F’s hair was wild. It was growing out of control. I’d gotten in the habit of dreading haircut time. Over the years F had gotten a handful of haircuts that ended in screaming and tears. It was awful and I would let his scraggly hair grow out longer than I should before braving the experience again.
At the start of the pandemic I bought hair clippers and started doing it at home where we had a selection of bribes available each haircut day, but my skills were poor and his hair was just that.
His last professional haircut was in August, almost five months ago, with one mommy trim since. But yesterday, yesterday it was time for a professional to fix that shaggy mullet.
His brother was at preschool and I only had F and the baby so we drove to Great Clips. I had talked the haircut up all morning and we talked in depth about being brave and sitting still for the hairdresser. I showed him the sucker set aside for him in my purse, if he could only be brave enough.
When it was his turn, the hairdresser approached and said “Mister Foster! Are you ready?” to which F excitedly shouted “Mister Foster!” And followed her back. I sat in the waiting area feeding the baby, watching my brave boy sit on the booster seat, and smile. She asked him questions like all hairdressers do.
For the last three years when well meaning adults ask my son questions like this and are met with blank stares I’ve had to step in and explain, increasingly more as he’s grown, why he isn’t answering them. It’s disheartening to see reactions when an adult asks a five year old “how are you” and F just walks away.
I sat on the edge of my seat with the baby, waiting to be needed, because that’s what parents of special needs kids are constantly doing. Just waiting to be needed. But I wasn’t.
Instead, I sat there and fed the baby for ten minutes. F was asked basic questions about himself and he actually answered a few. He stayed in his seat, and he listened, without a complaint. When she finished he hopped off the chair and skipped around the waiting area while I paid. I didn’t have to explain to anyone that my son has autism and I didn’t have to apologize. Instead I got to feed the baby and watch from afar while my son didn’t need me.
As we left, all I could say was, “Mister Foster you look so good.”