Illustration: Naomi Wilkinson


There is no earthly way to give a toddler a decent haircut

How do you wield scissors near a small, constantly moving person? With difficulty, says Robyn Wilder

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By Robyn Wilder on

The time has come to give the baby a haircut.

I’ve managed to go 13 full months without thinking about this, largely because – although he was born with a thick head of dark hair – it’s all growing in from a double crown, with barely any on the sides. The entire effect is as though someone threw a toupée in the air and it landed on the nearest cute baby.

But now it’s in his eyes. I see him swiping impotently at his fringe as he plods around the house, trying to get into everything (kitchen cupboards, my cup of coffee, the three-year-old’s ears) and, at dinner, I have watched him carefully attempt to gum it into place with beans and soup and bolognese sauce.

As a mother of already one child, I have many feelings about the cutting of my children’s hair. Most of them are wordless yodels of irrational maternal grief. I do not feel this way about my kids’ teeth or toenail clippings, but – rightly or wrongly – their hair is the source of my power. It’s as though I am Samson by proxy. And any cutting thereof is like hacking off one of my limbs.

And I’ve already learned many lessons around filial haircuts. When my older son was little and I was less inured to the Opinions of Others, a woman mistook him for a girl and I immediately capitulated and hacked off his beautiful sproingy golden curls. Twice, since, I have entrusted his barnet to a barber, with strict instructions to “keep the length, just trim it slightly”. The first time he went, he came out looking like a totally different child. Possibly a child who had actually beaten up my son before replacing him. And his second professional haircut could only be described as “1970s footballer mullet”.

So, now all haircuts are down to me. I have a little hairdressing training and a lot invested in the hair itself, so I’m unlikely to hack their fringes halfway up their foreheads.

My older son’s second professional haircut could only be described as ‘1970s footballer mullet’

The problem is my younger son is in constant motion. There is nothing within the boy’s field of vision that he will not try to a) grab and b) aggressively (if cheerfully) investigate. When he’s not trying to climb inside the television, he’s thudding down the hall aspirationally towards the staircase. When he’s not doing that, he’s climbing to the very top of the sofa, spreading his arms like the Angel of the North, then plunging off the sofa backwards, for all the world like Tom Cruise on a midweek bungee-jump. It is heart-stopping. And it does not make him a natural candidate for a haircut.

Nevertheless, I persist. I carried him on my lap around the world in economy class. I can do this. First, I plop the boy in his highchair, in front of Peppa Pig. I hand him a Chupa Chup and several complex little toys to occupy his hands with. But it is as though he has a sixth sense for the hairdressing scissors. I smuggle them into the room behind him and yet immediately he’s twisting round and trying to take them out of my hands.

Grimly, I hoist the scissors out of his reach and spritz his hair down with water, like all the YouTube tutorials say, then I part his hair into sections, secure them with butterfly clips, and watch as he, joyfully, removes the clips one by one and pelts me with them.

I then attempt my attack from the front, holding his fringe at 90 degrees and trying to snip nanometers off it in an even line. As I do this, the baby distracts himself from the scissors by slapping at my boobs and tweaking my nipples with his surprisingly strong fingers. The things we do.

I spend the rest of the haircut darting in from either side and performing tiny ninja attacks on his hair, hoping I don’t nick him in the process. As I do so, my baby waves an increasingly hairy Chupa Chup in the air, comes uncomfortably close to the blade edge a number of times and my blood pressure goes through the roof.

Finally, finally, I am done. The hair is out of his eyes and his fringe actually looks a little even. And you can see his eyebrows! Actually, you can see quite a lot of his forehead, too. A bit too much, in fact. Almost… half.

Oh, for fuck’s sake, I’ve cut the baby’s fringe halfway up his forehead.

My husband appears now, moving silently through the room, while casting a judgemental eye over my work. A moment later, my phone chimes. It is a text from my husband, containing a single image: a photograph of Moe Howard from the Three Stooges.

Oh, look, whatever. My kid might look like Jim Carrey out of Dumb And Dumber, but at least he can see. And, as a side note, I am just going to throw away these scissors. From now on, until they are old and solvent enough to employ their own barbers, the solution to my son’s long hair will be this: man buns. Man buns for life.


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Illustration: Naomi Wilkinson
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