Parents' editor-in-chief Liz Vaccariello shares how a trip to the hair salon revealed her daughter's inner confidence. 

Liz Vaccariello Red Dress Sitting
Credit: Grace Huang

"There's got to be another way.” This was my husband, Steve, who was standing in the kitchen watching both of his 5-year-old daughters shriek in pain, stomp their feet, and wipe away tears. The same scene had played out every morning since our girls were 3.

I was brushing their hair. We’d tried everything to make the task more pleasant. We’d bought no-tangle spray, no-pull brushes, and wide-tooth combs. I’d experimented with brushing it through fast, and with taking small chunks tenderly in my hand. There’d been a time of shorter styles. Didn’t matter. Inevitably, a hair caught and a cry rang out: “Mommy, that huuuuurts!”

The process tormented me, too, but I would not cede the task. To arrange your hair is to signal that the day has begun, that you are putting your best self forward, and that you were not, as my mother would say, “raised in a barn.” Still, I was spending part of every day making my kids cry, and this emotional “tangle” weighed heavily on all of us.

It went on for years. Then one day (which I miraculously cannot recall) they were old enough to brush their own hair in a presentable enough way and the tears stopped.

When Sophia asked me, two months before her 12th birthday, if she could dye her hair the colors of the rainbow, my first thought was, “Since when do you care what your hair looks like?” Then “Is she too young?” [See “The (Right) First Time for Everything”] What came out of my mouth surprised us both: “Sure! Let’s make an appointment.”

This was a seedling of hair caring and I was going to nurture it! More than that, her confidence impressed me. This was not some fad she was following; no one else at her school was doing it. My girl simply loved bright colors and wanted to express that.

At the salon, I watched Sophia’s hair go from chestnut to bleach blond. “No going back now,” I thought. “This is awesome!” she squealed. They applied the color and I stood over the shampoo basin as the hues swirled to life.

It wasn’t until she was about to round the corner to school that it occurred to Sophia how the world might react to her colorful statement. “What if someone makes fun of it?” she asked. And before Steve, who was prepared with a little speech about not caring what people think, could get a word out, Sophia said, “Doesn’t matter. I like it, and that’s all that counts.”

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