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When I Thought the Man in Supercuts Was Judging My Special Needs Family

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It was while getting my daughter Vivian’s haircut that a total stranger — without a saying a word — let me know he understood I was doing my very best.

Vivian shocked me when she said she wanted to cut her hair short — really short. I was game because while I love her long hair, it’s very thin and there’s a lot of it. Sadly, since I wasn’t planning on anything more than a trim, I didn’t have enough battery power on my cellphone to keep my other daughter, Caroline, entertained throughout this experience. Once the phone died, which happened before Vivian’s haircut even got started, Caroline was all over the place. She tried to leave, she climbed on the shampoo chair, laid on the floor and made a snow angel, played with a hair dryer not in use and tried to use the cellphones of three other people. Girlfriend was relentless.


Vivian, for her part, decided about halfway through the haircut that she looked like a boy and started to regret her decision. So there I was corralling Caroline and offering a pep talk to Vivian. I was trying hard to be the mom both of the ladies needed at the same time, so I had to be two totally different versions of me.

A young man and his son, who was about Caroline’s age, came in for haircuts. They were were in and out before Vivian’s haircut was complete. However, they were there long enough to see the chaos the Buzzard Ladies had brought to Supercuts. At one point I told Vivian, “You need to take it down three notches. Our family is responsible for 90 percent of the noise and 100 percent of the chaos in here.”

When Vivian’s hair was about halfway done, one of the other hairdressers asked if Vivian had received a deep conditioning. I said no because we decided to go with a short cut instead. I thought it was weird she was asking but figured she needed to close out our ticket for some reason.

Later, when they told me my bill had been paid for by the young man, my jaw dropped. I didn’t ask why. I was speechless. I was convinced he had been silently judging me while he and his son waited for their haircuts. And it turned out maybe he was, but not in the way I had imagined.

While we were at Supercuts, I didn’t apologize for Caroline’s behavior or explain she has autism. I was too tired. But between our interactions, the man who paid for Vivian’s haircut could see that despite how disruptive our family was, we really were trying to do the best we could. I thank him for not harshly judging Caroline, Vivian or my parenting. His willingness to look past our loud, active presence allowed him to see that even families who have kids with special needs sometimes need to run errands.

His silent generosity reminded me some parents offer their support to other parents without words but with gentle gestures that say, “I have been there, too. You will make it through this day.”

Thanks for the haircut and the pick-me-up.

Follow this journey on Failure to Thrive or Ability to Overcome?

Originally published: October 28, 2015
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