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updated: 1/24/2013 3:19 PM

Family parted in the middle over son's hair

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We have a new issue that has cropped up in our home. Actually, the problem is there hasn't been enough "cropping" lately.

Dan, our 16-year-old son, is letting his hair grow out. After years of getting buzz cuts, he has decided to create a new identity with his wild "flow."

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Dan's mom wants him to get it cut. Dan's older sister wants him to get it cut. Dan's younger brother wants him to get it cut. Only Dan's twin sister is on his side, and she actually goes back and forth about it.

He doesn't look bad, really. His hair is curly, and it doesn't lay down the way anyone wants it to. He likes to run his fingers through it, propping it up. It almost looks like a bouffant hairdo. He looks like he is ready for his high school's production of "Grease," although the high school isn't putting on "Grease" this year. Shame, really.

If this was 1970, he would fit in. He'd be praised for his 'do.

Back in 1970, I had really long hair. I was in high school, and I had really curly hair, and by my junior year I was wearing it long enough to pull it into a ponytail, if necessary. Long hair was important in the 1970s.

My dad didn't mind, and he was fairly strict about most things. My mom didn't mind; in fact, she told me time and again she wished she had my hair.

That is why it's hard for me to make a big deal out of Dan's hairy situation. It's not like he is doing anything criminal, or inappropriate. He's just expressing himself, and we children of the 1970s learned that such expression is a good thing.

But sister Haley and brother Kyle and twin Lindsey are children of the 21st century. Appearances matter. The girls want to look their best at all times. Apparently, it's important to them that their sibling looks his best, too. Not fair, if you ask me. Dan doesn't have any such rules for the girls.

I'm not sure why his Mom hates it. She does like to keep things clean and orderly, and Dan's hair isn't orderly. Maybe that's it.

I can't worry too much about Dan's hair, because I have two other concerns, in regards to his sartorial splendor.

Dan likes to wear baseball-style caps. I can't complain about that; I like to wear ball caps. But Dan wears his caps backward, always, and I can't stand that look.

I will apologize in advance to any readers who like to wear caps backward. But to me, it just looks stupid, And it makes Dan look stupid, as in "not smart." It's almost as if baseball-style caps need to come with wearing instructions.

His maternal grandfather asks Dan every time he sees him with his cap on backward what gang he is a member of.

Then, to make matters worse, Dan has for years taken to wearing his pants in such a way that you can see his boxers. He doesn't really pull his pants down to create the look; he just never pulls them up. Kyle has taken to emulating his older brother in that style, and I blame Dan for that.

But, you know what? Like so many other things that come with parenting, like teaching kids how to ride bikes or swim or read, eventually the kids get it. And now that Dan is 16, he cares a little bit more about his appearance in what I would consider a mature way. He wears a belt now. He doesn't cinch it; it supports nothing, really. But he's wearing it and that's a start.

I truly love Dan's self-expression. I have tried since Day One to get the kids to understand that there is something to be said for being a little bit different from time to time. Fitting in is nice but standing out is not so bad.

Besides, it's not like he's gotten a tattoo.

Don't even get me started on that topic.

• Kent McDill is a freelance writer. He and his wife, Janice, have four children, Haley, Dan, Lindsey and Kyle.

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