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  • He was relaxed, clean and happy. His freshly scrubbed cheeks were pink and round and wet. The soft scent of Lavender and Chamomile Sleepy-Time baby wash lingered in the air, and a stray soap bubble hovered on the Frog Pod for an ephemeral instant and vanished. The curved end of the nail scissors I'd plucked from the Lancôme manicure set (free gift with purchase) felt sharp in my hands, and I knew an instant of compunction. But it had to be done, and I was the one to do it.

    Mentally, I reviewed my game plan. He was busily scooping and pouring with the Alex School of Fish BPA-free stackable bath cups that nobody in our home under the age of 20 had ever actually stacked. I had the advantage of size, strength, and surprise. He'd never know what hit him.

    He turned his head slightly to reach for the Skip Hop penguin bath mitt. I pounced like a fat kid alighting on the hidden Halloween stash in the back of the pantry drawer. Just a couple of quick snips, I thought. That should transform him from the sort of child about whom people were always saying, "What a lovely girl!" and restore him to the rightful enjoyment of the full flower of his boyhood. Easy-peasy.

    It wasn't so much that he protested this violation of his person, although to be sure there was an element of that. No, I think that where I went wrong was my failure to anticipate the difficulty inherent in trimming a toddler's hair evenly while he is occupied in grabbing his sister's mermaid out of her tightly clutched hands. I should have foreseen that this would in turn necessitate a lot of jabbing at the back of his head with scissors in a more or less random fashion, in the manner of one stabbing an unseen opponent in the dark.

    I can't pinpoint the single moment where it all derailed. Rather, there was a series of moments, each one of which sent me careening more madly out of control. I would finish cutting one section of hair to the desired length, only to find that I'd inadvertently made it shorter than the others and I'd have to cut the rest to match. Every now and again I would step back and survey him wildly, only to discover that I had carved out a new jagged patch of hair that looked markedly more askew than the other jagged patches of hair, and I'd have a go hacking at that one for a time.

    When it was over, his head looked like a forest that had been cleared in the course of an illegal logging operation. His hair, the color of ripe corn, was cropped in a manner suggestive of severe blight. His glorious, tousled golden mane bore all the hallmarks of having been in a losing scuffle with a rival pride. His scalp appeared to be the battleground upon which a scorched earth battle had been waged. What he now sported resembled a hedge that had run afoul of a property demarcation line and found itself, in a neighborly dispute turned nasty, subjected to a kerosene torch and a pack of lit matches.

    I conducted a brief forensics analysis of the scene. Gilded locks were strewn lifelessly all over the Safety First Tubside Kneeler and Bath Stool. I looked down at my hands still gripping the scissors. They were dotted with stray hairs, casualties of the follicular butchery I had perpetrated, marking me the Macbeth of hairstyling. I wiped them on my mom jeans, lifted him out of the bath, carefully wrapped his crooked coif in his hooded bath towel like a detective bagging the evidence, and cradled him for a long, tender moment, until he squirmed out of my arms and tried to climb the towel rack.

    At the hairdresser the next day, he sat in a barber chair disguised as a car, sucked happily on the yellow and green lollipop the hairdresser had given him when he'd started to cry, and watched Jungle Book on the console facing him. I paid the $15 tab while he played in the enclosed play area and ran in and out of gaily colored train cars.

    On the way home, I fielded another call from my husband asking me if I'd brought him to have his hair fixed yet, and told him I'd text him a picture.

    "I know it's still kind of fresh," I added weakly, "but I'm sure it's the kind of thing that one day, we'll be able to look back on and laugh about."

    And, I noted for the first time that day, he had nothing sharp or cutting to say.
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