My Tween: The Adventure Begins

PitcherHe wants to grow his hair out.

His hair is exactly like mine—ridiculously thick, unruly, and curly—and for years I’ve been mussing his head and telling him if he grew it out we could have the same hair style.

He’s never liked having his hair cut. He’d come inside on hot summer days, with sweat pouring down his face, matting the curls into tight, fat ringlets that stuck to his forehead, and we’d say, “Oh, Alex, you need a haircut.”

“Nooooooo!” he would cry. But we always made him do it anyway. Those hairline curls drive Christian crazy. They just won’t lie evenly, and it makes Alex look like the haircut is crooked. Christian used to go after them with a scissors, which made Alex even more unhappy, because then it just looked weird. Finally Christian decided there was nothing to be done about it except cut all the hair really, really, really short.

Many times, as I trimmed, I would think wistfully of the little boys in his class whose hair fell in nice, fine ringlets–or at least, had hair straight enough to hang beside the face to a length of, you know. An inch and a half. But I knew what would happen if we let Alex follow suit.

Last week, Christian said, “I need a haircut.”

Everyone knows what that means. Haircut for Dad equals haircut for everyone. We do it assembly-line style on the deck, because life is too chaotic to keep track of who had a haircut when. Alex groaned. “I don’t want my hair cut!” he protested.

And I thought, He’s reaching that age. If this is how he wants to express his individuality, I’m okay with that. There are far worse things he could ask for.

So I said, “You want to grow your hair out?”

When he realized I meant it as an option, his eyes lit up. “Yes!”

“Okay,” I said.

And Alex did not get a haircut.

Alex beachThere’s a certain wistfulness in reaching this point, but mostly what I feel is wonder. Wonder, and tremendous pride. He’s moody and self-conscious, tweening two years before I expected it, and yet it’s thrilling to see him stretching his wing muscles, testing them out, learning who he is and who he’s called to be. He’s always been the child of my heart, the one who is most like me in temperament, and every day I see more of myself coming out. Now that he’s sleeping in the basement, he’s up ridiculously early—dressed and upstairs by 5:15, this morning!—and he’s a compulsive know-it-all. (I’m trying to work on that one with him, but you know. Pot and kettle, and all that.) He asks deep questions about the news and about right and wrong, and I wish he needed more help with his homework, because I actually enjoy having to think through his homework. It’s not paralyzingly boring, like first grade homework, nor is it overwhelming to problem solve how to help make the leaps in cognition, the way it is when I have to help Julianna.

I’m reminded of a conversation I had with author/speaker Lisa Popcak last year, because it encapsulates how I feel about my oldest child right now:

“This is where the adventure begins!”