Why we’re not planning on cutting our son’s hair anytime soon

Guest post by Tabatha Muntzinger

Photo by Beth Klaisner, also known as Gramma
My son is newly two-years-old, and has long, blonde, curly hair. Aside from the fact that it’s usually a bit wild, it pretty much looks like the kind you’d find on toddler beauty queens — and we have no intentions of cutting it any time soon.

Sure, we’re nearly constantly bombarded with mis-assumptions about his sex due to his hair, and family members are always quick to ask us when we’re going to finally cut it. We’re given all kinds of reasons as to why we should — because people often think he’s a girl; because it can be hard to control; because it’s too “different” and other kids will make fun of him, etc.

But as a Sociology-degree-with-a-concentration-in-Gender-and-Womens’-Studies –toting Offbeat Lite mama and a high-school-Sociology-teaching Onbeat daddy, these were things we not only knew would come with this choice, but were expected and we do our best to handle them with grace and generosity.

The first reason we decided not to cut our son’s hair was due to the old Jewish tradition of Upsherin — which is to not cut a boy’s hair until he’s three years old, upon which a ceremony is held and the hair removed and weighed. A donation is made in the same weight of the hair, and it symbolizes the move from infancy to formal education in the Torah and Hebrew language. While I’m only tangentially Jewish, we thought this would be an awesome way to pay a nod to my ancestors while kind of giving the gendered world of child-rearing the finger.

So reason number two was really that we didn’t want our kid to subscribe to traditional gender roles if that didn’t fit him. He also has a very unusual, un-gender assuming name to help with that. We do as many parents do — he has both trucks and a play kitchen; clothes in every color of the rainbow (yes, even pink); and he has just as much fun playing with my shoes as he does his dad’s. As long as he’s happy and learning, we don’t really care if he’s “doing” the “correct” gender.

Over time, we caved a bit to pressure (there was SO MUCH and it came on SO FAST) and said we’d probably cut it at two, before he’s old enough to understand other people’s comments about his hair. However, that day has come and gone now, and we have so many more reasons NOT to cut his hair than we have TO.

Aside from the fact that when it’s combed (which is honestly rarely) it’s just straight up beautiful hair and that dealing with his hair now is giving my husband practice for when our daughter gets more than fuzz on her noggin and sure, we get a kick out of trying to ponytail it because my son makes it a game, we’ve developed very deep, strong emotions and attachment to all those blonde locks.

The biggest part of our new reasons was the discovery of our son’s learning delay. He’s had several health conditions which have impaired his pick-up skills a bit. The largest dent is in language – he just doesn’t have it. So we can’t really explain to him about getting his hair cut and being nice to the hair dresser and know that he understands. The potential for an EPIC tantrum at the barber is something we don’t really see the value in chancing. It would only serve to make everyone involved miserable, and who wants sharp objects near a kid who can’t voice his frustration or fear?

Hand in hand with that is the way he’s learned to communicate with us. When he’s upset or scared or hurt (either feelings or physically), he pulls one of our hands up to the side of his head so we can stroke his hair. These are some of the sweetest moments we have with him, where he allows affection to take place and we have the tools and understanding to give him what he needs in that moment. We don’t want to take that from him or from us, and stroking inch-long hair is COMPLETELY different than running your fingers through nine-inch-long hair.

This small method of communication has done a lot to help us help him with his frustration, anxiety, and let’s be honest, full-out toddler rage. It gives us a chance to connect with him in a way we haven’t yet been able to. And through these interactions, he’s learned that by showing us what he wants or needs in a way we understand, he can actually get those things without screaming and rolling about on the floor or worse.

So why won’t we cut our son’s hair? Not just because it’s become a symbol of our Offbeat-ish-ness or because of tradition or education or any of that. It’s because it’s the conduit through which we can express our love for our son to him that he understands, and that he can express to us in a way we understand.

Comments on Why we’re not planning on cutting our son’s hair anytime soon

  1. I love this! I can totally understand what you mean about stroking his hair! My daughter has taken up to hitting me, and I’m showing her to stroke my face and say “Awww” and now she we do that to eachother all the time to show each other that we love each other! It’s the happiest part of my day!
    Even though my little one is a girl, I get a lot of people telling me to cut her hair, because it’s so wild, and they said if I did it would grow back calmer. I just roll my eyes! I don’t want a calm 1 1/2 year old! I want my Penny-Monster! : )
    Kudos to you and your awesome family!

  2. I really love the idea of Upsherin. My husband & I are methodists, but our son’s godparents/close friends are Jewish and I think that might be a great way to honor their religion and the influence they will have in Owen’s life. This was a great article and thanks for writing it! – And for my two cents – I think you could consider not cutting it until he makes it known he wants it different. I have a friend that has let her daughter choose her own hairstyles since toddlerhood and it’s always gone swimmingly. πŸ™‚

  3. I love this post! My son’s hair was halfway down his back when we were forced to cut it (he’s autistic and couldn’t handle the care that long hair requires at the time). Based on that experience, I would definitely *NOT* recommend forcing a haircut on him unless it’s an absolute necessity, because it was a horrible experience for both of us. He’s growing his hair out again now and seems just thrilled about it πŸ™‚

  4. some advice from a special needs teacher who has had a lot of experience with learning disabled children and haircuts.
    When you and him are ready for a haircut, you can help prepare him for the experience by role playing at home, combing and sitting on different chairs from normal (maybe a swivel office chair)
    you can cut small pieces of hair to show him that it doesn’t hurt and give big rewards to him for it.
    I would also suggest a few visits to the hair dressers to go for a look and just a brush before the haircut so he can get used to the new location.
    One other piece of advice would be to ask the hairdresser NOT to use the big black hair cutting capes, they freak out many children and what does it matter if he gets hair on him, you can go home and have a bath and a change of clothes

  5. Such a lovely post! Your son is lucky to have such thoughtful parents!

    The little one I nanny for (since 14 months) had the cutest, blondest, curliest, long hair. His mom loved it’s cuteness but his dad wanted it cut. She held out until just before he turned 2, and I miss his curls so much.

    A thought–coming from a lady with wild, curly hair, you may NOT want to comb your son’s hair. (I haven’t combed mine in years, I find that it just undoes the curl gets poofy.) Try a little dollop of conditioner when his hair is wet to hold the curl!

    • Coming from another curly haired girl he has fine baby hair (which ironicly I still have just lots more of it) conditioner to hold the curl might be too heavy. I can promise if the little boy in my belly has hair like his mommy I’ll be hard put to cut it, I actually hope he has my hair so hard! What you have is beyond a haircut it’s communication and affection. He’s a very handsome little boy who cares if there is a little gender confusion.

  6. This reminds me of a story my grandmother used to tell. Her sister’s son had beautiful blond curls, and his mother used to complain about them, because bragging wasn’t allowed. My mother, hearing this, decided to do her aunt a favor and cut Frankie’s hair. She took him and the sewing scissors upstairs and cut off all his curls. It was only when she accidentally poked him with the scissors and he started to scream that anyone found them. At the time, she couldn’t understand why her aunt began to cry. They were 3 or 4 at the time.

  7. Our son is 2 and has been blessed with wonderful long curly ringlets, which we have yet to cut and don’t plan on anytime soon! I think his gender is often questioned. But I love his hair, my husband does and so does he! We certainly don’t care what anyone else thinks!
    I really don’t plan on until he either asks himself or it gets in the way of him doing activities… I love my little fuzzy mushroom and his beautiful shiny locks πŸ™‚

  8. I love this article! Though I find it amusing that one of the reasons you keep your sons hair long is because of his language delay being as that’s the main reason I keep my daughters hair short. She hates having her hair brushed or washed, so we keep it in a pixie cut so that it’s not as much as an issue. Good for you for sticking to your guns and doing what makes you and your son happy!

  9. I did the opposite with my daughter.We decided to cut my four year old’s hair in a pixie cut. We chose to cut her hair because it tangled so terribly and just combing it was an epic battle. She’s a lot happier now that we don’t have to go through that every day. She didn’t like it with some of the children at her preschool called her a boy but she loves it now that she knows what it’s called.

    Also, my little brother always had long hair when he was younger. I miss it now that he’s a teen and he keeps it short.

  10. My 18 month old nephew has masses of blond curls. He was very mobile from an early age and has always been fast, wriggly and prone to dart in the direction of whatever catches his interest with no notion of safety so my brother and sister in law have decided there in no point risking him in the vicinity of barber’s scissor at this point when his hair looks gorgeous anyway. He is occasionally mistaken for a girl but it doesn’t bother them and everyone in the family loves his curls. The other day though I mentioned to colleagues at work that he had never had his hair cut and was really surprised by the strength of negative reaction – as well as the ‘gender thing’ there seemed to be an idea that this was somehow a sign of negligence/scruffiness/dirtiness. *sigh*

  11. Wow we already have a two year old little girl so I’ve encountered lots of rigid female child expectations, but I’m due with a little boy in January and it looks like there is a whole new set for boys! We’ve doen our best to break the girl ones, now onto the boys!

  12. I’m so thankful for articles like these. I have a tendency to be judgmental and little boys (or any boys) with long hair tend to bring out the judgment monster. It’s always great to hear the other side of the issue especially when it contains logic I hadn’t thought of like religious tradition or communication issues. I love getting schooled! I also need to learn a lot about Jewish tradition specifically since my brother-in-law is Jewish and he and my sister-in-law are expecting and I’ve already accidentally stepped on some toes.

  13. Great article! I have five boys, and all of them have varying stages of long hair, my oldest has hair to his elbows at the moment. Their father has long hair, so it seemed natural for the boys’ hair to be left alone. We trim now and then, but it’s let to grow otherwise.
    We’ve met with the gender-biased remarks, but have corrected people (my husband more patiently and nicely than I have, lol), and family stopped asking about haircuts years ago.
    Your son has a beautiful head of hair! Looks like my three year old’s with all those great curls. You guys kick ass for being two of the other long-haired boy parents! lol

  14. Thank you for posting this! My newly 2 year old also has flowing blonde hair and we LOVE it (though it does get quite unruly :P) but we keep getting pressure from others to cut it. He’s starting to get a little tail, so it’s like “just cut the tail, no big deal” but I know that once we do we’re leaving ourselves open to a hairstyle that just doesn’t suit him. The shaggy thing looks good on him (and your son!). Glad to see that other moms are refusing to give into the pressure!

  15. People are always telling me to cut my child’s hair……and she’s a girl!!!
    We believe women should have long hair that marks them distinctly as women, so we cut hair very rarely, if ever.
    While I would never presume to tell another parent whether they should or should not cut their child’s hair (of either gender) people have no problem telling us we are restricting our daughter and other such things. It’s quite frustrating.

  16. Your son hair looks a lot like my now four-yr old’s hair used to look. I cut it when he asked me to. And I was sad to lose the beautiful curls.

  17. Our son asked to have his cut when he was a little older than two. We got the same things from people thinking he was a girl and telling us he needed a cut before that. I do not want to instill gender roles in my boys either, so I am with you on this.

  18. I am a childcare worker in a classroom for 12-24 month old toddlers. We have a boy in our class with long, curly, beautiful hair. His parents have refused to cut it as well, and I wouldn’t argue, but the problem is, they don’t often put it up in a ponytail or somehow get it off him face. He just walks around with two inches of hair in front of his eyes, with his head tilted back so he can see where he is going. So while I think it’s fine to leave a child’s hair long, just be sure to take care of it! He is quite aggressive with the other kids in class, and we think it may even stem from his frustration over not being able to see! But we do put it up in a ponytail if he comes in without one.

  19. I love this post, I love long beautiful baby hair! I agree completly that it’s only your decision when is the right time for your family to have a haircut. Saying this as the mom of a long hair toddler boy and a former hairdresser. For me as a hairdresser there was nothing worse than having to force a haircut on a baby who doesn’t understand what is happening to them. And you wouldn’t believe the parents, who give there kids no explanation of what is going on just sit down and let this stranger cut part of your body off with dangerous object.

    I would always take a few moments with the child and explain who I am and what I am going to do, and if there was a reward to follow the haircut be clear about it. Then i would demonstrate that cuting hair doesn’t hurt (Althought for some children with sensory issues this is not the case). Good job Mama!

  20. Wow, thank you all SO MUCH for your kind comments! My son is now 2 1/2 and we’ve still not cut it, though we’ve found the magic of detangler to make it less chaotic. I’m seriously on the brink of tears from all your support. πŸ™‚

  21. I’m so happy to see there are so many other mama’s out there who don’t want to cut their baby’s hair too, i get flak for this issue all the time! Now people tell me once I cut it, it’ll grow in thicker. I think, so what? He has his whole life to have thick long or short hair, He only gets his soft baby curls once, I’m leaving them alone until he asks to have it cut, or it starts to interfere with his playing or seeing. (:

  22. My baby boy is 4 years old and is yet to cut his hair. He calls it his rock and roll boy hair. He loves having long hair and probably will never cut it. He also started preschool in September and my mama worrisome instinct made me think we should maybe cut it,but Bubba at 4 has more wisdom as me. We set him down to talked to him about cutting it and he said Momma I know I’m a boy, what they think doesn’t matter, remember I got a big pooty ( wiener). Out of the mouth of babes….

  23. My son is 13 and 2 days ago when I referred to him in conversation at a bus stop, the man said “he? that looks like a girl”

    When he was little I had it short and long in varying degrees… when he hit 3rd grade he stopped getting it cut…I believe it started with a little smile and a “I ain’t taking no hair cut” He’s in 8th now and he can almost sit on it.

    We went thru a few times when he would get his feelings hurt about getting called a girl. I said to him, you have 2 choices. Cut your hair, or shake it off. No one is *trying* to hurt your feelings, they are just making an honest mistake.

    Then, we went to serve dinner to the homeless and a woman was quite nasty and vocal in her opinion about how his hair should look. I asked her to please try not to be hurtful and talked it out with him after, he was fine.

    Bottom line is, it’s worth it to him to look how he wants to… and as he says “omg mom the girls in my class luuuuurve my hair”


    So, do your thang!

  24. I just wanted to say that you should be careful about cutting off all your baby’s hair (Jewish tradition style). Cutting his hair is fine, but often shaving the head or cutting all the hair of a toddler can make the new hair grow in straight. It happened to my dad and a few other people I know. I just wanted to let you know because his curls are so cute and I would hate to lose them.

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