I recently read about Will Smith talking about why he let his daughter cut her hair off. (Couldn't find the original link.)
“We let Willow cut her hair. When you have a little girl, it’s like how can you teach her that you’re in control of her body? If I teach her that I’m in charge of whether or not she can touch her hair, she’s going to replace me with some other man when she goes out in the world. She can’t cut my hair but that’s her hair. She has got to have command of her body. So when she goes out into the world, she’s going out with a command that it is hers. She is used to making those decisions herself. We try to keep giving them those decisions until they can hold the full weight of their lives.”
This resonated with me especially because Puttachi has declared that she wants to grow her hair.
For as long as she had no particular choice, I kept her hair short, because I found it easier to maintain. But now that she is old enough to know what she wants, she told me that she wants to grow her hair, and that is fine by me. I know it is going to be a little difficult - I have never dared grow my hair because I find maintenance too tedious. But if Puttachi wants to grow hers, then that is her decision and I will help her with it.
People have asked me why I indulge her. Just cut it off, they say. Anyway, you are the one that cuts her hair - just tell her that you are trimming her hair and then cut it off. People told me this even when she was three years old, and was aware enough to insist that she wants hair long enough in front - because she liked wearing clips. They felt she looked cuter with her hair cut in a fringe, and told me to just cut it off, what would she do about it? I was shocked, because even a three-year-old is a person with a say over what she wants - and this is such a harmless thing, it is not like she is insisting on eating only ice-cream for every meal! So I refused to do anything to her hair without her permission.
That doesn't mean that we will let her do anything she wants. There has to be a line somewhere and we will draw it, but we will tell her why we are drawing that line. And since, from the beginning, I have explained to her in detail why I do the things I do, she already knows that there is a reason for everything we do, and I'm sure she'll respect it. In fact, she is always open to logical arguments. Now that she is growing her hair, it started falling into her eyes, and she is frequently too busy in her own world to realize that it is obstructing her sight, and so she doesn't always push her hair back, or tighten her clips. So I told her that I would have to cut her hair short in the front, and she can grow it long at the back. She saw the sense in my argument and agreed.
My mother tells me about a child who came to my first birthday party with bindis stuck all over her face. I find that very impressive, that the girl's parents let her be a child, follow her fancy, and go out to a party with stickers all over her face. I mean, it is so harmless, and if the child likes it, so what? If the child wants to choose her own clothes, so what? If the child wants to wear twenty clips on her head, pink on one side and red on the other, and go out of the house, so what? (Puttachi has done that.)
This might seem a small thing - but it is just a foundation for the future. If we don't allow our children to take simple decisions about their own bodies, about their own lives, then what can we possibly teach them? What do you think?