My son has no hair. When we are out he will always wear a hat. This upsets his brother. His brother would love him not to wear a hat. He will not leave the house without one. He was told at a local theme park that he could not go on a ride because he would not remove his hat. He had to walk down two flights of stairs and pass 50 or so people in utter embarrassment because he could not bear for people to see his bald head. He could not go on that last ride, the one he wanted to go on the most.
Up until recently, he even wore a hat in the sea as was his fear and lack of confidence in the public arena. If you came round our house at any time you would find him hat free, laughing and confident because he feels safe at home. He knows that if you come into our home we know you, therefore you will not judge him. Outside in the real world, he knows, even at his tender age of 10, that people will judge him and speculate about how his baldness came to be.
During a recent weekend away, which involved a lot of swimming, he decided to go bald as he thought he would look odd wearing a swimming hat. This would the first time he chose to show his head in the public arena. This was a huge step and took a great deal of guts and confidence. But he did it. And he did it with a real pride and swagger, we were so proud.
What surprised me most was the differing responses. Children tended to look, look away and then look back for a double take and then move on. Some adults stared, relentlessly, unashamedly, oblivious of the fact that my son could see them staring. It is like the rules seem to change with children. I’m sure that these people would not stare so obviously at an adult without hair. There seems to be the notion that children cannot seem them staring or that they do not to have the same feelings as adults. What came next though surprised me. My son and his siblings stared back. They stared and glared until the adult felt so uncomfortable they looked away. Whilst I do not encourage my children to be confrontational, I was so proud of the way they instinctively joined forces to protect and empower. It was a hugely symbolic moment for my son. He did not look down with embarrassment or shame because of the way he looked. He held his head high, proud and confident.
My plea is, if you see a child without hair you can almost guarantee that the loss of hair will have caused suffering in some way for them and their family. They can see you staring and they do have feelings. Your stare will simply add to their pain and suffering. The child has clearly been through a lot already and they probably have a long road ahead of them, as do their family and loved ones. That is all you need to know. If you have a real burning desire to find out more then ask the adult that is with them. I am sure they will much rather protect their children from your inquisitive stare by satisfying your curiosity, than watch you glare relentlessly and intrusively.
The bottom line is, children who are bald probably hate it. It might make them feel different and vulnerable, ugly and angry, sad and lonely. That is how my son felt. He just wants hair like his friends. Please be kind and respectable to children; they deserve it as much as adults.