I've always had a difficult relationship with my parents.
When they babysat my kids one day, my mother forced my son to cut his long hair.
My son hated the haircut and cried, so I'm now establishing boundaries with my parents.
I have a tenuous relationship with my parents. We are not close, and the past few years have highlighted our dysfunction and differences. But my kids love their grandparents. I have two kids, 6 and 11, who enjoy spending time with Papa and Grandma.
I don't want my relationship with my parents to overshadow the relationship my boys have with them, but it's tricky at times and leads to a lot of big conversations in our house about life and people.
It all reached a fever pitch recently when my mother forced my son to get a haircut.
When my parents offered to watch my kids one night, it was a relief
My husband, kids, and I moved out of state a few years ago and recently moved back. We were exhausted the day we moved in, and the kids were out of sorts. My parents offered to take them overnight so we could settle in a little and set up the house enough to make it feel like home. It was welcomed, especially since my family doesn't often offer help with my children.
My husband and I were able to unwind a bit before setting up the bedrooms and living room. We wanted both kids to come home and have a sense of belonging in this new environment. We also needed a break.
That night, my mother forced her closed-minded ideals onto my son
My 6-year-old usually has long, shaggy hair. He prefers it this way. When it starts growing over his eyes, I suggest a trim; otherwise, I have no problem if he wants longer hair. Frankly, my kids can do whatever they want with their hair. It's theirs, not mine.
I grew up in a home that upheld patriarchal standards, especially when it came to physical appearance. There are boys and girls. Boys look, dress, and act a certain way, and girls look, dress, and act another certain way. Any deviation implies something off about you. I've been pushing back against this mindset for decades.
I know how my parents feel when my boys do anything different from these established ideals, especially my mother. I got a lot of side-eye from her when my son went to cheerleading camp. But I never thought she would force something on my boys.
When the kids came home the following day, my younger son had a supershort haircut — a traditionally masculine cut. Initially, I wasn't concerned and assumed he was OK with it. But after Papa and Grandma left, more and more of the story seeped out of both kids.
Apparently, Grandma insisted he cut his hair, despite his telling her no. He was dragged into the salon, crying and screaming. He cried during the entire session.
When I later asked my mother about this, she insisted he needed a haircut
I told my mother he didn't need a hair cut if he didn't want one, but she insisted he looked better. A week later, we hosted a birthday party for my dad, and my mom kept bringing up my younger son's hair and how handsome he looked now. Before I could say anything, my husband jumped in and said he looked fine before and he was not happy with the cut. She continued to insist he looked better and that other people would think he's so handsome now.
I've been unsure how to handle this situation. I feel like I didn't do my job to protect my child, and this was a traumatizing experience for him. It also brought up a lot of garbage for me from my childhood.
I've had to reestablish boundaries with my parents because my son now doesn't feel like himself. He told me, "I like it when it's long because it makes me original."
I hope my baby keeps this spirit his entire life, as the world tries to dictate who he should be and what he should look like.
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