Braving the hairdresser

Taking her children to the hairdresser is no longer a hair-raising experience for children’s author Katrina Germein

My sister-in-law recently told me a story about taking her three-year-old daughter to the hairdresser. Her daughter was perched on the stool, ready for a haircut, while she fussed with the baby in the stroller. The hairdresser looked up from combing and announced, to what seemed like the whole busy salon, that she could not possibly continue “as the little girl has head lice!” My humiliated sister-in-law slunk out of the salon with her three-year-old and baby in tow.

My own list of traumatic and uncomfortable hairdresser moments is long. And many times, I’ve chosen to search for a new hairdresser with my three children rather than return to a salon where we feel unwelcome and have perhaps previously disgraced ourselves.

There was the time when one of my two-year-olds bolted from the hairdresser straight out of the door and into a bustling shopping centre. I, of course, needed to chase him, leaving behind my other two-year-old on the hairdresser’s lounge and a four-year-old mid-haircut.

There was the time when the three of them fought about who was going to have their hair cut first. This involved yelling, stamping and some wrestling. There were numerous times when they wiped their hands, faces and even lips all over spare mirrors while waiting, despite being told they were leaving messy marks. And there were numerous times when they just wouldn’t sit still and swapped between jumping on the lounge, lying on the floor and shoving at each other for a spot on my lap.

I understand why my children morph into brats and exhibit some of their worst behaviour while at the hairdresser’s – they’re bored. In order for all three of my kids to have their hair cut, we’re usually looking at around an hour at the hairdressers. Sometimes, I take books or give them a packet of chips to eat, and often, I try to bribe them with the promise of a treat later. Sometimes, conscientious hairdressers have a highly visible lolly jar at the counter. Jellybeans are awarded to children who sit still while having their hair cut.

My children love pocketing the lollies, but for them, the problem is not about being good during their haircut—they’re happy to be the centre of attention and they also quite like staring at themselves in the mirror. It’s waiting for their siblings to have their hair cut that is the issue. So the problem remains—an hour in the same small space with very little to keep them entertained has often ended in embarrassment.

For this reason, I made a rule with myself not to go to the same hairdresser as my children. Having your own haircut should be a time to unwind, enjoy the head massage and speak about your children as if they’re perfect. It’s not enjoyable to be in a salon that you last left red-faced while listening to your hairdresser ask you if you could perhaps chat with your kids before bringing them back again because the other clients didn’t really appreciate the noise they made. I’ve had this experience and would prefer not to have it again.

One of the hairdressers we visited suggested that I bring each of the children in separately on three separate afternoons. As I don’t have a live-in nanny at home, this would involve organising babysitting – three afternoons’ worth. I tend to save precious babysitting favours for nights out with my husband.

On occasion, we have been able to organise for my husband to come with us, but again, juggling jobs, sports, and social events sometimes ensures that the calendar is crowded enough without slotting in family outings to the hairdresser.

I guess the best plan of action is to find a hairdresser who likes children. Someone who will talk to them, keep them entertained and make the whole experience more enjoyable.

One hairdresser we went to used to tell my children that he had an ‘ear jar’ out the back. “True,” he’d say, “if you move, I might cut off your ear by mistake and then I’ll have to keep it in my ear jar.” After their initial looks of complete horror, my children realised this was a joke and then thought it was quite funny. On the next visit, the same hairdresser asked my eldest if he’d been good. ”I hope so,” he said to my son, “because naughty people have to go to jail and then you have to smash rocks all day and the food is really bad too.” It was time to try another salon.

Another hairdresser I came across had two children of her own, liked kids, and encouraged my children to rifle through the large box of toys she had in the salon. The problem, however, was that I broke my golden rule and booked myself in for a cut and colour.

I knew I wouldn’t have to listen to the ‘tell your kids to be quiet’ lecture, so I thought it would be okay. Unfortunately, I was not happy with my haircut and, after several visits, decided I needed to move on. I then had no choice really but to move my children too, to save explaining about my own hair.

Well, as it turns out, things seem to be working out well for us now. The new hairdresser I have found for my children is perfect. Absolutely.

She owns her own small, suburban hair salon and with her own children grown up, she has plenty of patience to dote on those of others. The salon not only has toys and books but also – and this is the best thing – a television. A television. How simple. What genius.

We arrive at 3.30 pm, in time for the after-school children’s television programs. Ah. Not only do the two children wait to unwind with a snack while they watch the box, but this new Wonder Hairdresser also swivels the chair of the child having their hair done so that they can see, too. Going to the hairdresser now is almost relaxing.

Illustration by Connah Brecon