My son, Aaron, is a cute kid. I’m not just saying that because I’m his mom. People tell me all the time – family, friends, strangers. There is just something about him. Maybe it’s his glasses, people seem to love little kids with glasses. It might be his impish smile or his adult manner of speaking or maybe it’s that he’s naturally funny. Mostly, though, I think it is his hair. Aaron has lush, dark curly hair. People, especially old ladies, can’t resist it.
Ever since he was a toddler, people would come over to the shopping cart or stroller drawn in by his wide smile. “Oh, what a happy baby!” they would say as the reached over and stroked his hair. ”I love his hair. I just had to touch it.”
As Aaron grew older, his hair continued to attract attention. “Where did he get that great head of hair?” they would ask, looking at my poker straight locks, accusingly. “Must be from his dad, right?”
“Oh, what a shame to waste such beautiful hair on a little boy. Too bad he’s not a girl. Do you have any daughters?” people would say right in front of Aaron. He would always smile politely. Then, when we would walk away, he would tell me that it hurt his feelings.
“Why are people always saying that I should be a girl?” Aaron would ask. “I like being a boy. It makes me feel bad when they say I should be a girl.”
I wanted to tell Aaron that sometimes adults are rude and stupid, but since I knew Aaron would turn that around on me some day I told him that people were trying to complement him. “Yeah, well, they’re not very good at it,” he said, dissatisfied with my explanation.
It’s not that I haven’t tried to protect Aaron from these people but they just sneak up on you. I am trying to select apples, I turn around to someone touching Aaron’s hair. I load my groceries onto the checkout counter and look up to see the cashier reaching out to stroke Aaron’s hair. I bend down to tie his shoe as we wait in the bank line, the lady in front of us turns around to touch his hair.
The day an older gentleman came up to me at a garden shop and said, “Excuse me, I’m not a pedophile or anything, but your sons are beautiful. Do you mind if I touch the little one’s hair. It looks so supple,” I had had enough. Now, when I am out with Aaron, I keep him very close to me. When I see someone walking toward us with that I-just-have-to-touch-his hair look on their face, I put my hand on Aaron’s head and give them an I-dare-you-to-even-try look.
It has always amazed me how adults will treat children as if they are not people. No one ever asked Aaron if they could touch his hair. The only person who ever asked me was the “I’m not a pedophile” guy. It seemed that adults didn’t think they had to ask, they had no sense that they were invading Aaron’s space. I doubt they would have done the same to an adult. Heck, they wouldn’t have done the same thing to a dog. You often hear people ask before they pet someone’s dog. I have always told my boys that they should never pet a dog without asking the owner first. Maybe I should get a t-shirt for Aaron. It could say: My Son is Not a Dog, So Please Don’t Pet Him. His Mom’s a Bitch and She Bites.”