Monday, June 7, 2010

Making the Cut

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!!


Gimky said...

Man boy! Haha! You are so funny, Katie.

It never ceases to amaze me how someone could possibly think they're making something better when they're only making something so much worse. Especially when all they do is talk and talk TO you or TO your boy. It's like how the adults of Charlie Brown are portrayed! Noise!

I used to care so much what other people think. I still do, it's my nature. But I've had to adjust because of my son, and learn to hold up my head even when I don't want to, and force myself to teach others how to behave by example. Of course, then I go home to the privacy of my own home and have a good cry!!

I used to cut my son's hair while he was sleeping by the way. It would always seemed to look fine right then, but he'd wake up and there was always something wrong. Good to be undeterred and keep bringing him to the barber. It's hard, but there's only one way to get used to it!

Good job, Katie!!

xx Gimky

Deb said...

I wonder if that barber is related to the radiologist we had to deal with for Ethan years ago. Ugh!

Next time, have me come along, and I can do PR for ya... I'm getting pretty amazing at shutting up the ones that think they can control ASD behaviors with their irritating comments. ;)

JC said...

For another option, Tammy from Kuts for Kids on Hawthorne is wonderful. She cuts the hair of a lot of kids with ASD and doesn't bat an eye. She lets them watch Tom and Jerry and is super nice. She has desensitized Sebastian to the point where we can go pretty much anywhere now without any drama. I wouldn't say she gives the BEST hair cut in Portland but she is definitely one of the most patient people and isn't bothered by any behavior. Check it out sometime. And you won't have to feel uncomfortable there!!!

momto2wasd said...

I have a son who hates the hair cuts, too. I do them at home when I have a helper to hold him down. I never quite get the haircut finished, and my son has curls that always end up remaining around his ears and the nape of his neck.

It's so hard some days, isn't it? And people can be unbelievably mean to kids.

Katie Donohue Bevins said...

Thanks to you all for sharing as well as info on where to take Sean for his next haircut. Nobody really knows how stressful haircuts can be for our children so it's nice to know I'm not alone!!

Rebecca said...

Ahh, you put it all so eloquently. It's just a day in the life of parenting a child with autism. Today we had a screaming fit for 1/2 hour because mine wanted a hot dog instead of steak. I told him he could have a hot dog for dinner, but my husband picked up some steaks to grill out and so I made those instead. My son loves steak, but since I had told him he could have a hot dog, it was game on. I did prepare a hot dog for him, but I told him that he had to stop screaming and come into the kitchen to tell me what he wanted. Eventually, he did, and he ate his hot dog. When he was done, he proceeded to take my steak off of me plate and put it on his and then asked me to cut it up for him. Grrrr... All that screaming and he ate the steak anyway. I'm thankful that we know, as moms, where the behavior stems from. If my typical child would have pulled this, I would have sent her to her room. But I knew that we had a discussion earlier in the day and that my deviation from that plan was causing him distress. It's not "nice" to listen to you vent, but it helps to hear others struggling with the day in and day out life of an autistic child. God bless you and your little guy!

Perfectly Imperfect said...

You are in a tough place - needing to rely on others to take care of your son's needs (like haircuts) but not having people who understand the best way to work that out. I"m sure you deal with this struggle all the time - knowing that people like this barber are probably not judging you & your son, but also don't know what to do to help.

Reading your blog has helped me to know better how to react and communicate with the beautiful children dealing with autism that I come across in my life. I hope you know that your writing does so much more than just giving you a place to vent, it gives people like me a place to learn.

*one thought more - my son deals with being painfully shy at times. I wonder if you've ever thought to try hair cuts while your son is sleeping? It worked okay the few times I tried it, and it stretched out the times I had to force my little guy into the chair & watch him cry. Blessings!

Gimky said...

how is the summer going, Katie?