Yesterday, Tink had a haircut. She’s been having her hair cut since she was quite small, once it eventually started growing! She’s not all that keen, but she tolerates it enough to tidy it up and get her fringe out of her eyes. Her hair is long, but we’ve reached a point where it’s uncomfortable – painful, even – to brush each morning. Also, I like her to wear it tied up for school so that it’s not in her way and to reduce the possibilities of her catching head lice!
However, she’s been pulling out her hairbands at school, and will only tolerate it tied up for short periods. “I take my hair off?” she says, pulling at her ponytail. So, I decided the time had come to cut it. Short. A bob. Much easier to wash, brush and manage.
However, what I foolishly neglected to take into account in all of this was Tink’s feelings.
I assumed that she would be ok with it. I assumed that she would be happy with it. It would make hair care a much nicer, more comfortable, less painful experience.
What I didn’t think about was that Tink might actually have an opinion about her hair and how it looks. I didn’t think that she would mind, or care, even.
So, I was surprised and made to feel guilty when, after it was cut, she looked in the mirror and burst into tears. I felt awful as she put her hands to her head and felt how short her hair was, and sobbed. She kept touching the ends, now somewhere around her chin rather than past her shoulders, and pulling at them, as if to make them grow. She clearly felt as though a part of her was missing. She was distraught.
This lasted a little while – not for too long, really – but Tink had taught me something so powerful and important in those few minutes of upset.
She taught me that even though she may not be able to express verbally her thoughts, feelings, and wishes about everything, I shouldn’t just assume that she has none.
Although she is my daughter, and, autism or not, I have to make some decisions for her at the age of five, I need to remember that she must be involved in that decision making too.
I must not assume that she has no opinion, and I must find a way to explain what’s planned in a way that she might understand, and find a way to help her to communicate her thoughts on those plans!
Tink, I’m so sorry I didn’t talk to you about cutting your beautiful hair off. I hope you’re not too angry with me?