A Meaningful Day at the Salon
I’ll admit it started out as me needing a massage after the school carnival planning was finally over but massages are expensive and there isn’t an in-house babysitting option—although wouldn’t that be great? A pedicure, however, offers a massage chair and limeade for the mom while the child is stuck in a chair with wet polish.
But now I have a newly-diagnosed child with autism. And while that diagnosis changes nothing, it also changes everything.
As my six-year-old daughter and I sat in our chairs attempting to relax, I started to notice ALL of the things in that tiny building she could speak loudly and socially inappropriately about. And she would. And suddenly I was terrified.
What if she offends someone who doesn’t know her? What if she says a rude thing to me and I don’t handle it the way other parents think I should? What if her questions hurt other’s feelings? How do I act? What do I say?
I was wanting to tell the patient, funny, talented man painting her toes that she has an excuse! She’s not just a kid who has been parented imperfectly, she also has autism! Should I get her a shirt? A tattoo? What do I do?
She did say socially inappropriate things but she was met with an understanding smile in return. She did not laugh at his jokes and even told him “I don’t like it when you joke like that,” but he was kind and did not run crying to the break room. She had loud questions and I quietly answered them. I was not embarrassed.
My daughter has many situations that she will struggle with socially and our therapist even said she could learn to perfect these skills so well that nobody will be able to tell she has autism. Most people would say “That’s great!” But not me.
I want to be more like her. I want to be as gentle and kind without fearing what others think. When there’s an elephant in the room I want to dive straight into it with genuine questions instead of ignoring it uncomfortably. I want to see the literal things in the world that I so often look past and discuss them with my family. So many of the things in her are what I want to be and to think to myself “How can I make an excuse for her” is absolutely the wrong question.
She is beauty and strength and confidence and love and joy and autism. She is my daughter. I am SO DANG lucky.
While our toes were painted but still wet I explained that we needed to sit still while they dry and then looked at my phone. Suddenly I hear a giant sigh. I looked to her chair and she was sitting in it sideways, feet sticking over the arm rest with cherry red toes, head leaning back on the other armrest. “Mom, I could really get used to this.”
So can I, kiddo. So can I.
Darbi Johnson is a mother living in Portland, Oregon with her husband, four children, two dogs, five chickens and one duck. Her six-year-old daughter was recently diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder.
This article was featured in Issue 57 – Conquering A New Year