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11-Year-Old Willow Smith Shaves Head, Internet Explodes

Earlier this week, Willow Smith, the 11-year-old daughter of superstars Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith tweeted a photo of herself with a shaved head.  Ironic when you consider Willow became a “household name” for her song and video, “Whip My Hair,” not surprising if you’ve ever encountered a tween and their mood swings.

In any case, once the photo was posted, the uproar was immediate and loud. Everyone in the blogosphere, from mommiesto celebrity reporters (to hairdressers) had opinions, all varied and all speculative. (Willow hasn’t indicated the reason behind the bold move yet.) The big question seems to be though, is it appropriate for an 11-year-old girl to shave her head? (Although in my opinion, the question should be is it appropriate for an 11-year-old to be on Twitter?)

For me, this is a “choose your battles” situation, both for myself and my child. Hair is not a permanent fixture on our bodies, and if my daughter decided she wanted to shave her head (ha, not likely) then I’d probably sit her down and have a serious discussion about why she wanted to do it. Had she considered the ramifications of her decision? What will happen when she walks into school that first time? Certainly you don’t want to tell your kids to chart their lives based on what other people think, but in the pressure-filled world of tweendom, it’s certainly an important consideration.

It’s tough because I want to let my kids to learn that their choices, both good and ill-advised, shape who they are and who they are going to be. But at the same time, as a parent, sometimes you need to know when to step in and say “No, you aren’t doing this,” offering them guidance as they turn into the person they will become.

Having said that, hair does grow back.

What do you think of Willow’s new hair style?

Our Two Cents: To the Mom Mulling a Mohawk

Would you let your child sport this haircut? ©Margan Zajdowicz/stock.xchng

Dear Amanda and Suzanne:

Just when did mohawks become the summer haircut of choice for boys?

Because no sooner had I finished telling my ten-year-old son that there’s no way he’s getting a mohawk haircut on our next trip to the barber, two of his friends show up to swim in our pool with their hair freshly buzzed, each with a stripe running from front to back.

What is up with that? I must have blinked and lost my edge, because the last time I checked only punk rockers sported that ‘do and it had something to do with egg wash.

So tell me: 1) Is this a neighborhood fad? and 2) Should I be giving my son some slack in choosing his own hairstyle?

To be honest, my husband is not entirely keen on the look either, but says maybe we should let him get it out of his system. I’m not sure I can go along with it though. What would you do?

–Clean Cut Mom

Suzanne: You don’t say where you live, but rest assured, this is all the rage by me too. The other night at my son’s baseball game, I spotted not one, not two, but three mohawks among his teammates (8 and 9 year olds). As soon as their caps came off, I started thinking: How long before my son asks for one too?

And I think I would probably struggle with it just as much as you. Except my son’s not asking for one. Phew.

But if I were you, I would probably want to know why this look appeals to him. And if he’s like most ten-year-olds, there won’t be much explanation or thought behind his argument. He’ll probably say something to the effect of all of his friends have it, and he just wants one too. Maybe he’ll go so far as to tell you that you’re old and so not cool and that you have no idea what style is. And maybe he already has.

So basically you have two choices. The first would be to say: “I’m your mother and as long as I’m paying for your haircut, I have a say in how it’s done.” (My first approach if need be.)

The second would be to count this among the battles you choose not to fight. Sure, you might worry that giving in to him on this will set you up to be a pushover when it comes to more serious stuff. But if you set some limits, and can come to terms with it in your own mind, then maybe tell him he can try it out once and only once. Hopefully he’ll hate it as much as you. Or grow tired of it. Or be itchy on day two and ask you to buzz it off in the backyard.

Whichever way it goes, this won’t be the last time you talk to your son about making a choice to stand out in the crowd (or in this case blend in with the crowd). So the practice sure won’t hurt. Good luck and happy buzzing!

Amanda: I asked my son, a 10-year-old boy who also happens to have the aforementioned mohawk haircut (for the third summer in a row), why he likes it so much, he said: “I just like it. It’s cool.”

So there you go. As his mom, I’m not thrilled with the cut, but it’s what he wants and it’s harmless enough, so in the summertime, when school is not in session, he’s permitted to get one. He’s happy, I’m somewhat happy (come September anyway) and peace reigns in our house.

I know what you are asking. If I don’t like him having a mohawk, why does he have one? Because it’s his body, not mine, and to me, a crazy haircut really isn’t that big of a deal. It has been my experience that hair always grows back.

In the summer for my son, a mohawk is his hair style of choice. But during the school year, he and his friends refuse to get haircuts, instead holding a contest to see who can grow their hair the longest. I think for school-age boys, hair is less a political or a fashion statement and more about topping their friends. And to me, that’s fine. Because I don’t look in the mirror and see spikes or a mop on my head.

In fact, the same reason why I chose not pierce my daughter’s ears as an infant is the same reason why I don’t interfere with my son’s choice of hair style.

Your body, your choice. And if you are old enough to express a preference, you are old enough to get it, especially if it’s non-permanent. And a haircut is decidedly non-permanent. (This is all within reason of course. No body piercings just yet. We need to save some drama for the teenage years.)

So I vote for letting your son get the hair style of his choice. If it makes you uncomfortable, set some parameters, like only during the summer like we do, or make the hair that makes up the mohawk wider. I think my son’s mohawk is about two or three inches wide across his head which definitely makes it less jarring than the one that our friend in the photograph (above right) has.

Good luck! While your son is at the barber, treat yourself to a pedicure — neon blue of course!

*********************

Is your child’s haircut a matter of personal choice? Yours or theirs?

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