“Why is his hair so long?”

DSC_6643My two year old son has long hair. He is often mistaken as a little girl. This does not bother me, if it did, I would surely cut his hair. For over a year, many people have urged me to cut Zachary’s hair. They make jokes. They tease. They judge. They push. That’s fine, I don’t let it bother me. Very few people understand what my family and I have been through and that seemingly insignificant things – like a little boy’s hair – actually hold deep meaning to a mother who’s lost a son.

“Why is his hair so long?”

I recently posted some beautiful, special, precious photos on our Micah Smiles page. We delivered books for babies, for the NICU’s Micah and Zachary Giving Library. We went upstairs to the PICU, where Micah lived for nearly 10 months, and visited with Micah’s primary nurse, Nick. We showered Micah’s photo on the Wall of Courage with kisses and smiles, exclaiming how much we missed and loved our precious son. We headed up to the 12th floor to visit our friends whose 9-month baby girl is fighting a life-threatening battle.

I posted pictures of this deeply special, beautiful afternoon and in the comments:

“Why is his hair so long?” I responded, “because it is beautiful.”

But what I really wanted to say is…
DSC_3291Zachary’s hair is long because Micah’s never will be. When my son Micah was born, he had a head full of thick beautiful hair. When Micah became critically ill with a life-threatening disease, he lost all of his hair. Micah went bald. Seeing Micah bald, after he had a head full of gorgeous hair, was a constant reminder of how fragile and sick he was. As Micah’s health improved, Micah’s hair grew back and thickened. When Micah’s health declined, his hair fell out and thinned. IMG_6081

Micah’s last night here on Earth was spent in our arms. We held Micah tight and he knew he is deeply and forever loved. Before I gave my son a final kiss goodbye, I carefully braided and tied the hair at the nape of his neck together. I carefully took scissors and cut Micah’s hair to keep and treasure forever. On the one year anniversary of Micah’s passing, I took out that small envelope of his hair and kissed it, and longed to have my son back in my arms.

To me, Zachary’s hair is a symbol of his health. Zachary is incredibly healthy, vibrant and bright – his long hair testifies this. The tips of Zachary’s hair have experienced our entire journey: Zachary’s three-month terrifying NICU stay. Spending every day in the PICU with Micah. Bringing Micah home for the first time. Our first family walk together. Saying goodbye to Micah. IMG_2090

Before you judge the mother of a little boy with long hair, take a step back and consider the bigger picture. What has this family been through? What has this little boy been through?

Why shouldn’t his hair be long?

Does it surprise you to know that a little boy’s hair could hold such deep, precious, significant meaning to a mother?


11 thoughts on ““Why is his hair so long?”

  1. I love and have always loved Zachary’s long hair—it just looks so “right” on him. Knowing the reason behind it only makes it fit him even more.

  2. Jennifer – I loved this. It was beautifully worded and I cried through most of it. Micah was truly blessed when he was given you as his Mommy. I think Zachary’s hair is very handsome on him.

  3. Jen, I am sorry for the loss of your beautiful Micah. I completely empathize with you on this. My son is currently battling cancer and his first haircut was shortly after chemo started at the age of 35 months; I now long for the days of people making comment about his beautiful hair–except for why! I can’t wait for the day he can grow it out again.

    Never judge a boy or his parents by his hair…

  4. This is beautiful, and I love his hair. I often get asked “why is your son so weird?”.. He has dyspraxia , which is in the spectrum of autism disorders. I love my wonderfully weird son and would not want him any other way. Parents should think before they speak.

  5. Hi Jennifer. Firstly, I can only imagine the grief you and your family feel. I am so very sorry for your loss. Zachary’s hair is beautiful, and is made even more so by what it represents to you. There is a studio in Curitiba, a beautiful and enchanting city in Brazil, that understands exactly how much a lock of hair can have meaning to someone. Their work is beautiful and full of meaning. There are many situations in which for some reason a person doesn’t want to throw a lock of hair away. There are many moms, for instance, who don’t want to throw their child’s hair away when they cut if for the first time because they feel it is something so pure and beautiful, so they send it to this studio and they implant it on a barbie or ken doll, or any other doll from the barbie line, including the small ones like tommy or chelsea. They implant every single hair separately, and the result is a doll that really represents the human being whose hair that is. I have a childhood friend who lives in Atlanta, and about a year ago when she cut her littles boy’s hair for the first time she decided to order a ken doll with his hair, instead of just keeping it in a drawer. She treasures it so much. Even though the atelier is located in brazil they ship worldwide via DHL and everything arrives as perfectly as if it had been personally delivered to your door. I also have a friend who is currently in a long distance relationship and she and her boyfriend each made a barbie and a ken with a lock of their hair and exchanged them, and she says it makes her feel much closer to him to have that real piece of him always there with her. I think it would be really beautiful if you took the lock of Micah’s hair you kept and turned it into a ken doll to represent the man he would’ve become, or on a tommy doll to represent the boy he was and will always be in your heart. You can comb his hair on the doll as if you were still combing it on him, you can sleep with it, you can turn that small piece of Micah into something that represents him. And from what i know of the studio, this is a job they would love to do, because they really understand the meaning of smalls thing that hold such a large amount of feeling and love. I’m getting married next year and i plan on making a barbie and a ken to represent me and my fancée, with a small lock of hair cut from the time we got married. Their instagram is @fiosdeamor and their email is info@fiosdeamor.ateliersolangeayoub.com, and even though they are in brazil their whole team speaks english. I hope you and your family have a very happy life. I really applaud your strength and love for your family. God bless you all.

  6. Jennifer, thank you so much for sharing your story. It struck me to the core. I encountered it at Huffpost, and read it because I have a long-haired son and was curious about your perspective. What I did not expect was the story of the loss of your beautiful Micah and how this informs your decision to leave Zachary’s hair long. Our Isaac has thick, glossy, wonderful hair, and he has chosen to wear it long since about the age of 8. People have asked why we allow it and my first answer is always that it’s his hair and it’s what he wants to do with it — which is true. He likes his long hair and I am incredibly grateful and truthfully rather amazed that at age 12 his self esteem and self definition are intact enough that he doesn’t feel the need to conform. The other, quiet reason I don’t really mention for why I have allowed Isaac to have his hair how he likes it, is that this is one of many opportunities to love him, and that since his older brother Jacob died, I have resolved to love my next children in as many ways as I possibly could. Jacob was really good at being himself, for his too-brief life. He was born with a heart defect and lived a brilliant, wonderful life for 21 months. Isaac was born exactly 6 months after Jacob left the world. Now I have the joy of letting Isaac be himself, loving him, encouraging him, shrugging my shoulders with him when people don’t understand his long hair, laughing with him, and standing by him. What a gift to have another son to love, and how I miss Jacob in every moment, still.

    • So sorry to learn of your tragic loss. Thank you for reaching out and sharing your story with me. My heart goes out to you – so thankful to know you have sweet Isaac. No child will ever replace the children we loss – but it sure does help a broken heart to have a beautiful, bright, healthy child to love, care for, and hold close – we are blessed to be their mamas.

  7. Jennifer, so very sorry for the loss of your precious little boy. I just want to share something with you regarding long hair. I’m really happy to see that you don’t let the comments of others dictate your reasons/beliefs. I am Native American (Shoshone) and long hair, even for the men/boys, it is sacred to us. Long hair for Native Americans represent the strength of their spirit. They believe the longer the hair, the stronger the spirit….and why only certain people are allowed to touch your hair. When a Native cuts their hair, traditionally it is only for mourning. Some Natives even believe that once they cut their hair it has to be disposed of in a ceremonious way. I love long hair on both women/girls & men/boys. Good for you ❤

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