It's very strange indeed to send your child away for a week and have him returned with a new haircut. A haircut that is exactly the same as his father's, that makes him look exactly like his father, so every time you speak to him, as you're getting used to it, you have to concentrate hard not to hear his father in his voice.
You don't speak about it, but when your husband nonchalantly offers to give your son a buzz cut, you know that he is thinking the same thing.
And a couple of weeks ago, when your friends and your mother-in-law were remarking admiringly on his shaggy mane, you received an email from his father that said 'Time for a haircut!' When you replied that he looks fantastic, you were informed that there was no way he was sending him up to his parents on the Gold Coast 'looking like that' and had to have an argument behind the closed door of your study that afternoon while your son and his little brother kicked the footy around the lounge room.
Your son's father said 'no son of mine is walking around looking like a rock star!' and you said ' ' in such a way that he laughed at you and called you a child, because he knew what you were thinking. And what you were thinking was that you LIKE him looking like a rock star. And you said that he always gets his way, because he always gets all your son's hair chopped off when he's got him safely at his house, and you never get to have him looking the way you would choose. And you argued like this for far longer than was sensible. Secretly, you reflected that you will let your son get his ear pierced and have tattoos when he is a teenager and his father will not be able to do anything about it. (Well, maybe not tattoos.)
Life's hard enough for him as it is, you thought, without stupid haircuts. 'Life's hard enough for him as it is,' said your son's father, 'without stupid haircuts.' And he meant something quite different, even if you were thinking in the same words. You meant that kids already judge him as a bit odd anyway, with the Asperger's, and that a faintly cool haircut couldn't hurt in evening up the stakes. He meant that teachers already judge him as a bit odd anyway, with the Asperger's, and a nerdboy haircut couldn't hurt in evening up the stakes.
You were also thinking of your own childhood, when your mum plaited your hair in two braids and made you wear a skivvy and a navy pinafore to school, with white knee socks and navy Mary Janes. While the other kids wore tight denim jeans or skirts and striped polo shirts and sneakers. And that it really would have helped if, instead of sending you to school as Nerd Barbie, she'd given you sneakers and jeans and bought you an AC/DC album. (You wrote 'I love AC/DC' on your pencilcase because everyone else did, but you didn't even know what it meant.)
'You're just thinking of your own childhood and your mum making you wear those crazy outfits,' said your son's father, and because it was true you couldn't help laughing, and then you both sighed and agreed to a compromise - that you would take him to get a haircut before it was time for your son's father to take send him to the Gold Coast to stay with his parents. And that it would be neater, but still long.
On the way home from the barber's, you realised that the haircut you'd kind of instructed him on hadn't quite worked out. That it was a bit bizarre. That he looked like he had stepped out of a 1970s clothing catalogue (if you didn't look at his clothes) or run away from The Partridge Family. And your son's father, who had just pulled up at the kerb, fell about laughing as he assured you he would get it fixed up.
So, a week later, your son came back to you looking like he always does after a haircut - exactly like a smaller version of his dad, not at all what you would choose. And you feel disconcertingly like the balance has been tipped and that he's his dad's son, and you are borrowing him. The feeling doesn't last long, and you know it's irrational. But it's the cost of compromise, of co-parenting, along with the impossible dreams to move to New York, or to live in a coastal town, or send your son to an alternative hippy school, or to go back to Adelaide and live near your family.
And you have to admit that the result of your attempt at getting his hair cut was almost as anachronistic as your mum's dressing you up in a pinafore and Mary Janes.
Still. When he had long hair, they said that he looked more like you.