Yesterday my 6 year old son told me something that nearly made my heart stop.
"Mom," he said. "I think I want a normal haircut now."
I know that I had to have let out a good gasp at that one. A "normal" haircut? His haircut IS "normal"... for us.
But he made it known in no uncertain terms that he was tired of having his trademarked mohawk and wanted to go "Army Guy Style".
I tried to negotiate with him. "Well, how about we get you an "Army Guy" haircut, and then we dye the tips of your hair blue!"
"Mom, I don't think you understand what normal is."
I was devastated. Not literally, but for a moment I was pretty darn sad. For one thing, I understand very well what "normal" is. It's a line that military spouses have to walk fairly carefully, because there's so much on the line in our world. We need to be able to get along together, because we are all we have when push comes to shove. And our loved ones lives depend on not being distracted when their game is on so that they can, in turn, have each other's back.
It's a fine line we walk between being mindful of the group and being able to express our own individuality. And certainly sometimes individuals go too far and behave in ways that are destructive to the supportive group we need to be. On the other hand, sometimes the group can be too cliquish.
It's a very fine line to walk, and one of the hardest things we do as military spouses is to figure out how to fit in and yet not lose ourselves.
I love to volunteer, and I love to help. As a teacher, and again working from home, it has been fairly easy for me to blend my military life with my working life. I have always felt that if there was something I could do to help, I should do it. I think I consider it "paying it forward." Someday, I might need support or help. I might need someone to watch my kids while I get a filling replaced, or drive me to a doctor's procedure. Sometime I might just need to get a card in the mail from someone telling me that they were thinking of me.
So I've always tried to do these things myself - paying it forward. But that was not all that was me, and I had to find a way to express myself without hurting others, or hurting the group. It was fairly easy for me to do this, but only because I was very lucky in our first few duty stations. No one minded that weird hippie looking chick in the blown out jeans and beaded shirts. No one minded the scarves. No one minded our slightly different eating habits. No one minded when I dyed streaks into my hair, or when I chose to have babies at home because I'm just not a fan of the hospital. And since I sometimes made it a habit to take cookies to the gate guards (I mean, really, that job HAS to stink!), they knew me and it was much easier to get my midwife on base on time when the big hour arrived (and it really was only an hour).
Because I had such an easy time being myself at our first few duty stations, I became more confident as we moved along. And by the time my son had enough hair to actually style and he decided to go punk with it, no one really minded that either. Because it just fit in perfectly with our family. (At this point I should probably mention that we've also had two bouts of pink streaked hair on one of our girls and every rainbow color you can imagine on one other)
That's not to say that everyone was appreciative, because that is certainly not the case. There were some rather rude comments every once in a while about our parenting, or my "risky behavior" in regards to our birth decisions (and let me tell you, this is one of two subjects people never seem to be able to stop from voicing an opinion on). And certainly I got some cold shoulders. It happens, and it isn't limited to military spouses expecting you to "fit in", either. And that doesn't even begin to address the looks or comments we have gotten as a family that has chosen to home-school.
But at that point, I found, I was comfortable with me and with our family. We were doing our part in the mission, we were being supportive, and we had still managed to find a comfort zone where we could be ourselves and for the most part it was just fine. We had found our place on the Venn Diagram, if you will.
So when my son came to me and announced he was tired of his mohawk, it was hard to swallow. When he refused to consider another haircut that was within my comfort zone, it was even worse. This was a part of my "me" zone, the way I had found to step outside the circle without breaking the circle. And what on EARTH was I going to do NOW?
But only for a moment. I mean, it is his hair. And truly, the major impetus behind his desire for change seems to be that he wants to be like his Dad right now. Obviously, Dad's hair isn't spiked in a line down the middle of his head, nor does it have blue tips on it.
Luckily he's still fine with wearing the skull motif on the majority of his clothes, or I might be totally lost. There might be a scarf binge of epic proportions the day he decides to go that route! Concerned friends coming to check on me because I hadn't answered email, posted on facebook, or texted in the last 12 hours might open the door to granola spilled all over the floor, empty pomegranate juice bottles strewn willy-nilly, a pile of new Birkenstocks, beaded scarves on the back of every chair, and me hyperventilating in a corner while clutching pairs of artfully bejeweled jeans and multicolored hair extensions.
Just kidding. Mostly.
I'd like to know what your "me" zone is. How do you complete your part of the Venn Diagram?