I wasn't exactly mourning the loss of innocence while I was washing dishes the other day. But I was, most definitely, thinking that it was the end of an era for my child.
As I dipped each plate into the suds, I felt it in my bones.
Having gone through it myself, I knew that his graduating from kindergarten meant there would now be pressures on him that had never been there before. Once he stepped out of that magical room full of dinosaur blocks and finger paint, life would become more serious.
I also knew that one day my son would be an exhausted parent like me, pining for those bygone days of afternoon naps on a mat.
My reverie was soon shattered. As I was rinsing a cup and about to place it in the dish rack, my son walked into the kitchen.
"Mom," he said, his voice rising to a half-whine.
"Yes, pumpkin," I answered, suspecting nothing.
"I want to get a buzz."
Now, most of my friends consider me to be a fairly open-minded parent, but this was more than I could take. I spun around, wiped my soapy hands on the front of my pants and placed them firmly on his shoulders.
"Sweetheart, has someone been talking to you about drugs?"
His eyes were the size of saucers. "No, Mom," he said softly.
"Do you know the difference between good drugs and bad drugs?" I asked.
He nodded his head with a confused expression on his face. "Good drugs are the kind the doctor gives you to help you get better when you're sick," I said. "Bad drugs make people feel sick."
"But Mom, all the kids are getting a buzz. I WANT one."
I squatted down so I was at eye level with him. I was shocked.
"If all the kids wanted to play on the freeway, would you want to play there too? I don't know who those kids are, but I want their names. People who take drugs may think they'll feel better, but pretty soon they start thinking people don't like them anymore."
I was whipped into a frenzy, desperate to reach him before it was too late. "People who take drugs don't want to go to work or eat food or get out of bed. Pretty soon, they think even the mailman was sent to spy on them. Then they lose their marriages and their houses and they have to go to meetings in smoky rooms and talk about how bad it was while everyone sits there clapping . . ."
"Mom!" he said. "A buzz is a haircut! I want to get a buzz haircut!"
I didn't know what he was talking about, but I was so relieved he wasn't on drugs that I drove him right over to the hair salon. Michele Caterisano, a stylist with Hair Unlimited in Simi Valley, said there had been a long line of kids before us.
"Basically, we shave the head," she explained. "We're doing a lot of them, mostly on boys from about 5 to 13. It seems to be the season."
Now that she mentioned it, I did recall seeing quite a few shaved heads around the neighborhood. I simply assumed there'd been an epidemic of head lice.
As locks of my son's hair fell to the ground in clumps, I tried not to wince. After all, maybe if I show my support for his individuality now, he won't feel the need to have a spiked purple Mohawk haircut when he turns 15. I kept a broad smile plastered on my face until the ordeal was over.
My response, Caterisano said, was well within the range of normal.
"A lot of the moms just sit here wide-eyed," she said. "Some of the kids want lightning bolts shaved in too, and the parents just kind of nod their heads and go, 'Uh-huh, Uh-huh.'
"Their attitude seems to be, 'Well, it's summertime, and anything is OK because no one has to see you.' "
At home, I ran my hand over my son's bristly head and told him he looked wonderful. And as I went back to the sink full of dishes, I felt proud of myself for being so open-minded and supportive while he forged his own identity.
Just then, he re-entered the kitchen.
"Mom?" he asked. "Can I get my ear pierced?"
This time, I did not move. With my back still turned to him, I placed the plate I was holding in the dish rack. Mechanically, I reached over and dried my hands on a towel. Then I took a deep breath and turned around.
He was already gone.
Ventura County is teeming with the fashionable and not so fashionable. There are trend-makers and trend-breakers. There are those with style--personal and off the rack--and those making fashion statements better left unsaid. Twice a month, we'll be taking a look at fashion in Ventura County--trends, styles and ideas--and asking you what you think. If you have a fashion problem, sighting or suggestion; if you know a fashion success or a fashion victim, let us know. We want to hear from you.