Thursday, May 9, 2013


From the very beginning, haircuts have been a nightmare for us. It's not uncommon, really, among kids on the spectrum, but knowing all these years that we weren't alone hasn't made it any easier.
His first haircut was supposed to be such a special memory. We strolled into the cutesy kids salon, strapped him into the colorfully painted airplane chair, and ensured our camera was at the ready.
Things went downhill quickly from there, as you can probably imagine. I wouldn't understand then what the clutching at the ears meant, that the shrieking was just a tad out of proportion to be just typical fear of a new experience. Just a year later, though, I WOULD understand... And would feel horrible for subjecting him time after time to the noisy, meltdown-inducing clippers on these visits with the expectation that he would one day just "get over it."
It's silly, really, that I would later pick THAT thing to agonize over, but it seemed at the time to be the embodiment of the moment when I SHOULD HAVE KNOWN.
His hands were GLUED to his ears, his body FRANTIC to squirm away.
How could I NOT know that it was so hard for him? How could I not understand that it was TOO HARD?
I'm sorry, baby, I wanted to tell him. I just didn't know.
Post-diagnosis, we would try again, armed with positive reinforcement and therapists on speed-dial--with no success. Over time, and with the help of very patient salon workers, he stopped crying the moment we turned into the parking lot, and became willing to sit still and allow hand-cuts. Every visit, we'd bring out the clippers, though, to push just a little. To try for a little tidy-up in the back, a little desensitization, whatever we could get, but NOPE.
Baby boy was NOT HAVING IT.
As a family, we pushed for other things, FOUGHT for other things, but a haircut just didn’t feel like a mountain we were willing to die on.  I decided I was completely fine with him looking like a disheveled urchin for the rest of his natural life if it meant that I could make at least one thing a little bit easier for him.
So, hand-cuts it was.
As usual, though, baby boy had his own schedule for these things. Not ours, but HIS, and when he was ready, he was ready.
We casually suggested that maybe he was ready for the "big boy" clipper haircut this time--not really expecting much, honestly. His reaction to this, though, was surprisingly open. We settled on keeping expectations low, encouraging him to try to be "big and brave," for this adventure, and figured, hell... Couldn't hurt to try, right?
I allowed myself to hope, then. Over the years of therapy, we've more or less learned the rhythm of how his mind works. I knew that if we could get just ONE success, one shining moment when he did something that turned out to be less scary than expected, and he could be made to feel PROUD of himself, we'd be GOLDEN.
Just one, I prayed. We just need ONE perfect storm.
And hot DAMN if this kid didn't deliver.
We pumped him up at every opportunity throughout the day.
Big and brave, we chanted. Big and brave.
The time came, and I'm not gonna say his eyes didn't widen, his hands didn't creep toward his ears.
They did.
But one swipe with those clippers, a hunched shoulder...and the light dawned.
Not a day at the park, these clippers, but NOT THAT BAD.
He DID it. A milestone that we've had to wait a while longer for than most, but baby boy DID IT. We cheered, we clapped, and God knows that I will never forget how PROUD of himself he was after that haircut.
I couldn’t be prouder, myself.
So screw your typical curly-locked, airplane-riding "first haircut."
I'll take this one for the win.

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