Short Hair… Do Care

One of the deepest desires of my heart is to be a writer. No, not just a blogger, but a real, published novelist. Several years ago I was able to complete nine chapters of a novel that I still very much want to finish. But the level of attention (read: mental and emotional energy) my family, especially the Girl in Charge, requires, makes it difficult to focus long enough to make much progress these days.

My inability to be creative in the area that means the most to me is something that causes me deep heartache. So, sometimes to compensate, I do writing exercises. I choose subjects that are more immediate- things I actually experience on a daily basis so no research is required.

The following is one such exercise. It is based upon many real-life experiences compiled into one.

Her hand lashes out quick as a lightning bolt. Before I have time to protect myself, her long, slender, silky smooth fingers are entwined in my hair and she is pulling with all of her might. The familiar pain, sharp and exact, garners the response I suspect she is hoping for. I cry out in pain. But even as I do so, I know that help will not be on its way. I am at home alone. My twelve-year-old and ten-year-old are out with their dad- not in the next room available to come to my rescue as they so often do when their little sister lashes out at me in frustration.

Both of my hands instinctively go toward the source of my pain and I attempt to disentangle her vice-like grip from the strands of my long hair. But as I do so, her other hand reaches out and takes a hold of the hair at the back of my head. I try to pull her thin, wiry arms toward my head to lessen the pain. But again, I know this is a strategy that has failed me many times. I can’t disentangle her double-fisted grip while holding her wrists. So I let go of one of her hands and allow her to pull the hair at the back of my head with full force while I attempt to untangle her other hand. As the pain grows more intense, tears stream down my face over my bruised cheek where it came in contact with the heel of her foot three days ago while I attempted to put her shoes on for school. I close my eyes and wince as I feel strands of hair being pulled from my scalp at the root.

Her fingers are wiry and strong, and prying them open takes all my strength. I hesitate, worried I’ll hurt her. But I force her fingers open anyway because my pain becomes excruciating. It’s impossible to open her fingers all the way, so once they’re open just enough, I slowly pull her hand through my hair until it’s almost free. At the last minute, she clamps down hard on my hair again and I can hear some of it ripping as finally, I pull her hand free. I look down and see a clump of broken strands of hair protruding from her tight fist. I pull her arm down and secure it under my leg, and then go to work on the other hand. After many minutes of arduous work, slowly, painfully, I’m able to extract that one as well.

I hurry and push myself back, out of arms reach, and lean against the wall. Taking deep breaths, I massage my scalp where the skin still feels like its on fire. My hair is messy and I let it hang long in front of my face as I rub the most painful spots. When I finally raise my head and pull my hair back, what I see is my sweet, innocent child lying on her back with her hands underneath her, one knee bent, seeking sensory input by wiggling her bottom back and forth, and staring out the window through the top left-hand corner of her peripheral vision, where her eyesight is the best.

I hear my phone ping and pick it up to see pictures my husband has sent me of the big kids. They are at Mt. Vernon with cousins who are visiting from Utah. I smile as I scroll through the cute shots of all the kids with Martha Washington, and the fife and drum corp, at the stables and old slave quarters, and a beautiful one with the Potomac River in the back round. I put my head back against the wall and allow myself the indulgence of being taken away. I imagine the warm breeze flowing through the rich green trees, the smell of the fresh spring blossoms, and the sound of gravel underneath my tennis shoes as I walk along the immaculately kept grounds of the grand old estate. I imagine the laughter of my three able-bodied children as they run ahead with their cousins to pet the horses and chase the chickens. I imagine the Girl in Charge not being in charge, and simply walking over and pulling on my arm until she gets my attention so she can ask for a snack. I imagine a life of togetherness, where being left behind to manage my daughter’s sensory processing issues is something we never have to consider. I imagine… I stop. I can’t do this. It hurts too much.

So, I sigh and refocus on the pale pink bedroom of my eight-year-old daughter, and slide back over to ask her once again if she wants to eat, this time being careful to keep my hair out of arms reach.

Although this may be a writing exercise, everything in it is 100% true. I, and many others, have experienced this painful situation many times.

My Mini Me simply wanted to hug her little sister. But the Girl in Charge had other ideas. You can’t quite see it in the pic, but My Mini Me is getting her hair yanked pretty hard on the other side.

My Mini Man doesn’t usually get his hair pulled, but on this day, he was unlucky. I had just been snapping pictures of how cute they were together, so I happened to catch this pic on accident. In the photo, he’s still smiling in surprise, but within seconds, he was in tears.

Worst of all was when our former respite worker asked the Girl in Charge to be the flower girl at her wedding. The night before, we attended the rehearsal dinner. The bride-to-be looked stunning with her professionally styled hair. But then, you guessed it, the Girl in Charge decided a restyling was in order. I was mortified. But true to her nature, our former respite worker kept saying, “It doesn’t matter. It’s just hair. The only thing I care about is that she’s here.”

And about 6 months ago, this happened. See that chunk of hair missing?

That was the day I was forced to accept that having long hair just wasn’t realistic for me anymore. After that, I tried shoulder length hair for a while, but one day while buckling the Girl in Charge into her car seat after picking her up from school, she was particularly agitated from sensory overload and lashed out at me with both hands. I found myself in the school parking lot, with my head stuck inside the car, attempting to disentangle my shoulder length hair, while the Girl in Charge screamed in frustration. It took (what felt like) an eternity to finally pull myself free. In tears from the pain, I resolved in that moment that it was all coming off. Long hair, of any length, just wasn’t practical for me anymore. It took me a few weeks, but last Thursday the chop finally happened.

I would say “Short hair, Don’t care” as the saying goes. But it’s not true. The truth is I do care. Very much. I would love to still have long flowing locks. But like my dream of being a published novelist, it’s simply not in my reality right now.

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