Hairdressing – With A Side Of Honesty

Since having kids one of my favourite things to do is going to get my hair done.

Yes of course covering the ever-thickening grey strands with a healthy dollop of artificial colour is a highlight (forgive the coiffeur humour!) but actually the best bit is sitting down for an extended period of time with people bringing me magazines and hot drinks.

A rarity these days, to state the bleeding obvious.

The thing I’ve never been that keen on about the hairdressers however is the chit chat, the small talk etiquette of it all.

For some reason I get really paranoid that I’m not giving the hairdresser good value in the chinwag department. Do they want to talk? Are they sick of talking? Why do the stylist and customer over there appear to be actual besties when I can’t think of anything interesting to say?

It’s bloody ridiculous, but sometimes I get so tense about the ‘awkward silence’ that I’ve sunk as low as asking my hairdresser about their holiday plans! I know that’s supposed to be their line but there’s only so much conversation you can have about the current state of salon straighteners…

What is even worst though, and I know I’m not alone here, is dragging the kids to have their tresses trimmed. There is literally nothing so stressful – except perhaps making them have their feet measured, or getting them to stop running around in cinema.

Thankfully these days now that she’s five Mini-me has quite taken to it all. Mainly because we’ve started going to a new place where they use ‘princess glitter spray’ and because I let her watch the iPad.

Blue-eyed boy however is another story.

Not only does he HATE the hairdressers, but ‘The A Word’ means that any outing to the barbers is now fraught with even more stress and, well, just basic hideousness.

We start gearing up to it several hours (or days) before actually leaving the house and only then attempt the trip armed to the gills with snacks little man is happy to consume this week, with at least a couple of episodes of Twirlywoos downloaded onto phone in case, horrors!, the Wifi signal doesn’t work.

Once I’ve actually got him in the chair, I then have to plonk Beebies entertainment directly in his line of vision, plead with hairdresser not to obstruct view with brushes etc., have snacks open and handy just in case of need, and all this while simultaneously holding Blue-eyed boy’s arms down so the snipping can actually take place.

And god, the bit where they try to cut around his ears, or use the clippers. Let’s not talk about it or I might start getting emotional!

The sensory issues triggered by his ASD mean that Blue-eyed boy hates certain materials and the feeling of them on his skin, so trying to put on the bib protector thingy is a total non-starter and can cause him real distress.

He also hates having water sprayed onto his hair, the feel of the scissors, the hairdresser actually touching his hair, and any residual noise interfering with his enjoyment of Great Big Hoo and gang. So a fun time is guaranteed for all.

On our visit this week (put off I might add until my poor child was sporting an actual mullet) I decided to try a new tack – honesty. It’s all part of the adapting to ASD you see. I figure I’m going to have to explain Blue-eyed boy’s condition so many times in the coming months and years that I might as well start as I mean to go on.

So when the hairdresser expressed surprise that little man didn’t like the dinosaur cape that usually goes down a storm, and in fact screamed the house down when confronted with it, instead of mumbling something about him ‘having a bad day’ I told the truth.

I told her that my son has autism, that he’s been recently diagnosed so we’re all still getting used to it and that his symptoms on any given day can include: chewing his clothes, having a meltdown if a piece of fruit he ate yesterday is put on his plate, slapping away other children if he feels they get too close and using language sparingly and only when he feels like it.

I said that ASD is actually very common and could even affect up to one in 60 children. And then I apologised if all this would make her job a bit more difficult than usual on this occasion.

Not only did she not mind, she was actually interested. She took account of what I’d said and tried to make Blue-eyed boy as comfortable as possible. Working together we even managed to keep him in the chair long enough for a pretty respectable cut.

So the upshot is that I think I’ll be sticking with this new honest approach to hairdressing – and other outings.

It just probably won’t extend to not stressing out over small talk etiquette.

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Compare, Contrast, Combust

You might have noticed (or more likely you probably haven’t) that it’s been a fair few weeks since my last blog ramblings.

It’s been a hectic time, juggling a busy, varied and ‘just the right side of stressful’ workload, the school holidays, other mini life niggles such as a delightful infected wisdom tooth and accompanying balloon face (attractive) and what I have been referring to as ‘family health issues’.

A few posts back I hinted that Blue-eyed boy is currently battling several health and development challenges, and recently the worry surrounding these has started to ramp up. Mainly because I find myself brooding on things more.

Blue-eyed boy has always been a fighter right since his conception.

There was the miscarriage, the awful scan where we were ushered into a private room and told that he might have a chromosomal condition, possibly one that could be life threatening, the invasive tests to find out whether this was the case or whether his heart was weak, the scans at the specialist hospital department and then the ‘all clear’.

Although this was followed by the caveat that in such cases as ours there is always a slightly higher chance of the baby being born with a health issue than what they refer to as ‘the general population’.

Even after this there was the nagging worry that followed us up right the day of his birth and the sheer joy at his arrival that followed.

Now considering I know people whose children have bravely battled cancer, others who have taken rounds of IVF in their stride and others who may not be able to have kids at all, I don’t for one minute think that hubby and I had to cope with that much – but I have always privately felt that Blue-eyed boy is my miracle boy.

And this means that, I suppose, we’ve wrapped him in more virtual cotton wool than we did with Mini-me.

When he was late to sit and walk and never really crawled we worried lots.

When we realised he couldn’t hear and had suffered with bad glue ear for most of his first two years we stressed out loads.

And when he used to cling to us and sob furiously in unfamiliar social situations we were concerned he might never find his feet.

But when he finally took his first tentative, wobbly steps at 19 months we whooped furiously.

When he had grommets fitted and we were told his hearing was now, probably for the first time, back within the ‘normal range’ we celebrated.

And when he started to babble, grow in confidence and even say the odd word, we were almost beside ourselves.

I guess because he has been through a fair amount, it makes every little milestone hurdled that little bit more special.

So now he, and we, are facing the next set of challenges.

The fact that Blue-eyed boy is a fair few months behind in terms of development. The fact that there is a long road ahead when it comes to him learning listening and conversational skills and, hopefully, catching up with his speech.

And the fact that there may be something else to contend with – possibly an autism diagnosis, possible a motor or sensory deficiency…

The good news is that he is doing amazingly well, continuing to battle like he always has. In fact I couldn’t be more proud of my little boy with the big eyes and the beautiful smile.

The thing I’m struggling most with at the moment is all down to my own issues and actually a trap that many parents fall into – the curse of comparison.

I hate myself for doing it, even though it’s only human, but sometimes I can’t help brooding on the fact that other children the same age as Blue-eyed boy are toilet trained, sleeping in proper beds, no longer using high chairs and chatting away with the best of them.

I worry, even though it’s far too early, that he may never get the chance to go to mainstream school or enjoy all the opportunities that Mini-me undoubtedly will.

I wish for a clear diagnosis of his condition so we know exactly what we are dealing with, but other days I dread the thought of it.

Personally I think that no good ever comes of comparing your child or yourself as a parent to others. In my experience it only leads to negative brooding and madness.

Do my children have too much ‘screen time?’

Do my children eat enough fruit and vegetables?

Do my children behave as well as their friends?

Do they spend enough time outside?

Do I shout too much – or too little?

Am I patient enough with them?

Will I ever get the work/parenting balance right?

Blah, blah, blah, blah, bleurgghh…

What I’m going to try to do instead is focus on all the good bits, with none of the lining up against stuff. And not look too far ahead.

And also take the good advice a friend of mine gave me today…

‘Look, if they’re still alive at the end of the day and you haven’t gone insane I consider it a good sign!’

Sounds a pretty good parenting motto to me.

 

Things I’ll never get used to as a parent

I’ve just had one of THOSE mum mornings.

You know the type, where nothing, and I mean nothing, goes right. Where you’re running stupidly late, again, and trying to speed up somehow only results in everyone moving even slower.

Where your semi-decent, moderately coordinated, mostly stain-free, outfit is soon drenched in sweat as you start to overheat wildly at the effort of shepherding offspring out of the house while trying very, very hard to not lose your temper.

(At least you hope it’s that because otherwise you must be suffering from the hot flushes of early onset menopause.)

When your need for caffeine is so strong that you wonder whether you will actually be able to cope physically with the toddler whinging currently ringing in your ears until you reach the rendezvous point where you can access some.

It paints a pretty picture doesn’t it?!

Today I also spent 20 minutes huffing and puffing over trying to install the new ‘easy fit for all models’ foot muff to our buggy whilst poor blue-eyed boy broke his heart sobbing because, funnily enough, Mummy couldn’t cuddle him at the same time.

Clearly I’m just crap though because while fiddling with the stupid stroller straps constituted some kind of Krypton Factor challenge for me, BFF calmly sorted the whole thing in about two minutes at soft play. Show off!

Anyway the point of all this rambling, and there is one I assure you, is that there are some things I think you never really get used to as a parent.

For me the biggest one is being able to get out of the house calmly and on time. No matter how much I plan and pre-pack, no matter how much time I allow it just never happens.

Friends have assured me it ‘gets easier’ but mini-me is almost three-and-a-half now and frankly I just don’t believe them.

The person who articulates best what a nightmare vacating home can be in the mornings is comedian Mike McIntyre.

Google his ‘people with children just don’t know’ sketch and I promise that you will soon be crying with laughter. It’s basically my life.

Here are a few of the other things I don’t think I’ll ever quite adapt to.

*Clearing up other people’s poo

There’s no nice way of saying it is there. I remember at 17 babysitting for some children round the corner and realising with horror that I’d have to wipe a three-year-old’s bottom. Things have never really improved from there.

My personal poo highlight is when it goes up your fingernails mid nappy change. You may try to deny it but you know what I’m talking about…

*Never having a lie in

I have dim memories of weekends long past when I didn’t have to get up before 8am. And no staying in bed with a toddler and large baby sitting on your head doesn’t count.

*Missing the cinema

Hubby and I used to love going to see a good film whenever we liked. Of course we can still go now but planning a night out at the flicks can constitute a military operation so it’s just often easier to wait for the DVD.

*Lack of personal space

Three year olds really don’t care if you need a little time to yourself do they – and I’m only talking about thirty seconds trying to restore your sanity while hiding behind the kitchen door here. Is it really that much to ask?

*The endless questions

‘Mummy, Mummy, Mummy, Mummy, Mummmmmmaaaaayyyy….’ (Add your own screeching sound effects here. And the optional banging – yes, that’s your head against the wall.)

Smug Mums Incorporated

It’s been a rather stressful few weeks in the Neat Freak house.

A seemingly never-ending bout of illness finally culminated in a spell in hospital for blue-eyed boy, and although everything’s pretty much back to normal now it’s been a case of muddling along as best we can for a while.

My never-ending ‘to do’ list is now the length of a short novel and I’m actually getting genuinely scared of being eaten alive by the laundry pile.

Being a long-time convert to the philosophy that a tidy home equals a calmer, happier person, I think what I find hardest about being a parent – apart from the lack of personal space – is the lack of space in general.

The plethora of ‘toddler tat’ in our lounge often feels like my biggest bugbear, that and how my kids manage to leave their sticky fingerprints and footprints on everything. But hey, it goes with the territory.

What’s harder to admit is that sometimes I find it hard to remain serene in the face of mini-me emptying out every toy she owns. Or that I love the fact that she does cake making and potato printing at nursery so I don’t have to at home.

Personally I think the sanest thing you can do as a mum is to accept the fact that you’ll never be ‘perfect’, try not to feel guilty about the decisions you make and above all never forget to laugh at yourself – whether at home or in public.

After all being a good mum is many things, but it’s certainly not black and white.

So why do the smug mums brigade, Smug Mums Incorporated if you will, seem to feel it’s okay to look down their noses at the rest of us?

You know the type, the ones who wouldn’t know self-deprecation if it bit them on the arse and who recoil in horror at the thought of feeding their offspring anything that’s not locally sourced, organic and prepared from scratch.

Queen of the Smug Mums, or at least the celebrity face of the campaign, has to go to Gwyneth Paltrow, her of Goop, or as I prefer to call it Gloop fame.

You know that lifestyle website with ‘useful’ tips on the perfect capsule collection wardrobe, the importance of owning a black designer jumpsuit and hearty recipes. Chickpea soup anyone?

To be fair Gwyneth herself has waxed lyrical about how we mums don’t cut each other enough slack. But then she always goes and spoils it by dropping clangers such as how office jobs are easier if you’re a mum than being paid millions to make a film. Or how she only allows her children to watch TV if it’s in French or Spanish.

And while describing herself as a ‘working mom’ as she did recently at a political fundraiser – of course we all host these regularly where I’m from – might be technically correct, in reality she presumably has staff and nannies by the dozen on standby.

Oh Gwyneth if only instead of writing about the benefits of juice cleansing on Gloop you could recount that time when you broke wind in a baby sensory class and blamed your unfortunate offspring.

Or when you let your kids have cheese and a bag of maltesers for tea one night because you couldn’t get them to eat anything else.

Or when you stuck them upstairs for some ‘quiet time’ with the iPad so you could indulge in 30 minute’s uninterrupted trash TV.

We’d like you, and the other Smug Mums, so much more…