Posted on December 22, 2015
Early lessons in non attachment
In preparation for this trip (six days till departure, house still in a state of chaos, everyone quite irritable), we have been endlessly discussing many things. How many pairs of shorts? Book lodging ahead or wait and see? Best way to get the visas all set up in advance? And — over and over — do we need to cut Jonah’s hair? Jonah is eight. He has shoulder length surfer-blond hair and is routinely mistaken for a girl, an error which has bothered him very little as he is quite secure in his knowledge that he is not, in fact, a girl. He is a rock star.
But we’ve become concerned. First of all, he is a rock star who doesn’t really like to brush his hair, and this could become tedious on the road, as could the need to keep washing it in very warm climates. And beyond that, Seth and I had cultural questions. Jonah is really very blond. We are already likely to stick out like sore thumbs in most (all?) of the places we’re visiting. Is it really a good idea to have the smallest one of us be this noticeable? Probably not. And so the discussion of the haircut continued.
To be honest, I was in favor of waiting. Jonah was ambivalent. But Seth won out. “It’s only hair,” he said, “It’ll grow back. There’s no good reason not to.” He was right, though secretly I hoped he’d forget about the haircut appointment in the rush to get ready to leave. He didn’t.
I stayed positive, watching Jonah in the hairdressers chair. “You look so grown up,” I said, “So handsome.” It was true, but he also looked a little sad. My small child has a certain wisdom, though, and a surprising interest in mindfulness — and in preparation for the trip, we’ve been looking at library books about life in Asia. We were quiet for a bit on the drive home.
Then this: “Mom,” he said, “Did you know that in Thailand, when a boy becomes a monk, he cuts off all his hair, all at once, and then puts it on a lotus leaf and sails the leaf away?”
I didn’t know that. I said so.
“Do you know why they do that?,” he continues. I don’t, though I can sort of see where this is going.
“Tell me,” I say.
“It’s like their first teaching. They sail the hair away, and they’re practicing non attachment. Like not being attached to long hair.” There is another pause. Then, of course, the followup. “Maybe I should find a lotus leaf somewhere.”
Six days before we even depart, and we are already changed.