There’s a lot of pressure on moms today.
First, you have to have a good-looking, in-your-face pregnancy, and wear clothing that shows every cell of your frontal anatomy. In my day, we wore smock-like outfits that looked just plain goofy, but at least no one knew if we had an innie or an outie.
Then, you’re expected to have an idyllic delivery, complete with music (classical, for the baby’s sake) and the appropriate videos and selfies – Mom, Dad, and said newborn infant. Welcome to the world. Say cheese.
You have to teach environmental consciousness, feed them only organic foods, provide intellectual stimulation and music lessons (at least three instruments) – plus vocal training for future “American Idol” competitions. You’re expected to model an “everyone’s-a-winner” spirit while offering exhaustive sports training and college-level math to children still in training pants. And all this on a fixed income.
I raised my kids before childhood Olympics preparation came into vogue, but I did what I could, economically. My financial role model – my dad, Larry – was extremely thrifty. He gave himself the same carefully configured weekly allowance all his adult life: $13 exactly, self-imposed, no inflation clause. Mom spent money slightly more freely. But Dad would drive 20 miles farther to save a few cents per gallon on gas.
Recently, those cost-saving memories came flooding back. Walking through the bandage section at the pharmacy, I recalled the time I tried to save money by cutting my then-adolescent son’s hair, an episode otherwise known as Mommy Scissorhands Dearest. Yes, friends, the apple didn’t fall far from the tree in our family when it came to frugality, and if Larry were here today, he’d point to that apple and say it was perfectly good to eat, just wash it and quit complaining.
But back to my version of “Chopped.”
It didn’t seem like it would be that hard to give someone a haircut. After all, I’d watched professionals do it many, many times. And really, it doesn’t take a graduate degree to hold a pair of scissors. I went to kindergarten. I cut out paper dolls. I’ve cut off clothing tags. True, sometimes I cut part of the cloth itself, but doesn’t that make one wonder why clothing manufacturers aren’t more careful?
My good and trusting son, Will, caught on to my level of confidence and gave me the go-ahead to cut his hair. I shopped around and found a hair-cutting kit for 20 bucks, the electric adjustable razor kind. It said “EASY” on the box, and those things never lie. An instructional video came with it. Please. Who has time to sit around watching videos when someone just needs a little trim? I looked forward to this special mom-son activity together.
OK. Apparently it would have been a good idea to have some training.
Two hours of sitting “very still, honey” later, Will did not seem to feel the warmth of our special bonding time.
“Don’t worry,” I said, electric razor still buzzing away. I exuded confidence. I often exude confidence when I am so anxious I’m about to puke. “It’s nearly …”
“Mom,” he said. “It doesn’t have to be perfect. Just not too short.”
Here’s the thing. I wanted to get it even. So I trimmed a little here, a little there. A little more there. And there. Oh, and there. I stepped back. Went in again. Stepped back. Went, hmmm. You know, it’s amazing. The slightest shift in one’s posture makes such a difference. Finished! No, wait. Oops. Step back. Go in, just a … I wondered exactly what Will meant when he said “not too short.”
“Almost done?” he asked, stifling a yawn. I scanned the room looking for that old pair of scissors from my parents’ farmhouse.
“Hang on, sweetie,” I said.
Now, to some children, “Hang on, sweetie” seems reassuring. Comforting. To my son, it became the phrase uttered before “Oh-My-God-Your-Ear-Your-Ear-I’m-So-Sorry-So-Horribly-Sorry-Sweetie-Here-Hold-This-Towel-And-Press!”
Will, aka “van Gogh,” a forgiving child, may or may not have taken up drinking or drugs after this. I didn’t ask. I did apologize profusely. And by apologize, I mean a trip to the mall for new jeans, a T-shirt, a Bob Marley CD, and pizza with his buddies, with whom he was now a hero.
The damage: a small nick, a Band-Aid, and well over $100.
Maybe it wasn’t worth trying to save a few bucks. Then I thought about my dad.
In the end, I watched the video, and tried once more. During that haircut, I played a soothing CD of Beethoven, then put on a fabulous geography DVD. Will grumbled for weeks because I got his sideburns too short. But I figured my efforts at intensive education helped: He complained in three languages.