|Look closely - can you see him?|
We walk into Cost Cutters, and I remember. I remember my trepidation -- even greater, Ethan's. I remember the way we used to have to go to the expensive, ritzy kid's place, because it had toy cars to sit in and cartoons on the screen and lollipops. That was the only way we could make it through a haircut: bribes and distraction.
I remember sitting in this place waiting for Dan and Anna to get their hair done. I remember the subtle panic. Would Ethan swipe shampoo bottles onto the floor? Try to run outside? Roll around on the floor? How could we keep him occupied for a half-hour without making a spectacle? Lots of goldfish crackers were our friend.
I remember the first time we attempted cutting Ethan's hair at this place. We made it to the chair. Once she started to put the smock around him, he was done. A few months later, we tried again. We got a few snips in. Finally, when he was somewhere around 3 1/2 to 4, he sat all the way through. I hovered.
Just before he turned five, he let them buzz him for the first time. He still doesn't like the tickle. Now he manages to laugh, while still brushing anxiously at the little hairs around the back of his neck once he's done.
Most of them knew Ethan's background, but still for the longest time I hovered. I tried to fill in the blanks if they asked him a question and he didn't answer, or answered inappropriately. This has been an ongoing theme in public places. Over time, I've had to hover and fill in those blanks less often.
Yesterday we walked in once again. Ethan came when they called, and sat. I stayed in the waiting area and watched, listened.
"How old are you?" the hairdresser asked him.
"Five," he answered, holding out his fingers.
"Wow. Are you in kindergarten?"
"No. I'm in preschool. My sister is almost nine."
"Really? When is your birthday?"
"November 28. And Anna's birthday is June 18."
"Oh...is she going to have a party?"
"I don't know. Maybe!"
I sat there watching them converse, watching him follow the instructions to bend his head down or tilt it left or right, and felt a little bit of indignation.
I thought about Dr. Milanese, and her examining eyes, of her mentally clicking off social deficits as she assessed the way Ethan conversed. I wished she was there in that moment, although I knew she have her explanations as to why Ethan wasn't where he "should be."
No matter. Just look, I'd tap her on the shoulder and point. Just look and really see. THIS is progress.