The more trips we take around the sun, the more “I never thought I’d do that” notches we acquire on our ever-expanding belts.

When you add disability into the mix, we can surprise ourselves in pretty bizarre ways.

Case in point – tonight I gave my son a haircut while he was sleeping.

I know I’m not alone in the haircut drama. Each of our kids has their own unique reasons for why haircuts are so hard. It’s a common conversation piece when we get together. I have friends who swears by flowbees, the vacuum haircutters. Others opt for longer hair for their kids. Some parents searched painstakingly for the most patient stylist.

My son can handle needles, IVs, nebulizers, hearing tests, even surgery like a rock star. But you so much as mention a haircut and he shuts down. I wish I could climb inside his head to understand why. Apparently for some kids cutting hair is like cutting their nerve endings; torture with every snip. So we have to try every trick we can to get the job done.

I took my son to a “professional” once. She left him with a crooked bowl cut. Before and ever since that debacle I’ve done it at home. Early on he was fine with it. As he got older he got more sensitive so I would hold him down, use the clippers and finish as fast as possible. But it became more and more traumatic for him so I resorted to other methods.

One time I borrowed scissors from a nurse and gave him a trim while he was still under anesthesia from surgery.

I’ve distracted him with videos, popcorn, chocolate, and even ice cream; very messy but necessary.

When that stopped working I noticed he would let me cut his hair if he could vacuum it as I trimmed. That worked for about six months, until tonight.

For some reason, this time when we started, he wasn’t having it. I managed to get two snips in before he threw the vacuum hose down. That left his hair with gouges in it. So I tried to hold him down with the clippers. I got one big chunk cut but he is far too strong and me restraining him is wrong. My poor child screamed and fought as I violated his trust and we both ended up in tears. The whole ordeal lasted all of 3 minutes but felt like an eternity.

The kicker – his hair looked even worse.

We hugged it out and I headed to an evening meeting where, ironically, I explained how so many parents of children with disabilities have a different kind of normal and don’t realize how hard some tasks are that most parents don’t think twice about. Because of this we often aren’t able to articulate our needs and in turn don’t receive the supports that we need … but that’s a whole other topic for another blog.

During a lull in the meeting, I decided doing a Google search of “haircuts Down syndrome” was a good idea. It wasn’t. The first 7 search results included derogatory remarks about how everyone with Down syndrome has the same haircut.

This only fueled my concern about the mess and stress I created for my little guy. Do I send him to school like this? How am I going to fix it? Do I take him to a barber? Do I try at home again and risk more tears?

Cool cucumber exterior with an anxiety riddled center is how I roll these days.

When I came home from the meeting and see my whole family snuggled in our big bed- I had an epiphany.

Cut it in his sleep! He was out cold. This has got to be easier than trimming it while he’s vacuuming. Besides, that “technique” trained me to be able to trim hair at any angle.

It took about an hour. With surgical precision I snipped and put the clippings into a plastic bag. I worked as quickly as I could. Somehow he stirred at the perfect time and flipped. I carefully did the other side, saving the most squirm inducing sections for last.

Miraculously it worked. His hair seems to be presentable. It is worth every itty bitty hair that will be itching us for the next 3 months no matter how many times I wash the sheets.

No stares or whispers at school tomorrow. No fodder for jokes from strangers. But most importantly, a torture free haircut for my favorite 7-year-old in the whole world.

One thought

  1. I used to cut Thomas’s hair in the bathtub, while he was sleeping, while he was eating etc. It was so traumatic for him that I only cut his hair about twice a year. Needless to say, he was often mistaken as a girl. We had a similar problem with nail trimming. I’m happy to say that at 12 he FINALLY doesn’t mind a haircut but the nail trimming……maybe by the time he’s 18.

Leave a Reply