What I Can Learn from the Beauty of Tiny Beowulf

My son just started kindergarten last month. He’s a likable kid, on the tall side for his age, slightly moody — because, you know, he’s five — and he has lots of friends. He also has a litany of vision problems and wears the tiniest bifocals you’ve ever seen, but he likes them because he thinks they make him look like Harry Potter. He has silky-straight blonde hair, like his dad, which he likes to let grow long. He plays dinosaur like nobody’s business and is an appropriately rough-and-tumble kid. Because of my husband’s Viking heritage, I like to call our son my little Beowulf.

Note the Bam-Bam t-shirt? I like to call this shot FAIR WARNING.

Even if we wanted to — which we don’t, particularly — we couldn’t tell Tiny Beowulf he has to keep his hair short, because we have photos and paintings of Daddy all over the house that show Daddy used to have very long hair.  (When Peter Jackson’s first Lord of the Rings movie came out, my sweetly shy husband good-naturedly endured his fair share of teasing and flirting in the form of favorable comparisons to Legolas.)

So our son likes his hair long. We keep it trimmed by a professional on a regular basis, and if it becomes a hassle at school, we get it trimmed a little more aggressively.  But around the time he was three years old, he decided he was just going to wear it long and that was that. It’s super cute.

Now his hair is longer than it’s been before, reaching all the way past his collar to the tops of his shoulders.  He can push it out of his eyes and just tuck it behind his ears. He loves it. But he’s almost the only boy in his grade at school without short hair, and his is definitely the longest. Because of my own miserable grade school experiences, I’m a little hyper-sensitive sometimes to how my kids are doing socially, though I try not to let it show because I don’t want them to pick up on my own projected insecurities. So at the end of our first week of classes — a blessedly short, three-day week — as I was going through the litany of Questions About School, I slipped in, “And what do your friends think of your long hair this year?”

“They said I look like a girl,” he replied matter-of-factly, but his exuberance dimmed just a little.

Trying not to make a fuss, I said, “Well, you don’t look like a girl, not at all.” Then just as casually, I asked, “How do you feel about what they said?”

“I didn’t like it.”

“I can understand that.” Then I paused. “Do you want to cut your hair short?”

His gaze transferred from the toy he was playing with to my face. “No,” he said as if my question were, frankly, ridiculous.

“Okay,” I smiled. “No problem.”

He turned back to the toy.

“Let me know if you change your mind,” I added. “We can cut it short any time, if you want to.”

“I know,” he said. He hears this reminder a lot. I never want to keep his hair long just to preserve his individuality for the sake of his having a blatantly individualistic appearance. But he never takes us up on the offer.

I wish I had that type of self-assurance. I hope he never loses it.

He’s not a perfect kid by any means. Did I mention he’s moody? A little like a thirteen-year-old girl on his bad days. And he doesn’t always display such confidence in every arena. But if he can feel good about the way he looks, being in this respect the odd man out on the kindergarten playground, I’m optimistic about his ability to handle grade school better than I ever could.

In my less personally secure moments, I try to remember this video from Dove:


I try to remember that, like everyone else, I am bombarded — and have been my whole life — with pathologically unrealistic images of what my own appearance should be and with solutions to fix the way I look and am in order to achieve some version of beauty that does not really exist.

It’s enough to eat me up, inside and out. Can the stress drive me to consume half a package of Oreos, the whole time feeling guilty about eating it rather than exercising my anxiety away? It might, if we kept stuff like that in the house rather than lots of fresh fruit.

I live in the suburbs, where at least twice a month I find magazines in my mailbox which contain nothing but advertisements, nearly 70% of which are for cosmetic surgeons of one variety or another. At my age, on a sour day, the blitz is tempting. Maybe just to read through quickly. You know, just to investigate it a little, see what the buzz is all about.

So I’ll be standing there in the kitchen, sifting through the mail, reading up on one of the many local medi-spas and its miraculous and revolutionary procedures, absorbing calculatingly tantalizing before and after pictures, finding far too many ways to relate to the Authentic Case Histories and Testimonials from Actual Clients Whose Lives Have Been Transformed —

Then suddenly I’ll be practically knocked down by Tiny Beowulf, who has come in with a blitz of his own, roaring like a T. Rex. He’ll throw his arms around my waist and slam his face against my belly button, laughing. “I got you, Mommy!” he’ll say.

“You sure did, little monster.” I smooth down his hair, straighten his glasses.

He’ll kiss my stomach. “I love your squishy tummy,” he laughs.

That’s nice. I wish I did. But I tell him, “You’d better, because it’s all your fault.” He has no idea what I mean and doesn’t care. Then I’m chasing him around the house, roaring like a fierce dino myself. “Here comes the Mommy-saurus,” I call over his giggling. “She’s going to eat you up!”

“NO!” he shouts, turning and standing his ground like the strong Viking he knows he is. “I’m not food, I’m made of muscle! ROAR!”

Yeah. What he said.

Then I think, Well, that’s a very good attitude to start with…

I’ll try to give this positive outlook thing another chance.

11 thoughts on “What I Can Learn from the Beauty of Tiny Beowulf

  1. I love this. So much. My 5 year old is very similar in lots of ways. Except, he tells me he loves my “fat belly,” which does give me a sad. It’s not even his fault, I was totally back in shape before baby girl came along (and even after), but it’s just SO HOT and my skin is SO BAD and sweating only makes it worse.

    I wish everyone was as honest and loving as our children are.

    My oldest (13 this month, eep!) had to go for his first pair of glasses earlier this year. He also has long hair (I cut 8 inches off earlier, and it is still to his shoulders), and the woman at the optometrists was trying to show him glasses that “other kids your age” are into. His response was “Yeah, but I don’t really care what the other kids my age like. I’ll just keep looking, thanks.”

    And my heart swelled.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes, it really makes me happy. He’s such a great kid (they all are, really). So far, the youngest boy (currently 5, the middle boy is 6) is the bossiest of the boys. I’m pretty sure it’s because he was the baby until he was almost 4, so he’s used to getting everything he wants.

        I am scared of what a bully/bossypants baby girl is going to be to her brothers!


      2. And of course, Baby Girl will probably have her brothers wrapped around her finger as she grows up because she’ll be so adorable!

        On Tue, Sep 4, 2012 at 11:25 AM, Anglique Jamail wrote:

        > Oh yes, the girls are naturally bossy, I’ve found. And the baby who stays > a baby for a long time…well, that’s a hard habit to break. The ultimate > youngest child in a family sometimes doesn’t grow out of it until much > later in life!! 😉 > >


      3. Oh yes, the girls are naturally bossy, I’ve found. And the baby who stays a baby for a long time…well, that’s a hard habit to break. The ultimate youngest child in a family sometimes doesn’t grow out of it until much later in life!! 😉


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