Friday, October 26, 2007


When Ilya first came to America he needed a haircut! When I mentioned this to him he made it clear he liked his bangs. "Oh, yes!" I promised; " We won't change your hair much - just make it a little shorter, so it is not in your eyes!." Little did I think how silly such promises are when you are trying to communicate with hairdressers - and husbands.

The day came when Ilya had a day off school, and Craig took him to get his hair cut. I do not really know if Craig did not sufficiently describe what haircut we wanted or if, as in the case of many hairdressers, the girl listened then did what haircut she could do....but when Ilya looked in the mirror he reacted in a way which we have come to recognize as severe distress. Without saying a thing, but carrying a load of energy with him, he strode in a straight no-nonsense line right out of that place. He landed a few kicks on the back of Craig's seat on the way home in the car, then, once home, strode up to the bathroom and locked the door.

There he decided to "fix" his hair [as some theorize] or, as I tend to believe, he chose to take control and hurt himself more than anyone else could hurt him. Apparently, he began by taking scissors hastily to the front of his hair. As they were too dull to do much, he then grabbed Craig's razor and SHAVED right across the front of his head where his bangs had been.

Craig called me in horror....apparently some slammed doors, etc. also ensued, as well as most of an afternoon with Ilya on the front porch with a coat over his head. Fortunately, by the time I got home, Ilya had sorted himself out. When he came in for dinner he was handling it all with good humor, making a bit of mock of himself. I was rather pleased that he had the ability to carry it off, frankly. Of course, it helped that he couldn't understand what were were saying about him. Craig's opinion is that he appeared to have had a lobotomy. It seemed to me that he had managed to make himself look quite a lot like a little monkey. The kids used words such as "dorky", "dumb" "imbecile", etc.

The next morning, when I went to wake him up, Ilya had considered a little more fully how difficult it would be to appear at school like this. He'd found a hat - the stocking cap that after over a week now seems to define Ilya - but I had to explain to him that hats are not allowed at school. And here is where I maybe erred on the "soft" side. Yes; he'd had a fit. He made a stupid choice. Still, I just couldn't see him making his first impression at a small Catholic School he must attend for the next five years looking like an imbecilic, lobotomized monkey!

So, I called Natalie, our Russian teacher, who runs a daycare, and asked if Ilya could spend the day with her. He has been with her for just over a week now.

And here is where I just have to believe that God works in mysterious ways. For some reason - because he is relaxed? because Natalia understands what he's going through? because he is learning "by doing" and not just a list of words? I don't know, but suddenly he is making some progress learning English! We really saw no progress at all during the four weeks he was at at school. So.....perhaps the haircut and its resulting trauma to all, was a blessing in disguise.

And the hair? My friend Alexei Kotchan, who does ministry work with the children in Shuya School orphanage wrote me to explain that among the older boys there, bangs represent their individuality. The longer the better (cooler), so by cutting his hair we took away from Ilya, quite unknowingly, the one thing that in Russia he'd felt he had control over...the thing that he felt allowed him "self-expression". Hence, I suppose, his need to take control back. And since he couldn't do it via long hair, he did it via short hair.

I wonder how he will process this. Hopefully he will learn not to be so rash. Perhaps that even without bangs, he is still himself - unique - Ilya. It will be interesting to see.


Christine said...

All I can is Wow! You have a fiesty one on your hands. He sound a lot like my Anna. How are the kids adjusting to Ilya? Is this what everyone calls him, or just you?

Annie Kitching said...

It's been a rough road.... Like riding a bucking bronco! But so far everyone is hanging on. For a while there, though, I thought we had way too much testosterone in the house!