend's house, wherever. Do we own Disney movies?  Why, yes we do. I grew up with Disney and can honestly say I was enriched by the artistry and magic, and I also had parents who made sure we weren't glued to the television set all day. They instilled a passion for reading and creativity that I continue to pass on to my own child.

Then came the kicker: Olivia started saying how beautiful my hair was…. and noticed other people made comments about it too. This wasn't exactly an issue, but when she started saying she needed long hair "like mama's….or Rapunzel," I started to look at myself. What message was I actually sending her? I could say all day long that short hair is equally great, but was I actually being a real example of that? I had always thought one day I'd shave my head out of rebellion, to release all of the past energy fed to me about long hair equating my femininity. Now, I had the opportunity to do so, and let my daughter know there are also people in our world desperate for hair because they have none due to illness.

When I told my fiancé I wanted to shave it off I expected him to respond vehemently against it because…well, there are wedding pictures to think about. I really should have known though, that this is not the kind of man I am choosing to marry. He smiled sideways and said, "Okay." As soon as he said yes, I started looking up organizations to donate the hair to, and the next day I announced to Olivia that she was going to help me cut my hair after school. I think she was more shocked that I was going to let her cut my hair, than reacting to the fact that I wanted to cut my hair short. After explaining to her why I wanted to do it, she smiled and said, "Okay… which scissors can I use?"

I collected the hair in a pony tail as the organization Children With Hairloss specified; and Olivia sat in the bathtub watching closely.

After I cut the pony tail off, my daughter and fiancé proceeded to cut my hair down to a few inches on my head. When it was done, all choppy and lopsided, I walked outside with Olivia and she said, "Mama…you look funny…and you are so, so, so, so special!" I gave her a huge hug.

That afternoon, before I had shaved my choppy cut down, I went to a furniture store with my fiancé Tim. After finding a few much needed pieces the store owner and furniture craftsman visited with us, and we talked about our children. I told him my daughter had cut my hair for me to which he immediately and honestly stated, "It is beautiful. You look beautiful."

For the first time ever I actually believed that statement. I knew in my heart no matter what kind of hair I had or didn't have, my spirit was making it look perfect — and that is the lesson I needed to learn.

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  1. Fantastic piece! I hope I can raise my daughter with the same level of integrity and internal strength that you have shown.

    1 agrees
    • I was thinking the same thing! I've shaved my head a couple of times, but I have a really lumpy and pointy skull, so it was never a good look. 🙂

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    • I'm sure she (and also I, fwiw) appreciate where you are coming from, but that's the exact same kind of mentality that I think Ozma (and I) are trying to fight. If one day most women started shaving their heads, it would turn into some kind of contest of who has the "nicest-looking" bald head — it would be just a version of what is already out there. The point is that EVERYONE looks beautiful regardless of what they look like, just the way they are, no matter what society tells them in trying to bring them down. Thinking that you can't pull off a shaved head or that you wouldn't look "good like Ozma" is the same thinking for why women don't think they would look good for more conventional types of appearance. Again the point that is being made is that regardless of how you look, you are beautiful, period. WithOUT conditions.

      1 agrees
      • I really appreciate what you're trying to say here, but I think it's important to acknowledge that some people are more attractive than others. What makes someone more attractive might be different for each of us, but there's no need to think that every single person is beautiful. What's important is not judging others for how they look, and not treating others differently based on their appearance.

        3 agree
  2. That store owner was 100% correct. You are beautiful! I have always wanted to sport that exact same 'do. Unfortunately an asymmetrical bob is as close as I've come. I'd contemplated a pixie recently, but my Intended just informed me he would like me to grow it out…

    1 agrees
  3. Love this! I've always harbored a similar desire to just hack all my hair off someday (my mom always used to tell me it was only pretty long, that boys wouldn't like it if it was short, etc., etc). So… bravo!!!!

    And it's true… you look gorgeous with buzzed hair. 😀

    1 agrees
  4. "When she stopped conforming to the conventional picture of femininity she finally began to enjoy being a woman." –Betty Friedan

    Great job! I hope to be able to teach my daughter the same lessons.

    2 agree
  5. I appreciate your openness in parenting Olivia. You're teaching her not only that dresses are not misogyny but that being a ninja can be just as at-home to her. You really do look beautiful; maybe I'll try this someday.

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  6. This story is so inspiring! We want our children to know that beauty can come in all shapes and sizes but few are brave enough to be a living example! I LOVE IT!!!

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  7. I just wish you'd gotten people to sponsor the hair cut for St. Baldrick's! As a woman who has shaved my head, I got waYYYY more sponsors than the guys at my college, and I raised a ton for kids with cancer, on top of being able to donate the pony tail. But, I give you MAJOR props for letting your daughter near your head with a scissor… My lil girl is only 10 weeks old now, but I don't know that I'd trust her with a scissor near my head if it got to it.

    1 agrees
  8. That's putting your parenting money where your parenting mouth is : ) Way to go. I'm inspired (not sure if that inspiration will lead me to shaving my head, but hopefully it manifests in some other way…)

    1 agrees
  9. Your daughter is incredibly lucky to have a mother like you. I want to give you a big hug too! And I agree with her — you are so, so, so, so special!

    3 agree
  10. I love this story so much! Shaving my hair was the most freeing thing I ever did, even though I am now in the midst of the long growing out process. You look wonderful and I love the powerful way you chose to teach your daughter this important lesson!

    1 agrees
  11. 1. you look FANTASTIC!
    2. Your Daughter is Lucky to have you as mother.
    3. whoever gets that hair will be so very happy!

  12. What a beautiful story! I wonder what my son would think if I did the same thing? I cut bangs two weeks ago and he seemed genuinely annoyed. He just doesn't like change. He got mad when my mom got LASIK too. 🙂

  13. At almost 70 years, I harbor a lngering desire to shave my head. I am looking for a reason–or excuse–because the thought horrifies most of my friends. Hmmmmmm….
    My son has always said, "If you have a beautifully shaped head–shave it." I don't know how mine is shaped but YOURS is beautiful!!

    1 agrees
  14. thank you! thank you! THANK YOU!! for sharing this story! not only are you beautiful, you are demonstrating different ideas of beauty to your daughter and your community. we have a 6-year-old who loves pink and transformers, who adores getting cuddles and love and can grab any stick and create a full world of jousting and castle defense, who wants to cook in the kitchen with his mamas and run around the soccer field screaming like a banshee. we do all we can to affirm all of his likes and his exploration of self, and we can only hope that his ideas of beauty, strength, roles and norms are self-created rather than society-induced. CONGRATULATIONS on being a rocking mama!

    3 agree
  15. What an inspiring post! I shaved my head 5 or 6 years ago as an exercise in letting ago of any subconscious need for affirmation about my appearance. It was intense.

    My daughter is one. If I see her start to equate beauty with long hair, I'll follow your lead. Thanks so much for sharing your story!

  16. This is a beautiful story, and you're a very wise mama.

    Offbeat Mama hit it out of the park with this one. Nice work, everyone!

    4 agree
  17. Thanks for sharing! You are beautiful with short hair! Very inspirational story 🙂

  18. This is interesting.

    I used to have an almost constant want to shave my head, as rebellion against the traditional norms of 'beauty' and just because it might be fun, you never know.

    Last year I did shave my head. I cried as I did it and I only did it so my wigs would be more comfortable.

    Let me explain: in December 2010, I developed alopecia areata, an autoimmune disorder which attacks the hair follicles. 6 months later, 70% of my hair had fallen out in patches and my (once annoying and boring, but now cherished) long hair was coming out in handfuls. I shaved it to make my wigs more comfortable as I said, but also so I wouldnt notice it falling out to avoid unnecessary upset.

    By now, my hair and my confidence have grown back. I was growing it out and I could just fit it into a tiny, stubby ponytail, when I realised it was coming out again, both on my head and my eyebrows. I had a big cry about it, then went out and bought an eyebrow pencil and cut my hair to a pixie cut.

    Shaving your head is fun and empowering when you can be confident it will grow back and stay there unless you want it otherwise. I never realised how attached I was to it, and how much my control over my hair and appearance contributed to my self esteem and identity until it was out of my control.

    Losing my hair really made me take a step back and take a look at what contributed to my identity. I think losing it unintentionally is much more of a shock, but cutting it off intentionally still takes a lot of guts. You no longer have a backup to hide behind, a standard flag of femininity to fall back on when you're sick of being yourself. This past year has been the first in years where I don't have a long fringe to hide behind when my confidence fell.

    I'm not really sure why I'm posting/writing this.. Hopefully it contributes to the discussion in some roundabout way.. :/

    4 agree
    • Thanks for sharing your story too, Bernie.
      Everyone has different feelings and perspectives for similar situations. I think it's a good thing that we can come together and share our own experiences without fear of judgement for our feelings. There may be others out there going through something similar to you, and will be glad to know they are not alone. I'm really glad you've added that depth to this conversation.

      1 agrees
    • What a strange coincidence! My sister just directed a movie for her class that was about a beauty queen who gets alopecia areata, and how she has to gain her confidence back. Go you! You don't need to hide behind your hair. 🙂 (And pixie cuts are the BEST! I always think women look so great that way, because like you said, it makes them look so confident!)

  19. I wish I could be as secure! My hair has always been the one thing I've been vain about. It's long (if you consider mid-back long, which I increasingly don't. Ergh! Why won't you grow longer?), naturally blonde, and naturally wavy. I really enjoy my hair, but I'm not sure if that's because I really just like it, (I do enjoy braiding it and playing with it) or because that's the only thing anyone ever compliments me on appearance-wise!

    I wish I just didn't care, but it would be so hard to change the one thing that people ever comment on… I hope that one day if I have kids I can manage to put aside my own insecurities and do whatever needs to be done – be that cutting my hair or whatever else.

    • Lol, the one thing people comment on for me is my eyebrows…. I kind of wish they would comment on something else! Do my eyebrows really stand out so much that people specifically notice that they are beautiful, instead of thinking my whole face is? Very disconcerting.

  20. That's dedication to the cause!

    One close to my own heart, actually. I had my hair cropped short when I was six, and it's hardly ever been long since. Now I have my own daughter – she's not talked much about short hair, but I do gather it's something she associates with boys, even if I have it. Although I love my short hair and don't regret my mum having had mine cut short at so young an age, it's not something I'd actually do to my own daughter. It happened that I loved it, but it did place what I'd call a 'burden of difference' on me at an early age, and I spent a lot of my childhood kind of having to 'justify' it to my peers, and probably to adults, too, and being taken for a boy (although I didn't mind that). Also, as it happens, I honestly don't think short hair would look as good on my daughter as it does on me! But if and when she wants to cut her hair, that'll be her choice. 🙂

    1 agrees
  21. I love this story! So often when faced with things like this our knee-jerk reactions are to blame the media our kids are exposed to and change that. I have a firm belief that my kids are shaped more by how we respond to media images than the images themselves. And what a great response you had!

    1 agrees
  22. Thank you for sharing your story!

    I have always felt that women look more feminine with very short or no hair at all. When I cut my hair really short (happens on a regular basis) I always feel more feminine, and pull out my long dresses and jewelery.

    Maybe I will donate my hair next time or let my kindergarteners (my job) cut it off, as a lesson like you did.

    As you said, beauty is on the inside, and if you feel confident and beautiful, you will shine.

    1 agrees
  23. I spoke the same words as your daughter when I was a kid.I also hated that my hair was curly….and much else about myself. Now I'm a woman considered to be "beautiful" but i know physical beauty is transient and subjective, I need to be beautiful for myself, which means putting out love honesty and thoughtfulness to the world. Thats what you've done here, I wish there were more people like you in this world.

    1 agrees
  24. Good for you! I haven't yet shaved my head but I won't be surprised if it's in my future. I always had short hair as a kid and young adult; just within the last few years have I started to grow it. People often mistook me for a boy due to my short hair but it never bothered me because I was too busy playing sports to care. Now I keep my 5 yr. old daughter's hair short because it gets too many knots if it grows out (and she HATES combs/brushes!). We'll cross hurdles as they come but I found my confidence was never entwined with hair length/appearance as a kid. I hope I can help pass this strength onto my kids!

  25. I'm going to have a daughter in June so I've been trying to mind the way I talk to and about girls. I can't believe how often I'll be watching TV and say "She's pretty" or meet up with someone and say how good and "thin" they look. Gah! I hate it, but it's a tough habit to break. It's something I'm working on though so I love reading articles like this!

    1 agrees
  26. This is such a great entry and such a noble thing to do to teach your daughter a lesson she needed in a way she could understand and relate to!

  27. Cutting all my hair off for a super short pixie was one of the best decisions I've ever made. I LOVE having short hair. It's given me so much confidence and I get compliments on it all the time! Plus, I was never very good at styling!

    Someday, when I have a job that allows it, I will shave my head, too!

  28. I think this is wonderful.

    Where we live my 4 year old daughter is pressured to get her hair cut.

  29. I have had long hair my whole life, and that is how people have always identified me. It's how I have identified myself as well. But after separating from my husband after 14 years, losing 40 lbs, and having somewhat of an identity crisis, I decided it was time for a change. I recently took a pair of scissors to my waist-length hair and kept cutting till it was well above my shoulders. I stopped at chin-length (14 inches gone) and decided it looked like the new me. It felt WONDERFUL! At first people didn't even recognize me. Everyone had to do a double take. But everyone loves it. People that haven't seen me in years tell me, "You look great!" And I FEEL great! I feel 10 times more confident than I ever have before, and it feels so refreshing and even liberating not to be tied to my hair and identified by it. I know I am just as beautiful with short hair as I was with long hair, (according to some, even more so! And a few have told me I look younger now.) The security blanket is gone. I don't have to have long hair to be beautiful. I know who I am. I'm just "me" now, and I love it! 😀

    1 agrees
  30. I love that you did this! For my term project in Art school I wrote and drew a feminist children's book for little girls where I tried to represent as many different types of strong females as possible, but that is nothing compared to actually DOING something like this and setting such a wonderful example for your little girl!

  31. I love everything about this story! I hope that someday I can be as brave in order to set an example for my children. I also love the picture! Buzzed haircut, lacy tank top, and Spiderman shorts!

    1 agrees
  32. I am completely in awe of how you taught your child a wonderful lesson that she will never forget.

    1 agrees
  33. I love you story and think what you did is great, I have two young daughters both of which are just about to enter Jr high, when they were little I let them watch disney movies and they love disney land, one thing I woulnt allow was for anyone to call them a princess or get them things that sayed princess on them, I never wanted for them to get into that whole Im a princess thing I also refuced to buy them clothes that had words across the rerend. my girls both have really nice pretty hair, they like to grow it long and then when they have enough cut it off to send to locks for love the charity that makes wiggs for children, my youngest has done it 4 times now, and is talking about doing it again, if I had taken better care of my hair and not dyed it I would be doing the same thing. My youngest still loves to wear dresses to school which I have never understood because as a child I hated to do so and I never put her in them unless she asked, but I let her decide for sure what she is comfortable in and try never to judge

  34. As a woman who has always been insecure about my looks this post made me cry. I grew up being always told that this or that about my appearance needed to be fixed. After I had my son my insecurities about my body only got worse. I hope I can be as strong and inwardly and outwardly beautiful as this mom before my son starts caring about his appearance, or before any daughters I might have. More than anything I worry my own problems with beauty will taint my children.

    1 agrees
    • Samantha… please contact me. I am part of a network of stong, supportive, spiritual women. You CAN find strength within yourself; we have room for you in our ranks!

  35. While you do look great with your hair short – you are a very attractive woman 🙂 I think what makes you beautiful is how far you are willing to go to teach your daughter that she is beautiful based on what is inside.

    This is a wonderful thing you did for her and doing so shows how beautiful your spirit is.

  36. Wonderful, wonderful read! I feel a kinship with you <3

    I chopped off my hair two years ago for the same reason, sort of…I went low-cut and natural to show my daughter that whether you have long relaxed hair or an (awesome) afro, beauty and love for oneself comes from within.

  37. My granddaughter has had bobbed hair for a while now. It's not a big deal. I would be really bummed, however, if my wife ever chooses to cut her beautiful long hair. Yes, it's a turn-on, and you can't fight the hard-wiring that makes it sexy in the eyes of a man. If every woman cropped but a few, we would still find those long-haired remnants HOT. LOL

    • I'm glad to hear that you're so happy with your wife's appearance. 🙂 But I don't think your own personal preferences are hardwired universally in all men. Sounds like you just really like long hair. 🙂

      1 agrees
  38. Love it 🙂

    You're kindness shines through every pore of your being 🙂 As does your inner beauty <3

    I always wanted to shave my head but because I am a fat woman I was told I would look, I kid you not, "like a diesel dyke". Eventually I realised I didnt think that was a bad thing at all. I never shaved it, but it was pretty close with a wee baby mohawk, and I never felt fiercer. I am growing it again because *I* want to and it feels good man, it feels good.

    <3

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