My son has Sensory Processing Disorder. When I ordered up a child, I didn’t specify that I wanted it to come with normal, regular, everyday brain wiring. And what happens when you just throw it out there that you’ll take a baby, any baby? You might get a challenge. Because after all, what sort of challenge would an easy, compliant, kid who makes the honor roll be? That’s rhetorical, by the way. Come to think of it, I was an easy, compliant kid, who made the honor roll like clockwork.
But I digress. One of the many challenges my son deals with is having a hell of a time dealing with getting his hair cut. It’s been a sensory nightmare for him. When he was little, I took him to a local woman barber. He did ok with it the first cut. But after that, it became more and more difficult for him to tolerate. I think the first ones went well because he was sucking on a binkie.
By the time he was in his final (3rd) year of preschool, he decided, with full confidence, that he knew that he could cut his own hair. So he started in on it. One morning. Just before preschool.
At this age and stage (4 or 5 yrs.), Little Man’s bedroom door was never closed during the day. This morning, the house got quite. Too quiet. The hairs stood up on the back of my neck with concern. I crept down the hallway and slowly opened Little Man’s door. There he stood, scissors in hand, clumps of hair on the floor.
Because he’s so sensitive, I tried with all my might to stay calm. I asked him what he was doing. He replied that he was cutting his hair. Duh! I don’t remember anything much else. But he didn’t like to go to the barber, so he said he could cut his hair himself. I said that barbers don’t learn how to cut hair by practicing on themselves. I tried to drive home the point that it’s a learned skill that is honed by practicing on doll heads. And that he didn’t have the skill to cut his own hair.
Looking at the clock, I realized there was nothing to do but take him to preschool with the hair on the top of his head cut down to 1/8th inch, and the bangs gone. That’s as far as he got. When he got to preschool, his teacher asked Little Man what mommy said when she saw the haircut. Much to my surprise, he said, “She freaked out!” I swear I didn’t freak out, except inside my head. But then again, the kid is very intuitive.
After I dropped him at school, my next stop was Target. For those not in the U.S., that’s a department store that sells a variety of things like clothes, toys, household items, electronics, health and beauty supplies, and clipper sets. I bought a premium Wahl clipper set, complete with all the guides a person could ever want, a comb, scissors, clips, a small bottle for spritzing water, and instructions on how to cut hair. Soon afterwards, I went to a local library and read a little bit more about how to cut hair.
After that incident, I cut Little Man’s hair for a while. But when he was six, I bribed him to let my hair stylist cut his hair. He made it about 2 times before he went to work, cutting his own hair again. I finally got the message. Ever since, I’ve been cutting Little Man’s hair.
His issue with barber shops and beauty salons is the smell of hair products, sometimes the sound of the scissors or the buzz of clippers and the feeling of the cut hair on his skin. The smell is overwhelming to him. And when little pieces of hair are on his face and neck, it drives him up a tree. As he gets older, he’s tolerating the clipper buzz more and more. When I cut his hair, I’m constantly talking to him, letting him know how to close he is to being done. And I don’t dawdle; paying attention so he doesn’t looks like he’s been butchered. I’ve learned that the details around the edges are what makes for a good cut.
As we approach the new school year, and the pre-summer haircut was getting shaggy, today it was time for the dreaded cut. Out on the porch we went: me standing on my one good foot, balancing my other knee on my knee scooter, orange extension cord led out to power the Wahl, and Little Man firmly clutching a beach towel tightly around his neck as he perched on a stool. After pulling out an assortment of guides, I went to work, clipping and snipping, until I reached perfection. Well, ok. Not perfection. But pretty good. My goal is simple: I don’t want my kid to look like a convict. And in 2 weeks, no one will ever suspect his haircut was a home job.