It was time. When I looked at him it was getting tougher to see the big round eyes under the haystack of red hair. I had been putting it off. A quick toss in the shower or matting it down with "No More Tears" could barely hide the nest that was growing on top of his head.
After his last haircut, we left without being completely finished. Amanda, the gal who cuts our hair, had battled Sean fairly effectively while he slouched and pulled and yelled as she tirelessly worked the clippers and sprayed water on his head. But the battle was too heated and when the comb snagged hard on a large knot it was time to call it quits. Besides, his sides were shaved clean and neat and some of the top thinned out so I waved the white flag and unleashed Sean from the plastic cape, an unappetizing sucker covered in red fur clutched in his sticky hands. We'd have to learn to live with the swath of red hair that spilled like a waterfall down his forehead.
When my husband got home that evening he remarked that Sean looked like he was the lead singer from the Flock of Seagulls. I thought it was less retro and more faux-hawk. After three weeks, when it became almost a backwards mullet, I went for the first pair of scissors I could fish out of my drawer -- a pair of rusty old poultry scissors and followed him around as he hopped and swatted away my hand. I gave it my best shot with the dull, worn poultry scissors -- a clean snip across the front. I tried to thin out some of the top but the blades were dull and I didn't make much progress. When it was done, the backwards mullet was somewhat more tamed replaced by a jagged curtain of red bangs across his forehead. I thought it didn't look too bad but my husband, who wouldn't notice if I painted all the walls of our house magenta and replaced the dining room table with lawn furniture, noticed my handy-work and said, "I didn't think it could get worse."
After another three weeks, when his hair poofed like an atomic mushroom cloud on top of his head, I knew I couldn't put it off any longer. I had failed to make an appointment with Amanda, who I thought could use a break after the last appointment. Besides, she cuts my husband and older son's hair and does a heck of an eyebrow wax on me -- we couldn't chance ruining that relationship. She was too valuable to the rest of us.
So on Saturday, while my husband was up in Canada playing rugby and my older son was down the street at a lacrosse tournament, I gathered up what little courage I had to take Sean to a random barber shop that I had no intentions of EVER returning to.
When we walked in, the bells on the door was the first noise to irritate Sean, followed by hairdryers, clippers, a loud television and barbershop talk. Luckily, there were two chairs open and the only woman cutting hair there, pretty and small, motioned us over. I whispered to her that Sean had autism and could be squirmy. After that I sat across from him and held my breath.
She went to work, slowly at first and then, seeing panic in my eyes and hearing Sean's growls and at one point, he pinched her wrist, said "I should make this quick, huh?"
I nodded and said "Thank you," over the drone of clippers.
The barber next to Sean did a running commentary on Sean's behavior.
"Guess he doesn't like haircuts?"
"Stay still, son, or you'll get clipped and it will hurt."
"We can do this the easy way or the hard way."
"You're just making it longer."
I glared over at him. Behind him displayed proudly on shelves were Star Wars and Lord of the Rings figurines entombed in boxes. He wore a wrinkled t-shirt half tucked in and pants that could sure use a belt. I did my own running commentary of him in my head beginning with,
"Nice toys, Man-Boy."
The barber on the other side was kind. He was cutting an older man's hair and kept looking over at Sean. Several times Sean tried to make a break for the door and I leaped out of my seat and wrestled him back in the chair. The nice barber said, "Maggie is great with kids. She'll do a good job."
I waited anxiously and could feel the heavy stares of other customers on Sean and me. I didn't care so much as I saw gobs of hair fall from the clippers and gather into little mountains on the floor. I would never be back here. Another bridge burning in flames behind me. It's all part of being a mom.
She did the best she could and even tried to make his sides completely even. I told her it was fine, that his hair looked great and paid her.
"Let me get you change," she said.
Which I replied, "No, keep it. I can't pay you enough for this haircut."
We hustled out the door and into the minivan. I let Sean know that his behavior was lousy and unacceptable to which point he said, "Could we go to Target?"
"Really?" I thought to myself, "Are you KIDDING me???" I didn't even respond and when we turned away from the barbershop and passed the larger than life Target bulls eye sign he said with utter disbelief, "But why we not going to Target?"
Clearly, he missed the main points of my little talk. I explained it again, "You need to sit and be good for your haircuts. You yelled and even pinched the lady. That is not okay."
His eyes went wide in the rear view mirror, the tears slowly filling in and he said with shock, "I didn't earn it?"
I didn't know if I should laugh or cry but I opted to shake my head no and turn the radio up to drown out the impending tantrum.
When we arrived home I had a message on the home phone. It was from the irritating barber who was doing the play-by-play of Sean's haircut. He wanted to let me know that I left my cell phone there.
I hung up the phone, had a silent scream in my head, got Sean back in the car and began the ride of shame back to the barber shop.
I parked the car and told Sean to wait a moment while I ran into the barber shop.
"Remember me?" I said walking in and laughing but really on the verge of a nervous breakdown.
The woman who cut Sean's hair grabbed the phone from the other barber's station (maybe he was blowing his tip money on the new Shrek toys at Target)and handed it to me. I was relieved that he wasn't there and that I would be spared a lecture on raising children or the dangers of leaving my cell phone behind in random stores.
"Thank you again. You were very patient and I really appreciate it," I said securing the phone in my back pocket.
"You can bring him in anytime," she said with a generous smile affirming my belief that there are some really good people in the world.
As I left, I bit it on a parking curb -- ass over tea kettle and fell in front of a parked car with a couple of teenagers. I scrambled back to my feet and headed to the mini-van that was shaking up and down. Sean had decided to hop in the car, his laughter spilling out of the back vented window.
My palms were scratched and bleeding and my pride was a tangled heap at my feet but I manged to say a simple prayer of gratitude -- "thank you" into my aching clasped hands. I had finished what I had set out to accomplish, as little as it might seem to a stranger. Sure it didn't come without a lot of aggravation, not to mention my wipe-out in the end (at least I didn't knock out any teeth) but it was complete. Done. Finished. Yey!!
Sam Smiles Project
3 months ago