My middle child, Anna, in preparation for her 7th grade year, wanted a haircut. A pixie cut to be exact. She goes to a school where every girl has shoulder-length or longer hair that they can curl or pull up in a monogrammed grosgrain ribbon. But Anna likes to march to the beat of her own bass guitar.
A little bit of history about my sweet Annabel… When she was turning 8 she announced that she wanted to learn to play electric guitar. My in-laws got one for her for her birthday from Best Buy and we signed her up for lessons almost immediately. She rocked it! She learned to play “Smoke on the Water” right away, followed by “Amazing Grace.” She now can play acoustic guitar, bass guitar, ukulele, drums, and baritone trumpet. I know. Talented girl. She also happens to be super cool.
On the day of the pixie cut, Miss Independent wanted me to drop her off at the salon. She had made her own appointment and wanted to do this all by herself. While the hair stylist was finishing Anna’s hair, she started talking to a woman sitting nearby. Smiling, Anna said, “Hi! How are you?” Like me, Anna can talk to anyone. Anyone. Even if that person happens to be a tree stump. The woman initially responded, “not so good.” Now, I’ve talked to my children about how this goes. People always say, “fine,” even if they’re not. No one really wants an honest answer to that question. Anna liked that this southern woman was honest and said, “It’s okay, you can talk to me. I’m listening.” The woman started to tell Anna (who is twelve, and looks every bit of twelve) that she was recently divorced and her heart was broken. She subsequently moved to Raleigh for a fresh start but doesn’t know anyone and was worried she might be let go at her job. When the woman was younger she wanted to go to a college for acting but her dad passed away and she ended up staying home to help care for her family in Georgia. Her story continued and tears were welling up in her eyes as my sweet Annabel just listened. The woman then told Anna she liked her hair and went on with her day. I imagine the hair salon woman felt so much lighter, having someone to listen for a moment.
Anna told me this story over burgers and sushi after the haircut. I was amazed and so very proud. My sweet Annabel has always been so spirited and obstinate, and pushes all my buttons. But she has the best heart in the world.
In third grade, a girl in Anna’s class lost her battle with cancer. She had been in Anna’s grade since Kindergarten, and although they knew each other, they were never best friends. In her memory, most of the boys in the 3rd grade, along with some boys in other grades, shaved their heads for a fundraising event called St. Baldrick’s. Our school raised over $10,000 for the event to help fund research to find a cure for childhood cancers. It was a bright moment for our little Catholic school community, even though the sadness of Ella’s passing was still fresh. Every year since, a group of boys from our school carry on the St. Baldrick’s tradition and grow their hair for months to have it shaved off on a stage in front of a crowd.
When Anna was a 5th grader, she decided she wanted to shave her head too. We said no. We thought she would regret it. We were concerned other kids would tease her or that she would feel ugly. We worried that maybe she wanted to shave her head for the wrong reasons. There was one other girl from her class who planned to shave that year, in solidarity with her mother who was fighting breast cancer. Anna didn’t have a good reason we could think of for shaving. On the day of the event, we all went together in support of our 2nd grade son who was going to shave his head for the second year. As the children from our school lined up beside the stage, Anna announced that she HAD to do it. She was called to shave her head by a higher power, and that voice trumped my judgement that this would be a bad idea. She signed up and got in line. When she got to her “shaving station” on stage, the announcer told everyone that Anna just decided today to shave and wanted donations for her since she didn’t raise any money before the event. People started cheering and pulling money out of their pockets. She raised $150 in about 5 minutes! The only thing I could do was watch and take pictures from the crowd.
Driving away from that event with TWO bald children, we realized that Anna did it for all of the right reasons. Anna taught us that beauty is not skin deep, but comes from within. She refused to be defined by her hair, her clothes, or her looks. And she was beautiful!
Everyone loves Anna. Her friend’s parents and teachers all say how lovely and polite she is. That is wonderful to hear. I am so glad I’ve taught her well how to behave around other adults. But at home, Anna is just like me. She is spirited and strong-willed. She pushes the limits right to the line, and sometimes goes right past all boundaries. When she is happy, everyone around her is smiling and happy too. When she is angry, we are all grumpy right alongside her. She wants what she wants and she wants it NOW. There is hardly enough room for the both of us in one house. I try to remember that she gets all of these qualities honestly. All of the parts of her that are difficult for a parent will make her extremely successful when she’s an adult. When I get frustrated with her, I first have to change my attitude to one of positivity and happiness, then I can remember that she is exactly the lovely little person that God made her to be. I hope she never changes.
“For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” Psalm 139: 13-14