Friday, August 10, 2012

The Haircut Chronicles

"Everybody hold your breath and pray.... Ryan just asked for a haircut several times. I'm getting the stuff. Stay tuned!" ~My Facebook update last night

Ryan hates haircuts.  HATES.  I'd even call it a phobia.  For a long time, if I even entered a room holding scissors he would lose it.  When it came time to actually do the deed, he thrashed, cried screamed, shook, and seriously made me wonder if CPS wouldn't pay a visit.  

We've tried just about everything we can think of.  The only thing I can think that would make it any easier is to masking tape a towel all around his hairline... and I mean ALL around his hairline... to keep any hair from touching him.  We have tried shears and clippers.  We're tried the comb and the guide with the clippers.  We've put on his favorite show.  I've held him in my lap.  I've let him choose scissors or clippers.  Nothing doing. 

Last night, while we picked up the living room (ok, so I was picking up and begging, cajoling, bribing them to help) Ryan said this: 

Ryan have a haircut.  

When asked to repeat himself, he said the same thing.  He has been a little shaggy lately, and his hair is really thick.  When your hair is really thick and it's over a hundred degrees in the shade, it's time to get a haircut.  

So I ran to the bathroom, pulled out what I needed, grabbed a kitchen chair, turned on a nice, calming video, and invited him to the chair.  He immediately hopped in and began spewing lines from the social story for haircuts he has on the iPad.  Immediately, I thought to play along.  I talked through as much of it as I could remember with him.  

I combed his hair, and he giggled.  GIGGLED, folks!  This is the same kid who wouldn't tolerate a brush not that long ago.  

Turned on the clippers, and the hum didn't make him freak out.  He giggled more!  I told him "haircuts tickle" and he repeated it, still happy as a clam.  

Even the first few passes through his hair he just laughed, squirming just a little, because as we just learned, haircuts tickle. 

Then, just as I began to relax and think this would be no big deal, he turned.  

He could take no more.  Cool, collected, happy Ryan was gone.  And honestly, it frightened me how quickly he changed gears.  One second, laughing like crazy, smiling, no big deal.  A millisecond later, red-faced, screaming, crying, and swatting at the comb and clippers.  

The job completed, he immediately began hopping around the house asking for a bath.  All evening and this morning, he repeated "You love your haircut" in his usual newscaster voice. 

I must tell you that Ryan has greatly improved in the haircut department.  It's still hard.  It's still painful to see him that upset.  But it is better.  I must not forget!

But still, I cannot describe the sick, panicked feeling when he snapped.  And this is a haircut.  It's not something I can start and stop.  Yes, I could if I really wanted to, but he has places to go, and I don't want him walking around looking like he has mange.  He was able to get himself somewhat together off and on, which is way more than he used to be capable of.  

Sometimes, you just have to get it done.  Get it over with.  Rip off the band aid.  Along the way, things come up and people who know give advice and you're able to tweak the rip a little, but it's still a band aid.  

My other two kids were watching this.  Both of them supporting their brother.  

It's okay, Ryan!  

Richie, who has golden curls that I trim but will not cut off, offered to get his hair cut too.  So did Mae. I think they did that more out of wanting to show him that it won't hurt than anything.  But we know that doesn't work.  Last time I gave Richie his trim first, and cut Daddy's hair, then Ryan still flipped.  

It's not just haircuts.  It's the washing machine.  Dishwashers.  Candles.  Any food he's not used to.  The fact that we have to leave hotels.  The fear that he won't get to go back.  The fear that he won't get to ride the people train again.  

It's the circles.  Yes, circles.  When first handed a crayon, he'd scribble mostly circles.  He still draws circles in the air.  There is a rule at our house that no train tracks are to be laid in a circle.  Who has rules like that?

It's the addictions.  No, not controlled substances.  To toys.  Objects.  Ever since "Hiro" the engine, we have had to learn to watch for budding addictions.  Addictions to toys?  Yes.  He wouldn't go to the bathroom, eat, sleep, or even pull up his pants without Hiro in his hand.  He never played with Hiro; he just needed him.  If Richie came in the room during one of the few times he'd actually placed Hiro on the track, he would scream and generally freak out.  If Richie touched Hiro, all bets were off.  

It just gets tiring.  Watching your child go through something as misunderstood and vastly diverse as autism is hard enough, but the anxiety over having to have things exactly the way they need to be is more than tiring.  I would, if it would help, promise the kid ice cream after his haircut.  Or anything else.  But it's not a "fit" and he's not trying to get out of it.  He can't take it.  There's something about it that he just can't take.  Yet. 

The thing is, it's worth it.  Just as I couldn't stop giving him his haircut, I can't stop trying.  I can't give in to the frustration and refuse to help the kid learn to deal with life.  I can't stop protecting him, allowing and/or pushing him beyond reasonable limits, but the haircuts of life will always be there.  I can't take out everything that will hurt him, scare him, or hurt my feelings.  Instead, we have to keep going.  Prepare as we can, do the best we can, learn as much as we can, supporting research where we can, and doing our part for a better future for all our kids, while not losing sight of today.  

And while not forgetting what these trials are making of us.  

Before autism, I was more selfish, more lazy, more judgmental, more pharisitical.  I wasn't as tired and stressed, but I wasn't as patient and empathetic as I am now, either.  I wasn't as dependent on my faith.  I wasn't as interested in bible study, and kinda saw the need to be interested, but there wasn't much of a draw.  

One of my favorite guys in scripture is Paul.  While imprisoned under King Agrippa, one of the times Paul was summoned to speak, the king asked if Paul thought he could persuade him to be a Christian, given a short time.  

"And Paul said, 'Whether short or long, I would to God that not only you but also all who hear me this day might become such as I am—except for these chains.” ~Acts 26:29

While I would not wish autism on any of your children, even if in doing so it would leave my child, I would wish that you would have the chance I have to see such amazing things happen.  To be elated over a single word or bite of food or ride in an elevator.  To be challenged to the core of your beliefs to the point of knowing beyond the shadow of a doubt who is in control.  To know the peace, relief, and joy that comes from knowing that there is a plan, and you are not responsible for putting it together!  To experience the gratitude that comes from the struggles and the simply amazing parts of this life.  Not that you don't have any gratitude in your life, or any amazingness... but when you have something wonderful, even in its own way, don't you wish you could share it?

I pray that you do, and you will.  I pray that we'll all be able to see beyond the face of things, into the inner parts where God is working 'round the clock, behind the scenes, creating the scenes, to make our lives colorful, wonderful, diverse, and abundant.  

And a hearty thanks to God for all of you who dropped everything and prayed with us when the time came last night!  

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