It was my fault, really. I had no business setting foot in your salon with my over-tired Kindergartener and her unruly little sister. Not when I was this tired myself. Not when I had already endured one of the worst mornings ever. I should have known better.
My mom tried to talk me out of it. “They don’t need haircuts,” she said. “Just trim their bangs and be done with it,” she said. I should have listened.
But I didn’t. Because we had family pictures scheduled for 9:00am the next morning with my husband’s whole family. Remember? I told you about it when we showed up and you said you could squeeze us in. I bet you saw it in my eyes – you knew I had a hell of a day, and you just wanted to help a tired mama out.
So Reese sat in your chair and I told you just to trim it and thin it. (That girl has so much hair). You started spraying and combing and cutting; and we started chatting the way women do in hair salons.
I’m still not sure how it happened. Maybe you were behind on appointments because you squeezed in a last-minute walk-in. You could have been distracted by my toddler running laps around your product display. Maybe you’ve got some personal stuff going on. Maybe you just plain weren’t paying attention.
You reached for the thinning shears, but you grabbed the scissors instead.
I heard you gasp and I looked down and you were holding a massive chunk of my daughter’s hair. And I just froze because I couldn’t believe my eyes.
My precious little girl with hair halfway down her back. The one who just told you she wants to be like Rapunzel. The one sitting in your chair with a chunk of hair cut all the way up to her ear.
I won’t even pretend that I didn’t have an urge to freak out. To yell, “What have you done?!?!” To snatch Reese from your chair and lead her away and assure you that we would never, ever come back here. Did I not just tell you we have pictures tomorrow?!
But what message would that send to you about who I am and what I believe? What message would that send to my daughter about walking in grace?
I saw your hands shaking, your eyes brimming with tears. “Oh my gosh. I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry.” You said it over and over.
Before I could foster a reaction, I remembered the picture I saw that morning. The one of the toddler’s body washed up on the Turkish shore. Heartbreaking. I closed my screen and sent up a prayer for his innocent soul and his heartbroken people. What else could I do from here? In the face of such devastation, any act seems too small.
But I know one thing. This world is maxed out on the negative. We need more grace. More compassion. More love. And not just for the big things. For little things too. Little things like bad haircuts.
I took a deep breath. You probably saw me holding back my own tears. I wanted you to know that they weren’t about you. I wanted to tell you that my horrible day capped by this horrible haircut just got pressed into perspective by the mental image of a drowned toddler and all that his death represents.
Now that’s a crisis. This, my dear, is nothing.
And I told you as much. I said it was okay. It’s hair. It grows. “Compared to rest of the world’s problems, this is small potatoes.” It was all I could say without opening a flood gate and pouring my heart all over the floor of your salon.
Because I carry some heavy burdens these days. I bet you do too. We know nothing of each other’s battles.
Reese started asking questions. “Mommy, what’s wrong with my hair? Something’s wrong. I can tell.” I told her that you made a mistake but it would be okay. I knew our reactions would dictate hers, and she stayed calm because we stayed calm.
You said you wouldn’t charge me and I said I appreciated that. Before I left, I handed you a tip. Maybe I shouldn’t have, but it felt like the right thing to do in the moment. I guess I just wanted you to know that I forgive you. It was a mistake. People make mistakes.
Everyone deserves compassion.
I took Reese home and we sat in front of the full-length mirror. I showed her where her hair had been cut and we talked about the options. We could cut it all short or leave it as it is. She decided to leave it and let it grow.
Then she turned and put her arms around my neck and scooted into my lap. “Mommy, I wish this wouldn’t have happened. I love my pretty hair.”
And in that moment your mistake gave us a gift. A precious teachable moment.
I started with validation. Hair is a deeply personal part of our identity. A symbol of beauty. A source of confidence. And the hair of a five-year-old is no less important. I reassured her that it’s absolutely okay to feel sad about what happened.
But I also told her that we should be thankful because her hair will grow back. It’ll get a little longer every day and someday it will be just like it was before.
There are a lot of problems that don’t reverse themselves with the passing of time.
Then I reminded her that you didn’t do it on purpose and that you were sorry it happened. We talked about the gift of forgiveness and the power of grace.
We prayed for you that night before she went to bed. She wanted you to know that she’s okay. We also remembered to thank God for some of the little things we normally overlook.
And the money I saved on her haircut? It’s going toward a donation to the refugees.
Because everyone deserves compassion.
And no act is too small.
As for me, I’m not over it. I’ll see it every time she walks past me. I’ll see it every time I brush and style her hair to hide the short ends. Every time someone asks me what on earth happened.
I’ll never forget this.
And I’ll never forget what I learned about grace and forgiveness and the incredible power of perspective.