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Is the way to a young delinquent's heart through his hair?

The weekend peaked on Saturday with blaring alarms, screaming sirens, and three police cars. By Monday evening, neighbor ladies, noticing my nine-year-old's closely cropped mane, a complete contrast to the mop hanging in his eyes just two days prior, were asking him, "Is that how people in jail wear their hair?"

He only needed a bike to borrow, since the chain slipped off of his. And he felt confident that his friend down the street, although out of town, wouldn't mind a bit if he borrowed one from the locked garage. Brrrrp! Brrrrp! Brrrrp! Brrrrp!

Crawling out of the bushes, he came clean with his daddy when the last police car squealed down the street in hot pursuit of a pre-adolescent perp. Ringing up dispatch, my husband said, "Case closed. Call off the cops." Then he gave our son a stern lecture on borrowing without asking.

I, on the other hand, fretted and worried and troubled about my young boy's narrow path crossing over a wide road leading to a life of crime. I prayed for him Sunday morning. I wrung my hands over him Sunday afternoon. I searched logic and reason and motive, trying to divine an explanation for the child's unlawful conduct, and what it meant about his psyche, and where I had failed him, and exactly how I would get him on a narrow course again.

As my eyelids finally fluttered closed Sunday night and I slipped into that restless middle ground between wake and sleep, I had a revelation, which I interpreted as an answer from the Lord. "Cut his hair," I sat up in bed and announced.

"Wha?" mumbled my groggy spouse.

"It's his hair. We let him wear it too long and too wild. He needs hair jail," I rationalized.

"Wha?" the man next to me grunted again.

"I'm talking a crew cut to settle him down and straighten him up. That'll do it. That'll redirect his wayward spirit."

Monday afternoon, as I pulled into the shopping center parking lot, my husband phoned, "Where are you?"

"About to get you-know-who a haircut," I whispered.

"The crew cut?"

I hesitated, having lost my resolve. "I'll have to take the grief for that. He'll tell his therapist about it someday. I'll get blamed for everything from his dandruff to his dread of loud noises."

My beloved laughed and goaded me, "You're scared of him?"

Sometimes the Lord sends others to deliver His message, and I clearly heard and obeyed. And the child must have somehow understood that this was a necessary step in recovery from criminal behavior, because he didn't twitch or utter a word of protest when I instructed the lady, "I want it just short of shaved."

Afterwards, we collected his two older brothers from school. Climbing into the car, they questioned, "Dude, what happened to your hair?"

"Mama got it cut like this. I look like a geek."

My oldest son twisted around to get a better look at his sibling. Then he turned to me and begged, desperation in his voice, "Please don't get my hair cut like that."

Taking advantage of his fear, I warned, "Turn into a juvenile delinquent and that's exactly what I'll do to you."

He spiked up in his seat. "Yes, ma'am."

Thank you, Lord, for hair jail. It gave me control over the unruly; the power to hold every person in his place. And as I told those nice neighbor ladies, when I justified my child's new, clean-cut style, "A little dab'll do ya."

(Lucy Adams is a syndicated columnist, freelance writer, and author of If Mama Don't Laugh, It Ain't Funny. She lives in Thomson. Lucy invites readers to send comments and questions to her at, and visit her web site,

Web posted on Thursday, March 19, 2009

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