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Photos by Rachel Von | The Journal Gazette
Ken Borcherding gives Mark Patrick, 3, a haircut at RKR Barber Style Shop, 715 Broadway St., New Haven.
Trip to the barber

The art of cutting kids’ hair

Toys, water bottle among distractions to make it easier

Allen Patrick holds son Aaron, 18 months, for a haircut. Toys help keep younger kids occupied.

– The typical 2-year-old boy doesn’t weigh much; somewhere in the neighborhood of 25 pounds, give or take a few. He’s a cute little fella, and he says the funniest things. You’ve watched him grow from bassinet to crib to his “big boy” bed, which he frequently abandons at 5 a.m. to snuggle between Mom and Dad, and that’s OK. He is the epitome of the nursery rhyme that explains little boys are made of snakes and snails and puppy dog tails. He is your buddy, your namesake, your “little man.” And what a joy he is.

But now it is a Saturday morning; not just any Saturday morning, but the dreaded Saturday morning. It’s time to get his hair cut.

The car trip to the barbershop is without incident, as are the hand-in-hand walk to the door and the brief wait inside. He’s still your buddy; your morning sunshine.

Then his name is called.

Somewhere in those moments when his little behind connects with the raised child seat on the barber chair and he’s covered by the protective cloth, this sweet, 25-pound child becomes a combination of Kung Fu master, greased pig, air-raid siren and Houdini. He has somehow acquired the hand-to-hand training and strength of a Navy Seal, with the gymnastic elusiveness of a Jedi warrior.

When the storm passes and the runny nose and tears are wiped dry, the parent informs the barber/lion tamer, “Don’t cut a lot.”

Some barbers have tips on how to keep your child occupied:

“Before I ever use the clippers on him, I just turn the clippers on and say, ‘This is going to buzz,’ ” says Ken Borcherding of RKR Barber Style Shop who has been a barber 42 years. “ ‘It’s not going to hurt. Here, watch what I do.’ I take it and I put it in my hand. Usually a parent is there beside him. I said, ‘Here, we’re going to do the same thing to Mom or Dad’s hand.’ A lot of times, when they’re really small, it works best if the parent just sits in the chair and holds him. We just put a hair cloth over the parent and put one over the child. A lot of times the kids don’t like the hair cloth, so we just put a towel around him and they tolerate that a little bit better.

“Another thing, almost all the kids love, especially when they’re a little bit older, is they like the water spritzer. I just give that to them and let them squirt it. It’s a lot of fun when they figure out how to squirt it, and they squirt Mom or Dad in the face.”

Borcherding also has a stuffed bear close by that he allows the kids to hold, and says that snacks brought from home is another way to keep the lad occupied.

“Some of them sit right on the booster seat and they don’t have any problems at all. Some – well, there has been some pretty bad scenes in here. They’re yellin’ and screamin’. … Every time you go to comb his hair, he pulls his head away. You can’t do a real good job on it; it’s like trying to hit a moving target. Those you get in and out as quickly as you possibly can.”

After cutting hair for 15 years, Millie Bradtmueller with Great Clips in Northcrest Shopping Center has an observation.

“Boys are worse than girls,” she says. “I don’t know why, but they cry for some reason.”

She advises parents to bring in toys for the unruly child.

“That keeps them occupied. Toys, stickers – whatever you can come up with. Usually parents bring in like the little iPads or little cellphones with games, and that works perfect. But you just deal with it. You don’t get frustrated.”