After watching her father shave his head, 6-year-old Aellyn Stannard declared that she wanted a similar look. Her mom, Paige Lucas-Stannard, said sure — thinking Aellyn would probably forget about it.
But Aellyn didn’t.
That's when Lucas-Stannard faced a parenting crisis. She wanted Aellyn to choose any look she wanted, regardless of cultural gender norms. She's actually written a book about defying gender stereotypes, called "Gender Neutral Parenting." But when it came to her own daughter's beautiful hair? Well, it wasn't so easy.
“I believe that girls should wear their hair any way they want,” she told TODAY Parents. But “inside, my gut was like, ‘No, she’s beautiful with her hair.’”
So she tried preparing Aellyn for a possible backlash, explaining that people might think she’s a boy or that girls shouldn't shave their heads.
“That’s silly; girls can wear their hair any way they want.”
Lucas-Stannard, who lives in Salem, Ohio, shared her experiences on her blog, Baby Dust Diaries, writing:
“I, unfortunately, was very much indoctrinated by my culture to put great importance on my appearance and my hair in particular. I had very long blonde hair as a child. Other girls in my class would fight to stand next to me in line so they could play with my hair. The adults in my life always told me how beautiful my hair was.”
While Lucas-Stannard realized she could influence Aellyn to keep her hair, she decided not to do it.
“I probably could have said, ‘Honey you are so beautiful [with your hair]’ and manipulate her into not shaving it,” she said.
But she realized she wanted to show her daughter that it’s OK to make her own choices. Refusing to let her daughter shave her head, she writes, would be sending the message "that her appearance is important TO ME and that she exists for the consumption of others. ... That her decisions should be made based on external 'rules' and not her own sense of what is right or wrong for her."
As Lucas-Stannard’s husband Pete shaved Aellyn’s head, it was clear the girl enjoyed her great adventure. Lucas-Stannard took pictures and kept her feelings to herself. She recalled the regret she felt when she cut her long blonde hair when she was 10.
“It was a loss. It felt like an emotional loss,” she said. “My daughter just doesn’t have this attachment [to her hair] because she was never taught that she should.”
On the contrary, Lucas-Stannard writes, "The idea of regretting something as stupid as hair would probably never cross her mind. To her, this was FUN! Once again, these tiny people in my life teach me so much."
It’s been two weeks since Aellyn’s new look and no one has said anything to her or Lucas-Stannard about her daughter's bald head, though she does get some looks.
“I think they are wondering if she is sick. I think that is sad,” says Lucas-Stannard. “It’s so rare that a girl would shave her head.”