He says to me, “Baby, this is our normal. It’s OK.”
So my kids are traveling with their father to a wedding later in the day, and they require a haircut before they leave. I would have had the haircut taken care of last week, but guess what? Their normal hair stylist isn’t available and I just found out that she is actually leaving the hair-styling industry altogether. Go ahead and chock this one up to another panic, but I’ll have to save that for later because I’ve got a bigger one presented to me right now in this very moment.
I need my kids hair cut in the next two hours before they leave with their father.
I don’t have the full itinerary to share with Michael, which is stressor #25. My children are about to hang out with people who don’t necessarily buy into the fact that Michael’s got a disability (stressor #14), but I’ve really got to get these haircuts done (stressor #1) and they need to get done now (stressor #1a).
I am smart enough to have asked my boyfriend to come along for the haircuts to try and help Michael out if it got too much for him. I knew I’d have my own anxiety because I was already at stressor #32 for this specific moment. I was a total emotional wildcard and I needed to be hyper-focused on not crying in front of the kids so they could start their trip on the best foot possible.
I need you to know that my boyfriend (who has since graduated to husband as this particular story is from some time ago) has this incredible talent for “normalizing” stuff. Like, he’s the guy you can talk with about your poop. That’s not my thing, but if something’s wrong with your poop, he’s your guy. I’m mostly a prude and I still lovingly cringe when it comes to talking about bodily functioning, but I’m working at growth in that specific area of my life. Probably I’m not working at it, but I think I’m supposed to say that I am.
The point is that he is totally the guy that will talk about anything to normalize “real” life. With this “real life” superpower, he gets an exclusive invitation from me when I might have to explain OCD and Asperger’s to people who don’t necessarily want to hear about it, or expect it, or just want to get this kid in and out of their hair-cutting chair.
We moved along (which way we go is still a continual mystery) and the kids were in their chairs getting their hair cut.
Stephane and I see that Michael is starting to struggle with anxiety and confusion. Guess what happens then? Stephane’s girlfriend, who is the mother of the anxious and confused child, starts to struggle.
His girlfriend, cause I SO don’t want to be the mother of the child who can’t even get his hair cut without a breakdown, starts to have a breakdown herself. Remember, I’m up to about 32 stressors and my children are going away–on an airplane–and I won’t be there with them–and I can barely even think anymore about this.
I start to get teary eyed and pace around and grab a sucker (butterscotch). Great Clips usually has suckers and that is a pittance of a gift in this moment, but I’m taking all that I can get.
I try to concentrate on breathing (the bar is so low, people) so I can try to hold my shit together while all of my men are here. We’re just trying to get haircuts accomplished for two kids before their trip. It seems as if it would be simple . . . hmmm?
Stephane starts to take action by doing the following:
- Tells girlfriend, “Baby, this is our normal. It’s OK.”
- Asks Michael if he can share what his needs are with his stylist.
- Michael says no.
- Stephane says OK and sits back down.
- Stephane casually stands back up and walks around, like me, but without all of the surface panic. Maybe he’s panicky, too, but I don’t see it and I am in awe of that calm-looking face.
- Then boyfriend VERY stealth-like pulls aside Mason’s hair-lady and quickly explains what’s going on. This makes hair-cutter lady happy because she’s now “in on it.” Hair-cutter lady is glad to help and be sneaky by going slowly so that Michael can be done first with his haircut.
- Mason is, per usual, just hanging out and watching the show from his hair-cutting chair/throne. Visualize popcorn here and know that I’m saving tons for his future therapy.
- Girlfriend (me) goes and kisses boyfriend while girlfriend (still me) continues pacing around, trying to hold tears back and stop her face from looking like she’s crying.
It is in fact our normal, so when will it feel as such?
Because really, it is OK.
My son struggles. My son panics. My son puts all of his stuff on the outside with crying, threatening, screaming, etc. He spews this emotional vomit all over me and Mason and now my boyfriend. I’d like to add for the record that I totally told boyfriend about Michael before we dated. No, seriously, I did! Stop judging me because I really did tell him. GAWD!
I guess I’m trying to share that I believe that we have to show up to our normal. I feel we have to work super hard to accept our normal right where we’re at.
At times, we’re not going to want to stay here with a “particular” normal, but really it’s where we’re at in that moment. We’ll move, shift, change meds, get respite, etc. We’ll make the changes needed, but for now, we can work hard to be with our children as they move through those incredibly difficult times.
Can you imagine wanting to be a crying, screaming, scared kid? I can’t. I don’t think they want to. They need us if we can show up kindly, lovingly, and openly.
In this moment I do invite you to look around. Look at what you’re wearing. Look at your home, the dirty dishes, the dog or cat (or collection of poison dart frogs your Aspie kid is obsessed with), whatever. Look around and admire what you see . . . even if you don’t feel like you can admire it. Look for the beauty–ANY beauty (butterscotch lollipops are totally beautiful)–look for the normalcy, look for the things you love, and reach out to embrace the life you’re living.
This moment is probably pretty close to your normal if you’re sitting and reading stories on a screen.
We may not have chosen our normal, but by golly gee willakers, we’re gonna live it to the best of our ability.
Baby, this is our normal. And it’s perfectly OK.
You’re amazing and thank you for reading.
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