Brown Haired Boy

“Why is Daddy’s hair black?” my younger son asks.

“Because that’s the way God made him,” I answer. “Besides, his hair isn’t really black, it’s more dark brown.”

I don’t think much of this question at first. After all, my little boy is two and a-half, and every other sentence out of his mouth begins with the word why. But unlike other questions, which are quickly forgotten or shelved away in his developing little mind, this one crops up again and again.

Sometimes it comes in the form of a statement.

“When I grow up, my hair’s going to grow black,” he announces one day.

Oh, I see where this is going. I have generally black hair that is sometimes highlighted with some variation of the copper to mahogany color spectrum. My husband has brown hair, but brown like coffee is technically brown, yet everyone refers to it as “black” coffee.

My older son has the kind of stiff jet black hair that sticks up like bean sprouts on the top of his head. I can remember vividly the sight of my firstborn at his birth: large dark eyes, vernix-covered pinkish white skin, and a full head of inky black hair.

So when my second  child was born a few years later, I naturally expected that he would look similar. While the doctor handed proclaimed my second born a spitting image of his older brother, all I could focus on were the differences. This baby came out shockingly purple — and almost as shockingly — with sparse, downy, what is that… brown hair?

At first I attributed the fairness of his hair to its scarcity… but when the onesie clad hospital portraits came back, they showed a pink faced baby, eyes squeezed nearly shut, with a fluffy top of barely visible light brown hair. With my background in television news, my first thought was that they should have white balanced the camera. Or perhaps the shot was just overexposed?

But when I sent out wallet-sized photos of the new arrival to my friends and family, my sister-in-law confirmed the differences. “What a difference in coloring,” she commented.

My mother asks, “Nobody in your husband’s family has blond hair, do they?”

Well, actually. My husband was a tow-headed child.

As baby number two outgrew his sleep sacks and onesies, his hair didn’t quite catch up. It remained sparse, bald in patches and very light. My older son’s full head of hair required a trim by three months. At first, I attempted to cut his hair at home, but after a few attempts and scares that I would poke his eyes out we brought him to a children’s hair salon, where he sat on my lap under a drape and the stylist asked, “Boy’s regular?”

By the time the new baby reached one, his older brother was sitting in the swivel chair at the Deluxe Barbershop once a month. Each visit, Jeff The Barber would ask how my little one was doing, and when he was coming in for a haircut. He must have thought I was holding out on him, sneaking him to some other kiddie salon for a trims. But when I finally brought the younger one in, at around thirteen months, Jeff inspected his superfine mop of overgrown hair and asked, “How old is he?”

“A year,” I replied.

“I guess that’s how his hair is going to be then,” he proclaimed, with the solemnity of a doctor bearing bad news.

But we don’t see his hair as bad news at all. By now, the downy fluff has grown into an ashy brown surfer boy mop with glinty golden highlights. The kind his brother will envy someday.


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