Last night, due to an outbreak of lice at school, I got out the hair clippers and shaved Victor’s head. I only intended to give him a buzz cut. Unfortunately, the thickness of his hair, the lack of charge in the clippers and the wriggliness of a three and a half year old conspired to produce a far different result. Gone are the silken locks of red hair, replaced with a veritable cue ball, that leaves his ears overexposed, Dopey-from-Snow-White style.

Vic Without Hair

His hair is so thick, so dense, even to the roots, that even after I’d shaved it all off, tossed him in the shower and scrubbed thoroughly with shampoo, there was still dirt stuck between the hair follicles. It’s this that I keep reminding myself of, every time I look over at his poor little denuded scalp, the reddened end of his nose and feel the chill in his ears when he runs over for a hug. Dense hair like his, would be impossible to pick free of nits, a task I remember all too well from the multiple cases of lice I had as a child.

My mother would cut the boys’ hair short and treat them with louse shampoo. I had to do the same louse shampoo treatments, choking on the rye-laced stench of the stuff, and then sit to have my waist-length hair combed through and through again with vinegar on a tight-toothed comb. When she was done, all my hair was wrapped up in a cloth to prevent as much transfer as possible from head to pillow.

It was awful.

I’d much prefer not having to do the same in our little household, so I took the bull by the horns, shaved Vic’s head, tossed everything he’s been wearing this week out in a bag on the back patio until we have the time to do a hot wash with Borax over the weekend, and whacked off most of my hair as well. Maybe it’s a little aggressive, but having lice is no picnic, no picnic at all and we’re not exactly in the best position to mount an attack against a louse invasion, with pay-laundry and crazy schedules that make it hard to wash everything as assiduously as is required.

And yet, as I tucked my poor bare-headed boy into bed last night, I couldn’t help shedding a few tears over his shiny little pate. He looks so vulnerable without his hair. Being bald lends him a fragility that I hadn’t noticed before, emphasizes the thinness of him, the boniness of his shoulders, the silhouette of ribs when he tears his shirt off to dance around to music in the living room.

He’s a healthy kid, full of vim and vigor, but the shearing of his head brings out the elfin quality of his features when I look at him during a rare quiet moment when he’s still, absorbed in a book, or stacking Legos. That clutching, grabbing feeling in my heart is made all the more fierce today, for seeing him like this.

Then again, there’s laughter to be had as well, especially when he makes silly faces and winds up looking like he’s a junior convict.

Vic, Tough Guy