Every parent knows what I'm talking about here—it's that siren-wail that sounds like a cross between a fire engine and a wolf baying at the moon. It can shatter glass and is sure to damage the hearing of any adult within a thirty foot radius. Each child has his or her own variation, and I firmly believe that nature helps each individual to hone his or her particular screech so that it produces maximum annoyance in the parents.
My children are particularly gifted at the Wail of Torture, and they frequently use it to beat my husband and I into submission. I am ashamed to admit that my torture tolerance is fairly low, so after enduring about two minutes of ear-shattering misery, I generally fold and say, "Okay, okay! You want a snack? We'll find you something! Just please stop screeching!!"
I've gotten so used to anticipating the wail that I was taken by surprise when my son said to me the other night, "Mommy, I don't like it when you put my pajamas on for me." No screeching, no crying, no wailing!
I saw the opportunity for a teachable moment (and the distant hope of saving my hearing) and jumped all over it. I praised him heartily for using words to describe how he was feeling. I said, "Evan, I really like it when you use your words to say what you don't like. It's so much more helpful to me than when you yell. I really, really like it when you just tell me what you don't like."
Apparently my praise inspired him, because Evan looked thoughtful for a moment, then said in a firm voice, "Mommy, I don't like your hair. It's messy."
Wellllll..... that tactic worked like a charm, now didn't it?!
I suppose I shouldn't fault him for being honest. I glanced in the mirror and was immediately shamed by my reflection. If I hadn't shampooed my hair just that morning, I might have expected to run my hands through it and find a small family of birds living somewhere amongst the mop of unruly frizz.
I've never had good luck with my hair—it's the kind that's not really straight but not really curly; it's very thick with a lot of waves, and if I don't make an effort to straighten it or tame it somehow it just gets bigger and bigger until I could rival Helena Bonham Carter on the red carpet.
|Someone get this poor woman a stylist!|
My stylist's name was Joey, and he was well-coiffed and perfectly pomaded. I was surprised to see that he was wearing more makeup than I was, but I decided to take that as a sign that he knew what he was doing. I settled in the chair with a smile.
He took my hair elastic out, and a giant mop of frizzy tangles tumbled around my shoulders. I think a few butterflies may have taken flight too. He frowned at my reflection in the mirror and said, "Okay... so, exactly what are we doing today, hmm??"
I sighed and told him that my hair was in massive need of an overhaul. I probably launched into more detail than was necessary, but I felt the need to explain why I looked like an extra from a disaster movie. I told him that, as a stay-at-home mom, I don't get out much, and I don't have the opportunity to get my hair cut on a regular basis. I shamefully described my philosophy on hair care: wait until I notice that my hair looks generally terrible, do a quick calculation and realize that it's been four months since my last haircut, and book the first available appointment at the local Holiday Hair.
He told me he would get everything taken care of, and soon he was artfully snipping away, chopping off all the dried out ends and tidying up the entire situation.
Once he had finished cutting, we discussed styling options. I told him that my hair just doesn't cooperate. He asked me what products I use.
"Um, excuse me?" I said.
"Pro-ducts. What products are you using?" he asked again, speaking slowly as if I might be slightly hard of hearing or mentally challenged.
I thought about the cabinet in my bathroom that's jammed with styling creme, hairspray, curling mist, smoothing gel, pomade, body-building mousse—none of which I use—and frantically tried to remember what any of them were called. I came up blank.
"Um, I don't really use anything," I said sheepishly. He gave me a withering look and was about to suggest something when I offered, "but I have a whole drawer full of every styling product imaginable. It's just that I never remember to use any of them."
He frowned at me and said rather accusingly, "You're not one of those moms who wears those awful track suits and sweatpants out in public, are you?"
My mind called up the image of my dresser drawer that barely closes because it's stuffed to the gills with "yoga" pants, and I blushed. I felt the odd need to apologize. "Being a stay-at-home mom just isn't very... glamorous, I guess."
"You could make it glamorous," he replied optimistically. "Do your hair in the morning. Put on some makeup. Dress up. Look nice for your husband when he gets home."
Truth be told, those were all things I once swore I would faithfully do. I vowed never to be one of those moms that just lounged about in shapeless workout attire, sans makeup, looking like a candidate for What Not to Wear. What had happened? When had I become that person?
I pondered this as Joey gave me a fabulous blowout and styled my hair to perfection. It fell around my face in bouncy waves, and I instantly felt beautiful. I thanked him profusely and promised him that I would clean up my act. I owed it to myself (and to my extremely expensive haircut) to maintain the new look.
But regardless, just a couple of days later, there I was—wearing my comfy pants and sporting a hairdo that could have worked on a scarecrow. And my son called me on it. My four-year-old boy!
*sigh* Something had to be done.
So yesterday I got out my straightening iron and my curling iron. I moved the junk on my bathroom counter out of the way and cleared a work area. I set out bobby pins and styling products—I was determined to look pretty for my boys.
Just as I was getting warmed up (literally), my son ambled into the bathroom to see what I was doing. Before I could shout, "Stop!", he reached up and grabbed my curling iron by the barrel. He gasped and reflexively pulled his hand back, cradling it against his body.
I just felt terrible. Evan didn't cry or whine; he insisted he was fine. I took a look at the angry red patch on his hand and decided it would be best to keep an eye on him to make sure he was okay, so I unplugged my styling tools, put my hair back in a ponytail, and went to join my kids at play.
Attempt to look good=failed. Back to square one.
I frolicked with my little ones, but the fun was tainted by paranoia—did my son frown at my baggy sweatshirt? Did he glance at my hair and look quickly away? Was he going to be ashamed to be seen in public with me in a few years?
Does my appearance really matter that much when I'm in the house most of the day?
Is this really that bad?
|Ack, well, perhaps it is.|
I don't have all the answers, but if anyone has a brilliant idea about how to look beautiful and put-together while caring for two children, I will be the first to take notes.
In the meantime, I think the next skill I will teach my son will be how to say, "Mommy, you're pretty just the way you are."