“Thank you for cutting his hair,” I’ve told Emily many times in passing, or lightheartedly over text. I wish I could show her what it actually means in my heart.
“I’ll go in by myself,” he says.
Instantly, my mind flashes from the achingly handsome 10-year-old standing in front of me to the toddler he once was. I see his 2-year-old self standing before me in our mudroom. Fresh from Kids Cuts, a soggy sticker on his T-shirt that reads “I GOT MY HAIRCUT.” A red and blotchy face from crying, eyes swollen. The buzz cut was the quickest way to get through.
My husband shuffles in, he looks tired but tries to be upbeat. “It wasn’t that bad,” he lies. My stomach turns picturing the sweetest soul I’ve ever known silently crying in the chair as the lady forces the buzzer across.
There is nothing harder for him than a haircut.
We used to see Em for haircuts before his autism really started to show. She gave him his first haircut at 7 months old. It was in a fancy salon that smelled like Aveda products and had exposed brick. All the fancy older ladies getting their blowouts went on and on about how cute he was and how much hair he had. Emily joyfully trimmed away. My husband even took an extra long lunch to come see us at the salon.
Fast forward six months . . . I stopped taking him to Em. Even though she handled it more than kindly, his autism made haircuts unbearable. I couldn’t subject her, and the fancy older ladies to how hard he cried. Our only solution was the dreaded buzz cut from Kids Cuts.
Emily eventually moved into her own space. I still saw her for my hair, and she never stopped asking for another try with my son. She is a very persistent individual with cute style and a big laugh. She spent months convincing me to bring him back.
Finally, I gave in, and there were definitely tears—maybe from all three of us! Not an easy haircut.
I figured it was back to the buzz.
“See you in four weeks?” she asked. I reluctantly booked another appointment. As time went on, Em pulled out all the stops—treats, quiet buzzers she bought especially for him, and his favorite, talking about The Monster At The End of This Book.
It took years . . . but she did it. The tears stopped altogether. She and I could even have our own conversation. I remember walking in once and catching my breath because I finally wasn’t nervous, and neither was he.
Emily didn’t need our business, in fact, she never cut kids. “He just needs me,” she said.
At his most recent haircut, I parked and started to grab my purse. “I’ll go in by myself,” he said.
I was stunned.
I tentatively handed him the rolled-up money; my eyes asked him if he was sure. His perfectly tanned hand grabbed the money happily, and I could tell he felt proud.
Emily waved from the door, trying to hide her giggles. She was smiling, he was smiling. I let out a breath I had been holding for eight long years.
I sent Em a text . . . “Thanks for cutting his hair.”