Haircuts traumatize Russell. Legit trauma. His screams define screams of bloody murder. When Russell was younger, I would leave the house when Clive said it was time to give the boys haircuts. It was too hard to listen to Russell screaming through the bathroom door. (Clive does their haircuts with them sitting on a booster seat in the bathtub). A miracle happened when he started preschool at a local special needs school here when he was 4 (He is 6 now). Volunteers came in to give all the kids haircuts every few months (I love this so much) and Russell stopped screaming. He and his friends always got haircuts together and this had a huge effect on Russell. Clive always called the school to remind them to have the blessed volunteer use the closest possible clippers so that the haircut would last as long as humanly possible. It was kind of sad, because it made him look sickly. But it was the only way–best for everyone.
Last year Russell started kindergarten at the school where Clive teaches and where his brothers attend. There were many things we were going to miss about his preschool and haircuts was definitely one of them. Clive stepped back into the dreaded role of barber. As Russell got older, I still wanted to flee. But Clive started to need my help. Russell was getting too big and too strong. This year Russell started to get braver. He would even volunteer to be the first of his brothers to step into the bathtub. But I would sit in the living room and brace myself, waiting for Clive to call me.
Here is how the haircut 2 days ago went.
“Haircut now.” He is so ready to be brave. I take his hand and walk with him into the bathroom. There is no point in waiting. He will need me then, and he will do better with me here now. I think. I hope.
Steps into tub and sits down on the booster seat. Clive turns the clippers on.
“Wait. Wait.” Stalling. Clive reassures him that he will do the top first. Russell hates the back and the sides being cut most of all.
“Mom. Hand.” I take his hand and tell him how proud I am of him and that he has got this. He smiles big and yells, “Guys!” excited to show his brothers his bravery. They come in one by one and offer their “Good job,, Russell” and head back to their 1 hour of tech time. I wonder if they have the hope that the screaming might be kept at bay this time or if they even notice it anymore.
The buzzing starts. He is stomping his feet and making cringing noises, but he is doing it. I will take what we can get. Every second matters. Now it’s time for Clive to change the clipper number for sides and back. Uh-oh.
“Pause. Pause. T” He makes the sign for time out vehemently. I giggle. It’s the cutest. I haven’t seen him do that before. He is still not crying or screaming.
He stands up and stalls by trying to wipe hair off his now sweating body to no avail. “Dad, help.” Clive tells him he will rinse it all off when they are done and that he’s doing a good job. Russell sits back down, thank God. But Russell’s bravery is waning and he wants to be done. There is no way we can leave his hair like this. We try to tell him to look at in the mirror, so he can see that he won’t want to leave it like that either, but he is too upset to look.
He is hunching his whole body over and tucking shoulders up to his ears and crying and screaming as Clive turns the clippers back on. It’s time for me to hold both his hands with my strength now, so that he can’t pull away and so that Clive can get access to the tiny crevices that are left around Russell’s head. I hate doing this. His tears are falling off his face into the bathtub now and one drop hits my hand and I notice how heavy it feels. It was such a big tear.
“Count to 20 Russell. 1….2….3….” I stop to adjust my grip and stop counting as I do. He yells desperately, “Count!” I resume counting. I should have said count to 30. Clive isn’t gonna finish by 20. “18….18.5…..19….” I ask Clive if he is almost done. He tells me what I already know and with precision and skill that comes from years of doing this, he keeps on buzzing despite Russell’s jerking movements and the sweat forming on his head. Russell’s not listening to my counting anymore.
“All done! All done!” Russell’s anguish comes through clearly in his desperate hope that the end is in sight.
“Almost done, Buddy. You are doing such a great job!”
Clive starts counting down. Phew, I feel relief coming. “5…4…3…2..”
“All done!” We both victoriously cry. “You did it!” Russell wipes his face, his eyes, his hair, and internally knows that he can stop crying now, but his body isn’t ready just yet. His face is still full of sadness.
I sit down on the couch to recover and wait for him to come be with me after Clive rinses him off. Tears continue as he climbs onto me and buries his head, all tears and snot, into my shoulder. We breathe together and I hold him tight.
“Is it hard for you, Russell?” I already know the answer, but I want him to know that I know and that he can tell me. He nods yes without lifting off of me.
“I’m so sorry that it’s so hard for you. I’m so proud of you. You were so brave.” He nods. His crying stops and his tears diminish. He just lets me hold him as his breathing slows. I love the weight of him in my arms, as I feel the weight of his burden lifting slowly.
He sits up and gives me several kisses on the lips and wipes his eyes and smiles. He lets out a big sigh. I feel the sigh between us.
“All done now. Thank you, Mommy.”
He kisses me again and gets down. “Haircut,” he says proudly and touches his head to show me with a big grin. He sits down and resumes his ipad time. I smile as I look at his adorableness that has just increased exponentially with his haircut and his proud smiles.
Two minutes later, he looks at me, “All done? Mommy, picture. Me. Haircut.” He stands up proudly and waits for me to snap the photo.
“Thank you, Mommy.”
For those of you outside of Taiwan, this journal entry made me think about you today. I prayed for you. I grieved with you as our kids all started their first day of school today. (I do not take this for granted. We are back to masks as cases went up recently. I know that nothing is guaranteed). I especially grieve for the moms who are caring for kids with special needs, knowing that they may need to do online or homeschool as their kids miss out on all their physical and occupation and speech therapies. There is no break, no end in sight. These moms and dads are my heroes. You guys are ALL so brave. You are facing trauma. You are facing pain. You are facing fear. And God is with you, holding your hands. I pray that you hear Him whispering how much He loves you, how proud He is of you, how He is going to get you through this. How there WILL be relief. How your hope is not unfounded. How your wishful thinking is an arrow pointing to Him in your desperation. Russell faces trauma every time he gets a haircut. His tears and his screaming and his thrasing through it do not change my words. “You did it. I am proud of you.” I know that is how God sees each one of you in this world of upheaval. Your screaming, your crying, your thrashing, your desperation never changes His words for you. It might not be pretty to us, but He still says, “You are doing it. Look! You are doing it. I am proud of you. I am here. Take my hands. Let me hold you. You are mine. Let me cry with you. Let me be with you.”