My daughter’s hair had grown long since her birth, so my mother-in-law cut it. I am determined to do something right now.

My daughter Lily’s long hair has never appealed to my mother-in-law, Judith. She insisted on reducing it because she always felt it was too much. However, Lily loved her hair; it brought her delight and pride. Since she was a newborn, she had been cultivating it, and it now formed a part of who she was. I always thought that the decision should be taken jointly, keeping Lily’s sentiments in mind, even though I knew that one day we could have to cut it.

I came back from a business trip yesterday and went to get Lily from school. She raced to me as soon as she spotted me, her long, thick hair that had been viciously chopped off, and tears flowing down her cheeks. She braided it and then cut it while standing behind me. “Mom, I look ugly now!” she sobbed.

Seeing my infant cry destroyed my heart. I was angry, not just depressed. How could someone treat her in such a callous way? It was a betrayal of faith and an outright indifference to Lily’s emotions.

The Debate

I told my husband Jack right away what had happened. This was the tipping point for him; he was already frustrated with his mother for always meddling in our life. We were aware that action was necessary to prevent this from happening in the future. However, what?
Jack was at a loss about what to do, so I proposed that we teach his mother a lesson she would never forget. We agreed to give it a week to thoroughly consider our options before acting.
The Scheme

I considered all the ways Judith had gone beyond her bounds over that week. Not only was it the hair, but she also consistently offered unwanted advice, made critical remarks, and attempted to weaken my position of authority as a mother.

We made the decision to approach her in a way that would help her realize the seriousness of what she had done. Jack and I devised a scheme. We would extend an invitation to her for supper and have a private discussion. However, in order to really make the point, we would also prepare something symbolic.
The Performance

We had Judith around for dinner the next week. We attempted to keep things light and informal while I prepared her favorite dish. I pulled out a package as we were sitting down to dessert after dinner. Lily’s chopped hair, skillfully braided and secured with a ribbon, was found inside the box.

With a steady yet forceful tone, I said, “Judith, do you know what this is?” I gave the box to her. When she opened it and saw the hair, she appeared perplexed.
I went on, “This is what you did to Lily.” “You broke her spirit, not just her hair. Without getting her permission, you took something valuable from her. This is about limits and respect, not just hair.
When Judith saw the consequences of her deeds, her face became white. I cut her off as she attempted to excuse herself by stating that she believed she was being helpful.

It’s not only about you or what you believe to be best, Judith. This has to do with Lily’s emotions. You went too far, and that’s unacceptable. Going forward, you must respect our choices and boundaries if you wish to be a part of our lives.

The Repercussions

Judith seemed alarmed. Lily, who had boldly ventured outside to watch the altercation, received her apology. After some time for the wounds to heal, Judith began to behave differently. She started to respect and be more mindful of our parenting choices.

Both Lily’s hair and her confidence returned. She gained important insight into asserting her own rights, and I hope Judith also gained insight into the value of permission and respecting personal space.
As for Jack and me, we became stronger parents and as a pair. We learned from this experience how important it is to stick together and defend the moral high ground no matter how challenging it may be. Our family grew stronger, had more defined boundaries, and had a greater appreciation for respect and love.

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