So we know Z has an anxiety issue. We got the official word on this about a year ago, and since then we’ve learned that his anxiety comes into play often. Very, very often.
Thunder storms? Oh yes.
Earthquakes? Our area that NEVER has earthquakes had one two years ago, so of course they are something to be worried about every day now because it’s clear you never know when an earthquake will happen. Could be any day. Any hour of any day.
Tornados? Z is convinced one of those will happen every time we have a thunder storm. Has he ever been in or near a tornado? No, but that doesn’t stop him from assuming one will happen with every rain storm.
And the house will split in half.
And fall down.
And they’ll be fire.
And all other bad things.
So yes, Z’s anxiety is part of our daily lives. Because you never know what is going to happen.
But anxiety over getting a hair cut?
Cutting Z’s hair has been a part of taking care of him that I didn’t put much thought into, and didn’t think would be stress inducing. When he was young I’d give him a buzz cut at home and be done with it. But with buzz cuts, you have to do them semi-often if you don’t want it growing out. Each buzz cut brought tears and screams and — what I know now — anxiety. At first I assumed he was being difficult. And sensitive. And impatient. And (truth be told) a pain in the butt about getting his hair cut. Though now I know that haircuts are difficult for him — with clipper or scissors. The clippers are the worst due to the noise. And the clippers touch his head. They touch every tiny part of his head, over and over, all the while making that annoying terrible no good loud noise. After switching to scissors-only haircuts, it was better, but buzz cuts weren’t possible with scissors, and Z preferred longer hair anyway since his goal is to have hair like Troy Polamalu. Troy is a football player on Z’s favorite professional football team. Z is obsessed with football — the game, the players, the coaches, the stadiums, the stats, … everything football — ergo, he’s obsessed with Troy’s hair. Here’s a photo of Troy and his hair (well, most of it fits in the photo), from this source:
Now, truth be told, I don’t think Z wants his hair like Troy’s because he loves long hair. No. I think it’s because Z thinks if his hair is that long he won’t have to ever cut it. No haircuts is his goal. He is wrong, because even if I let him grow it long, it still needs to be trimmed to stay neat. Z has a curl to his hair — to some of his hair — which results in uneven looking hair when left to grow on its own for weeks and weeks and months.
So, every once in a while, as infrequently as possible, to the hair cutting place we go. The first professional cut for Z’s hair was when he was maybe 5. I had done the buzz cuts at home myself, and then attempted cuts with scissors, semi-unsuccessfully, until I realized the poor boy needed a decent haircut by a professional. This solved some problems (the unprofessional looking haircuts I gave him) but created other problems (haircut anxiety).
Lots of anxiety.
Each time we go to the hair cutting place, I need to inform the stylist that they are not allowed to use clippers AT ALL. Not even to trim near his ears or on his neck. Rule #1: No clippers. Z will not sit in the seat until that piece of information is out in the open.
Rule #2: No products. Z has many allergies and most hair products contain oils and things derived from the things he’s allergic to.
Rules #3 – #1,748 come during the hair cut.
It’s best if they don’t comb his hair first, though of course they want to comb his hair before cutting it. No matter how much I instruct them kindly to please just cut the hair AS IS, they think they won’t be doing a good job unless they comb it first. Combing Z’s hair is not an experience for the sensitive soul. He screams as if you are slowly stabbing him with serrated knives. And he’s creative in these screams. Yesterday he didn’t just scream the high pitched blood curdling “AH…AH…AH…AH…AH…AH…AH…AH…” but he added in a few entertaining phrases, such as “STOP STOP STOP NOW STOP … MY HAIR IS NOT FLEXIBLE!” Not really sure what he was going for, maybe to say his hair wasn’t going to bend to the will of the comb. The poor girl gave Z the comb to do it himself, but that was of no use since Z never combs his own hair. Why would he? He hates all combs and brushes and avoids using them. So she had me try. Because his hair is longer and hadn’t been combed or brushed for a while, the knots were many, and the combing near impossible. I decided we should just give up and go home. But….
Z decided to continue with the haircut because his older brother home from college, Trout, was getting his hair cut at the same place at the same time (yup, that’s the secret of how I got Z to go there in the first place!). So he agreed to let the stylist comb his hair but only if she did it quickly and was gentle, and he said he’d try not to scream “even though that will be very hard to do because it hurts more than anything in the whole world ever.”
The haircut continued. I feel for the girl, because she tried her best, and was intent of doing a very good job, but Z moves way too much while his hair is being cut. Each time she tried to cut it straight in the back, he’d move and it would get uneven. I kept telling her it’s okay — keep going — it doesn’t have to be perfect — WE DON’T NEED PERFECT.
With each haircut Z surprises me. This time it was the bit about his hair not being flexible. Also, he insisted that he sit under the hooded hairdryer instead of going out with barely damp hair, or using the hand held hair dryer. I didn’t even know Z knew what those chairs in the back of the room with the big domes were for. By the time he asked to use that, the girl was more relaxed and I think she realized if she just did what he wanted, she’d get a good tip, uneven hair or not (smart girl). So Z sat under the hair dryer for 20 seconds. Then we left.
I’m thinking of drafting up instructions for the next time Z needs to get a haircut. It would be easier than attempting to communicate all this while the haircut is starting. What do you think?
THIS CHILD HAS HAIRCUT ANXIETY.
DO NOT USE CLIPPERS! NOT EVEN ONE LITTLE BIT FOR ONE SECOND.
USE SCISSORS ONLY.
NO PRODUCTS. WATER ONLY.
DO NOT COMB HIS HAIR UNLESS YOU ABSOLUTELY NEED TO, BUT YOU MUST WARN HIM FIRST AND YOU MIGHT AS WELL JUST ASK ME TO DO IT INSTEAD.
IF THE HAIR IS NOT STRAIGHT OR EVEN OR MATCHED ON BOTH SIDES, THAT’S OK!
CHANCES ARE HE WILL SCREAM. HE’S NOT HURT OR INJURED, JUST ANXIOUS. SMILE AND TELL HIM IT WILL BE OKAY, EVEN THOUGH HE WON’T BELIEVE YOU.
HE WILL MOVE HIS HEAD IN EVERY DIRECTION WHILE YOU ARE CUTTING, EVEN IF YOU TELL HIM ONE MILLION TIMES TO LOOK AT HIS FEET. DEAL WITH IT.
AT THE END HE GETS A GREEN LOLLIPOP. ONLY GREEN. PLEASE DO NOT BRIBE HIM WITH IT, BECAUSE HE’S GETTING ONE JUST FOR COMING IN HERE.
YOUR TIP IS BASED ON HOW WELL YOU FOLLOW THESE INSTRUCTIONS, NOT ON HOW PERFECT THE CUT IS.
P.S. I TIP WELL.