I heard the shouting, “I either brush your hair, or I cut your hair.” And I thought, “Who is this asshole talking out of my mouth?”
Before I had kids, I believed I didn’t need Buddhism because I embodied the dharma. I was Buddha reincarnated, the bodhisattva, the Shakyamuni, the Bhagavat, the Amitabha, the “one who has thus come” or the “one who has thus gone.”
I believed I had the kind of mindfulness that would allow me to calmly burn myself alive in protest to anything I found morally reprehensible, which mostly revolved around people wearing socks with crocks in public.
After having my daughters, I often feel less like the “one who has thus gone” and more like the “one who has thus gone insane.” Nothing can’t make me feel more like this than trying to brush my daughter’s hair.
Like Ron DeSantis, I, too, blame it all on Disney. My four-year-old watched Tangled and decided she wanted hair as long as Rapunzel. Swinging with your hair out of a tower is cool, but she ignored the verse where the princess explains what it takes to have long hair, “and then I’ll brush and brush and brush and brush my hair.”
Every morning before she goes to school, I have to step into what a father I know labeled the hair-brushing vortex. This vortex eats away all the time-saving schemes you have engineered to get to school on time.
And so I brush and brush and brush and brush my daughter’s hair.
Every morning, I pick up my daughter from her crib and change her into her clothes. We go to the kitchen to grab breakfast. Once she is done, I let her play while I prepare her lunch box with snacks free from the top eight allergens. Then I engage in “The Battle of the Hair Brushing.”
A few days ago, I spent over sixty minutes chasing and brushing my daughter’s hair, sometimes simultaneously.
I finally picked up my daughter and took her to her room while being kicked and punched. I soothed her and tried to calm her down before starting again. On the outside, I look calm, but I’m feeling frustrated on the side. I’m feeling frustrated at how complicated this routine has become.
Some people are out there cleaning the ocean of plastic pollution, some warn us about the effects of social media on mental health, and some are reporting on the impending doom of Zuckerberg and Musk’s cage fight.
And I’m in my daughter’s room, losing my mind with a pink Disney brush in one hand and a bottle of rosemary-scented detangling spray in the other.
I manage to get her out the door just in time to get to school late again.
After drop-off, my wife called me to have our now-recurring “what the was that?” call of the day.
My wife and I agreed; we can’t keep going like this, and we settled on the strategy for the following day: she does not leave her room until her hair is brushed.
The morning arrived, and we braced ourselves for a very intense (but short) protest. There is no way my daughter would say no to brushing her hair when it is the only thing standing in the way of her paleo blueberry waffles with cashew butter and raspberry chia jam.
I didn’t anticipate my daughter having as much will as she does. She didn’t care about breakfast if it meant torture, and torture, of course, is me brushing her hair very tenderly. But that’s not the way she sees it.
Eventually, my daughter gave in and let us brush her hair. Instead of the five minutes we thought it would take, it took forty-five minutes.
Sure, forty-five minutes is better than sixty minutes, but the fifteen minutes savings came at a cost. Keeping my daughter in the crib without breakfast didn’t feel right. I felt like I had committed a crime outlawed by the Geneva Convention.
My wife and I were at our wit’s ends, though. Nothing was working; letting her read books while brushing, letting her play while brushing, starving before brushing.
Then I thought of a lesson parents learn early on, “bribe your kids to do the right thing before you go totally bonkers.”
The following day, I heard her call for me, “dadda!!” I ran to where I hid my secret weapon before heading into her room. I turned on the light, and when I saw her looking at me, I showed her what I had in my hand.
I was holding a cup of Blueberry Mush. Mush is a cup of overnight oats with enough coconut sugar to teach an old lab rat new tricks. We typically don’t like her starting the day with sugary treats, but desperate times call for overpriced snacks.
And it worked!
My daughter held the mush while I brushed her hair. The hair-pulling pain was worth it now that she could touch a tangible and concrete reward.
Once we were done, I took her out to the kitchen, she sat at the table, and I opened her mush. Under the lid was a quote, “Success is not final!”
“Thank you for that wisdom, cup of overpriced oats. I mean, overnight oats.”
The oats were right; success is not final.
But now I know all I need to brush my daughter’s hair is her pink brush, detangling spray, and another cup of sugary bribe.