How To Have Your Toddler Cut Your Hair When You've Got Cancer

by Emilie Orton

I hit the jackpot (not) and found out I had germ-cell ovarian cancer at 32, in the midst of raising three young kids. Knowing that a beautiful baldness was coming my way terrified me and made me cry on multiple occasions, but I tried to think of the best way to make it bearable for this family of mine. After all it was not just me going through this cancer journey, but all of us together. And also my hair.

Hair is a huge part of our identity. Once you find a good hair stylist you stick with them because they get you — no matter the cost, they’re worth it. And just as it's every woman’s nightmare to lose their hair, it is every kid's dream to cut hair. Wherein I found the perfect hairstylist to ease me into my new cancer look: my 4-year-old daughter.

That little girl loves all things beauty. After preschool, she’ll come home telling me about the good and bad outfits, and hairstyles she noticed, and what she loved. Every night she plans out how she wants to do her hair the next day before school. She has names for each of the different styles she comes up with: “the waterfall,” “the half-braider,” “the pigs,” “French toast braids,” you name it. So when cancer came a-knocking, so did her calling in life.

I sat down on a step-stool, donned my child’s haircut cape, and let her set to work on her most favorite project yet, immortalized first on my Instagram account in a video that dazzled lovers of arts des cheveux, and presented here in step-by-step instructions. My daughter was focused and determined, and as the cut kept evolving, so did her love for how it was looking. My favorite thing about it was realizing anew that all a child sees when looking at their parent is someone they love no matter what. Barbie bangs or bald. Green skin or purple eyes. I am someone that is loved by this child, no matter what the outside looks like. She was the best hairstylist I’ve ever met, and gave me the greatest haircut I’ve ever had.

Here's how to steal my look...

Step 1: Book Into A Famous Salon

Aim high. I chose to visit Le Salon de Shugs, in my own kitchen. I was tended to by a fancy pair of scissors named Shug. Hand them the inspiration — a hair catalog you've folded the corners down on, or a picture of Jennifer Aniston from 1994, it won't matter what the inspiration is, because your stylist is an auteur. They're going to do what they're going to do.


Step 2: Ensure You Can See The Stylist's Work

Cut those bangs OFF. If you can see your eyebrows, good. If you can see your hairline, even better. Your brand-new bangs, which should resemble the kind of haircut you would give a Barbie, will allow you to take in the full range of artistry taking place either side of your face, as hair is lopped onto tile.


Step 3: Check The Inspiration

Little uneven? No worries, they're not done yet.


Step 4: Get Those Layers In

If your head resembles a step ladder, they're doing it exactly right.


*Pause To Take In The Fruits Of Your Stylist's Labor*

As Michelangelo once said, "Every block of stone has a statue inside it and it is the task of the sculptor to discover it." In our case, every head of hair has a carrot inside of it, and it is the task of the stylists to shear off all non-carrot pieces.


Step 5: Put The Finishing Touches On The "Fancy Cancy" Haircut

Don't interrupt, they'll tell you when they're done.


Step 6: Admire Their Handiwork

Your toddler has not cut hair before, nor have you previously dealt with the crap sandwich that is cancer as a mom of three littles. We're all making it up, but if you can find a moment to take in how beautiful the two of you are, amid the unholy mess, you will know you've done it right.


Enjoy the haircut in full: