A Recalcitrant Wife and Mother Tells All

OMG. What have I done?

There is only one thing worse than accidentally giving your child a bad haircut…


Nature Boy, 4-years-old, the first and last time I ever cut his hair. (circa 2003)

Nature Boy, age 4, the first and last time I ever cut his hair.


…and that is paying someone else to give your child a bad haircut.


Before during and after of my son's worst haircut



Don’t say a word.

I already know. Believe me. I know.

Even The Gatekeeper, who is truly the most stoic and level-headed of any man I know, was PISSED when he saw what that woman did to our little boy.

“Were you on your phone?! How could you not notice what she was doing?”

“No! (Maybe.) I was right there! I couldn’t tell she was going so short! And then when she started to blow it out, I just figured we could fluff it up again when we got home. I had no idea.”

I specifically asked her for a trim. I only wanted a trim. And she was the one who gave him his very first haircut several years ago.

Bucket Head's first haircut

So what if English isn’t her native language! It’s just a trim. What could go wrong? (Famous. Last. Words.) 

But when she brought him over to the cash register she said, “His hair very stubborn (sic), but I cut all the curl out for you.”

OMG. She thought she was doing me a favor…like curls were the mark of the debil.

Y’all…I have cried real tears over this. Don’t worry, never in front of him. I put on my bravest face and told him how grown-up he looked. I even secretly called his Kindergarten teacher to give her a heads-up so she wouldn’t freak the freak out when she saw him.

But my baby. My curly headed little cherub. His shining glory scattered across the barber shop linoleum.

I feel like I’ve slapped baby Jesus across the face.

It’s just hair. It will grow. At least that’s what I keep telling myself. But you see, there is a legend in my family of the time my mother cut my cousin Matt’s baby curls off and they never returned. I’m pretty sure my Aunt Debbie has never forgiven her sister for that.

And so I wait. And I pray that Bucket Head’s curls will return.

And they probably will. He’s almost six-years-old, after all. These aren’t just baby curls.

But the saddest part? (to me, anyway)…

Bucket Head LOVES his new look.

short haired Bucket Head

He asked us to buy him a comb…his very own comb. He’s never owned one before.

And we keep catching him in the mirror, combing his hair flat as a board. It’s painful to watch.

It’s actually feathered, and a little long in back. Sometimes, in certain light, he reminds me of a mini Larry Wilcox from CHiPs.

Larry Wilcox from CHiPs

He said to me, “I feel like a new man.”

I had to bite my lip to keep from laugh-crying.

“Don’t you like your curls, honey?”

“NO. I hate my curls. I hate the way people are always touching my head. I want to look like all the other boys.”

It breaks a mama’s heart, I tell you. To hear your child “hate” an integral part of their being.


Leslie with She-Mullet, 1982.

But I feel like I have to let him explore his new look…just like my mother let me experiment with Sun-In and She-Mullets.

Of course, I was twelve, not five! I thought I had more time.

So we help Bucket Head comb his hair flat and I try my best to not touch it, even though it pains me to keep my hands to myself.

I can only wait and wonder. Will he come around? Will he learn to love his curls someday? Or will the desire to conform stifle his ability to see how perfect he already is, exactly the way God made him?

It is only hair.


Please. Save me from myself. Assuage my guilt. Tell me about the time you accidentally slammed your child’s hand in the door or Sharpied Groucho Marx eyebrows on your kid because you thought for sure they would fade away before school picture day. Tell me something. Anything, really.



  1. Synnove @ Don't Chew On The Dinner Table!

    We took our oldest (barely 3 at the time) to get his long, gloriously blonde locks “trimmed”. He came out looking like he got his hair cut at a truck show… or a pig pickin’… or a drive by shooting. It was the most horrendous mix of mid-nineties thug and red-neck. I still feel sick when I think about it.

  2. Sue

    While playing catch with my young son, I tossed him the softball. Then watched it float right for his face, smashing into his mouth before he got his hands up. Talk about feeling lower than low!

  3. Jessikins

    I hear ya. My son’s hair, when allowed to grow out, gets these lovely blond coarse curls. His dad, my wonderful husband, thinks that a #3 on the clippers is the way to go for the boy’s whole head. When they come back from Sports Clips I have a mental sad but recognize the hair will grow back. And it does. Every time. With curls. This last time his hair was admittedly looking like a mop got duct taped on to the top of his skull and I took some scissors to it and cut the side burns and evened up the back and thinned out the top, leaving much of the curl in place. It looked good. Boy was frustrated it was taking too long and was begging me to just have it shaved.

    Bucket head is adorable regardless. Save the tears for when it really matters, like when he’s driving you up the wall and you’re sure you’ve lost all hold of your remaining sanity.

  4. Jennifer

    I have paid for a bad cut and given a bad cut. The paying for it was the worst. The absolute worst. At least when I screwed it up I knew I didn’t really know what I was doing, and I learned a valuable lesson, I am NOT a hair stylist.

    This reminds me of the time took Cady to get her hair trimmed and she came home with bangs. Oh Lord, that was not a good day.

  5. Marija

    My adult, long-haired, blonde friend ASKED for bangs. Two weeks ago. She is almost 40. I guess you can rationalize it with age in mind? As new-wave nostalgia? I dunno.

  6. Rebecca

    Not only have I given my son a bad haircut, I took a chunk – an actual CHUNK out of his EAR in the process!!! So yes, I’d cry over the curls too, but they’ll grow back. At least there was no blood, right?

    I mean, not even the stylist’s… right?


  7. elspeth

    I think he looks sweet with the new do. Try to give up on the agonizing…especially if he’s happy with it.

    Remember the goal is to get them grown so they move out.

  8. L. Hewitt

    Why do you always do this to me??? I just got my kitten back home from surgery, a crying mess because they didn’t take as good of care for her as I could have and now Bucketheads curls are gone. Shit.

  9. Marley C.

    I totally get why you are upset. But I’m grateful BH is happier. Personally, I think he used to look like a mini Harry Styles from One Direction and I would have touched his hair as well. Oh well. Spilled milk 🙁

  10. Carrie

    Don’t worry, they’ll grow back. My hair is SUPER CURLY (like…spirals), and I had it cut short like that when I was 7 (yes…I’m a girl. It was the early 90’s…) and lo and behold…once it got to a certain length, the curls came back. I HATED my curly hair when I was little, though.

  11. Jen at PIWTPITT.com

    My curly haired boy just got all of his cut into a . . . gasp . . . buzz cut. His choice. He’s 8 so I guess it was time, but I still am a little stunned every time he comes around a corner. I’ll be shocked if his curls grow back because I don’t think he’ll ever go back to longer hair. He loves his new ‘do. Oh well, it could be worse. He could have hated it. Same with BH, as long as he’s happy who cares, right?

  12. Jennifer

    My son is 9 months with the cutest curls around his ears and right on top of his head…nowhere else though. Everyone from my mom to the check out lady at the grocery store have told me it’s time to cut his hair but I refuse for this exact reason. I would cry and wait in terror for the curls to hopefully grow back… Bucket head looks so cute either way 🙂

  13. IL

    My mother cut my 3 year old son’s beautiful, angelical, curly blond hair this past fall… and it grew back curly – thank goodness – he’s still rocking that surfer dude look and I’ve stopped crying.

  14. Arnebya

    I had the curlers too hot and when I put them on my daughter’s hair (about 10 at the time), the whole piece came off inside the curling iron. Of course it was the front. Of course.

  15. Kristen

    My mom tried to pull my sister’s loose tooth when my sister was 5. For some reason my mom thought wire cutters were the best way to get the job done. She sliced my sister’s lip wide open. Good times.

  16. Famous SpokesGoat Pricilla

    I think he looks very handsome with his new hair cut.
    When the publicist was a little girl she had very,very long, curly hair. Her mother hated brushing it so she cut it all off as short as a boy’s. The publicist was not happy then and she is sorry to tell you (and you have seen her) no more curls.

    If he is happy then that is good. Perhaps the kids at school gave him a hard time for his curls?

  17. Tory

    He looks handsome. He’s happy with it, which is REALLY important. The hair will grow again, especially if you’re like me and only take the kids for haircuts once every 6 months.

    By the way, I sat in a carnival ferris wheel seat and watched my 4 year old fall getting on a different ride. He slashed a huge gash in his face, and was pouring blood. I screamed at the guy running the ride to get me off, but he refused to listen to me, and made me ride around THREE times while my desperate husband paced back and forth trying to find me. The paramedics arrived before I did, even though I was only 50 feet away (around and around and around I went, in an absolute panic). Long story short, we got him to the ER, stitched up his face, and he’s fine now. You can hardly tell. Kids are resilient. But the pictures of my once “perfect” child still send a pang into my gut.

    He’s adorable, and will be no matter what!

  18. Angie Chapman

    I cut my husband’s hair every time because he kept getting bad haircuts and it’s just the clippers. How could anyone mess that up. Well, right before Christmas, his hair was getting shaggy and he wanted me to TRIM it on a 5…”but don’t use those over the ear guards,” he said. But he didn’t tell me why and if I don’t know why, then I think I should use them for what they were meant. So, I used them and when he saw it, he said, “I LOOK LIKE BRIAN BOSWORTH!!!! SHAVE MY WHOLE DAMN HEAD!!!”

    Worst part, his mother was there visiting.

  19. Debbie McCormick

    Well, I actually like his new haircut! But all moms love curls so I get where you are coming from. Good news? His hair will grow back out quickly. That’s the good thing about boys and hair that wasn’t that long to start with.

    My five year old daughter with waist length long hair, got her child scissors and gave herself a mullet on one side of her head. Worst day ever.

  20. Trisha M.

    I can’t help you, sorry. Why? Because I did the same thing. (our curls didn’t come back, not the ringlet kind anyway) He is 13 now, with very thick wavy hair. It was sad to see them go and….. he never wanted that long curly hair back. *sigh* All I can do is sympathize with you. Hang in there.

  21. Tina

    Years ago, I was cutting my, then two year old, sons hair for the first time and I literally chopped the top of his ear off! He NEVER let me come at him with scissors again!

  22. Jean Deaux

    don’t worry about it. when he realizes that the girls like the curls, they will come back. but it IS going to take a while

    man, that was a beautiful head of hair (i’ve been steadily going bald for 17 years).

  23. Jessica

    When my son was four his uncle shaved his (my son’s) head. Without asking. Without even warning us before we picked him up. “Why would you do that?!” we asked. “Because he asked me to,” he replied. Whaaaaa?! Speechless. Anyway, I wish we could put pictures in here, because it was horrifying. My kid is pale and freckly, scrawny as a pencil, has a big round head, and sticky out ears. So. Not. Flattering. At the best, he looked like a cancer kid. At the worst, he looked like a skinhead. In his PJ’s, he looked like we’d just rescued him from a concentration camp. So on the bright side, at least Bucket Head’s curls will grow out WAY faster than they would if his head were SHAVED. Sigh.

  24. Angela

    In between hair lengths for boys are always hard. My son has in between hair and sometimes our hairdresser does it perfect and every once in a while its like…. uhhh, wait a minute…. LOL…. usually after a week its fine though..

  25. Ann

    You have Bucket Head and I have Basketball Head. Seriously, my youngest had the biggest head of any child ever born and it was round. Basketball round, Charlie Brown round, bless his heart. His older brother loved buzz cuts but he didn’t share the unfortunate roundness that his brother was cursed with. He begged…I caved. I didn’t cry, I sobbed and went to confession!!! The child’s pre-school photo where he’s smiling his sweet 3 year old “I love my Mommy and have no idea I now look like a little redneck whose Mama was in a bar fight the night before over a pack of cigs and a PBR” smile. I can’t look at the pics without crying because I was the one who did it.
    His sweet little curls will return, he’s a doll! In the meantime, put a bucket on his head.

  26. Amy

    Awww. At least he likes it. He looks so proud. I let someone cut bangs on my daughter and I’m not joking when I say there was a 2 inch differential between the left side and the right. It looked like her head was on crooked for a few weeks.

  27. Danielle

    My daughter will be a year old next week and she has no hair…none! My husband tried to talk me into piercing her ears so people would stop asking about our little “boy”…lol. You have the cutest son – curls or not. He has such a charismatic look and his freckles are to die for…such a cutie.

  28. Mimi Lou

    Leslie! He is still exactly the way God made him. What we like about or want for our kids doesn’t amount to a hill of beans. It’s what he likes about and wants for himself that really matters. I think “I feel like a new man” speaks volumes. “To thine own self be true.” I hope that you will start taking it easy on yourself. He is still your darling Bucket Head, and you are still his loving mama. Remember these lyrics from the Randy Travis’ song – “I ain’t in love with your hair”. His hair isn’t what makes him who he is. “But the saddest part?” no ….. the happiest part? “Bucket Head LOVES his new look.”

  29. Robin

    Well…I cut my brother’s pinky finger off with tree pruners when I was about 11. Does that help assuage some of your guilt?

  30. Lisa Thomson

    Although you are clearly grieving I have been laughing (sorry) but buckethead is adorable. When my son was 15 he had his sister shave his head. I was shocked by how vulnerable he looked. Kind of sad too but I got used to it.

  31. Sandy

    I HATED my very frizzy, thick, curly hair. I wanted sleek, straight, shiny hair, but my mother thought I wouldn’t look PuertoRican enough if she actually helped me to learn to manage and style it. So I spent my teenage years doing incredibly damaging things to my hair in an effort to tame the mane. Listen to your kid, not your own preferences. He might eventually appreciate the curls, or he may want to sport a more clean cut look. Plus, he’s a boy. Never discourage any inclination they get to groom. I think he looks darling in his grown up haircut.

  32. Eva Comeaux

    I’ve been forwarding your column emails to my husband for months. He loves them and always laughs. Tonight I suggested that he sign up so that I don’t have to forward and he said that if he did that he would be a girl. Sigh. Even though he loves them. Then, I suggested that he might subscribe if the Gatekeeper had a blog. He said he would but said he didn’t know if the Gatekeeper would be as funny as you are. I don’t know for sure, but I’d bet a column about you and your family from his perspective would be a hoot! Have you or he ever considered that? I’d love to read about your hilarious self from his perspective.

  33. Val

    Omg. I feel you pain. My curly top keeps trying to flatten his curls because his friend (age 5) told him they were “so weird”. They WILL grow back. Fingers crossed.

  34. cynthia zc

    Omg… why did u have to mention doors? I DID not only shut but LOCK my daughter’s little paw in the car door when she was about three. And twenty years earlier, when I was a nanny, I did the same to sweet two year old jessica!!! Aargh… I am same woman who accidentally trapped her own nipples inside the antique sewing machine cabinet while helping a friend move, if u recall that story. Regarding curls… my brother had some. GORGEOUS. Like buckethead’s. He spent YEARS blowing it dry flat. Oh… and jessica? Her dad accidentally broke her legs that same year as they were sledding. Ahhh… parenthood! Heartbreaking!! For the kids! Fyi, my dtr’s hand was fine… as was jessica’s but I sure as hell felt HORRIBLE. Zc

  35. Sarah L

    Sorry, mama, but I think he looks amazing with his new haircut. Maybe it’s the new grown-up look that is causing you so much pain? Every time my kids shoot up a couple inches, I want to wad them up like a piece of paper and shove them back into their newborn footie pj’s. *sigh*

  36. laura

    I’m sure they’ll come back on Easter morning.

  37. paulheels@gmail.com

    It’s not the hair on his head that counts. It’s the hair of his beard. Remember this feeling when you think you want him to shave his beard once he is of age.

    No Save Never

  38. Jenn @ Something Clever 2.0

    He does look very grown up. Not that that’s what YOU want, but…

  39. Debbie M

    He’s still a cutie. As he would be with a buzz cut. Or bald. Or with a mohawk. And even if he weren’t, he’s still your Bucket Head.

    Have you ever noticed that people with straight hair usually prefer curly hair and vice versa?

    But since he likes it and wants to keep it, it makes sense for you to mourn. Frankly, kids change all the time, there is always something to mourn. Just remember to also focus on the awesomeness that is happening right now. (Isn’t it a little bit hilarious that he has a comb and checks himself out in the mirror?)

    We all go through a fitting-in stage (or maybe we’re always going through different fitting-in stages). Wanting straight hair is by far one of the least scary ways to try to fit in. (It’s not like it’s going to work anyway–he still wants to have a baby out his butt, right?)

  40. Kristin @ What She Said

    Well, first, I think he looks very handsome. And very grown-up. (I know – that probably just made you cry again.) And secondly, I think you’re doing the right thing by asking him what HE wants – because he’s six and that’s definitely old enough to start forming opinions about personal style and whatnot. But with all that said, as a mom to a fellow curly-top, OMG, I WOULD CRY, TOO! Much as I bemoan having to tussle with Lil’ Bit’s hair every morning, I adore her curls. Especially now that we’ve finally found a product that works on them. I can only hope she grows up to appreciate them as much as I do. Because I’ve spent a lifetime battling my hair and have only recently come to love it (most of the time). And looking back, it all seems so silly now.

  41. Jan A

    It could be worse…you pay for a bad haircut AND an overpriced cool, sexy man’s hair product to style/spike/muss what’s left! You do it because the stylist showed him what could be done to salvage, oops, I mean style it AND because you hope that magic gel will restore some manhood if by the name on the tube alone! I thank God for products with names like Short Sexy Hair Slept In and Short Sexy Hair Hard Up….seriously.

  42. Robin Jingjit

    I can totally see both sides. As a mom of two curly moptops, I might cry when my boys ask for haircuts. I love, love, love their curls.

    But, as someone who just got a drastic haircut (from longer-than-my-waist to about like your son’s) I am shocked how many people said mourning-type comments about my haircut, like “whhhyyy?” I have told each and every one of them that if they want to have long hair, they are welcome to it, but I was ready for something new. I know you didn’t say anything to him. And I’ll probably change my tune in a year or two when one of my boys gets a cut, and I’ll be the one mourning it…. I do love those curls. But it’s nice to see them getting older and having their own opinions.

  43. Elizabeth

    I have a long, sad history of “well intentioned” relatives cutting my girls’ hair. My oldest had waist length hair at the age of 2. When I came home from work one day, my stepmother had had it cut as short as your son’s. Much expletives and crying occurred. And then, a few years later, my mother cut my youngest daughter’s hair, which had long ring curls, straight off. Again, much expletives and crying. So now, with 6 grandchildren, I notified them if they want their childrens’ hair cut, YOU DO IT.

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