A hairy situation

By Daniel Dunkle | Apr 12, 2012

One of the things you think you’re going to do as a parent is correct all the perceived wrongs perpetrated by your own folks.

For example, I always said I would never make my son stand outside in 30-below weather, holding a flashlight while I tinkered around with the innards of a car. That was easy enough, since I don’t know anything about my vehicle’s workings.

I also promised I would provide dry towels more than once a week. My parents gave me one that hung on the rack across from the shower, and by midweek it tended to add more moisture than it took away. I have since learned why they did that: laundering towels wastes water.

Finally, I promised myself that, unlike my mother, I would be gentle when it comes to combing my children’s hair.

Mom would grab my head, usually in an ambush as I crossed the room, and mercilessly rake a comb through all the tangles and bubble gum and burdocks. On a side note, have you ever stopped to think that as a grownup, you never seem to have the same problems you did as a kid? When, for example, was the last time you had to spend half an hour picking burdocks out of your pants or hair? Probably around the last time you ate Vienna sausages or sloppy joes with any real relish.

My job, while Mom was combing my hair, was to thrash around and scream bloody murder. Mom would say something like, “Stop your fussing,” and in about two minutes I was wandering off, rubbing my throbbing head, and my blond hair was perfect.

If she ever felt any pang of guilt putting me through this, I’ve never seen any evidence of it.

So of course, sunrise, sunset and one day I wake up to a household where I’m the father and here are these two children with messy hair. As a parent, it’s kind of embarrassing to go out to the store or church dragging along unwashed children with tangles and snarls in their hair. “I found them in the woods and brought them here,” I tell people.

However, efforts to improve can lead to thankless adventures. No matter how carefully I try to comb through 6-year-old Samantha’s hair, she screams and cries, fat tears squeezing out of red, accusing eyes. She actually threw more of a tantrum getting her hair combed than she did about having her teeth drilled. That’s not an exaggeration, merely a fact.

Finally, I remembered that a great man, my father, once said a profound thing: “Phooey!”

Remembering that there are professionals in the arena of hair care, I took Samantha to the hairdresser, pointed to her head and said, “Help.”

“Oh yes, she does have some tangles, doesn’t she,” agreed the woman with the combs and scissors. “I know just the thing. How about a reverse bob?”

I shrugged. “You’re the expert.”

While my father-in-law takes my son to the barber as an exercise in manliness, I have been going to the hairdresser for years. I enjoy getting my hair cut and listening to all of the gossip at the salon.

Samantha sat quietly while the stylist did her work. Her little face in the mirror was so solemn I was prompted a few times to ask if she was OK.

The beauty school graduate gave me a few tips. Turns out you can mix conditioner and water in a spray bottle and put it on a kid’s tangled hair to make it more manageable. This answered a question I’d had for years: why is there conditioner?

Samantha and I ended up making a day of it with lunch and a trip to the playground.

A few nights later, I realized I had neglected to take the same care with my son. My wife got out my beard trimmer and applied it to Wesley’s head in preparation for Easter. I was hiding out downstairs and just heard the radio show drifting from the bathroom.

“Mom! It’s done! Stop! Stop! You’re cutting off all my hair!”

“Hold still!”

“Mom! You got hair in my mouth!”

“Well maybe you should stop talking and it won’t get in there.”

Christine didn’t sound any guiltier than my own mother had back when she was torturing me. As a parent, you finally realize why your parents acted the way they did, and after a while you give up trying to improve on their style. Most of the time, you just wish you were getting it right as often as they did.

Eventually, Wesley came downstairs, spitting and working his tongue in and out like the cat does sometimes trying to rid herself of a fuzzball.

“How’s that taste?” I asked him.

He only needed one word.


Daniel Dunkle is news editor of The Courier-Gazette, The Camden Herald and The Republican Journal. He lives in Rockland with his wife, Christine, his two children and his black cat. He can be reached at ddunkle@villagesoup.com.

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Comments (1)
Posted by: Joseph F Dunkle | Apr 14, 2012 10:23

That's SO funny...Mom

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