Sometimes in life we can't avoid trauma. Sometimes we just have to face the things we fear the most and deal with them. We know it will be hard, but through adversity comes strength. When we face our fears, we overcome anything.
Today was Haircut Day.
I have managed to keep Haircut Day to a biannual affair. There was one year when I felt particularly brave and I went quarterly. I couldn't do that now. I've lost the fight.
There's a fine balance between haircutting and letting it grow. If there's one thing The Boy hates just as much as Haircut Day, it's Hairwash Day. And sadly Hairwash Day comes around a lot quicker. And the longer the hair, the longer Hairwash Day takes. It's a balancing act.
Now I have been to most Barbers in the SE13 area with The Boy over the last ten years. Most of them we only visit once. The battle scars for both cutter and cuttee have been too much. "Why not cut his hair yourself?", I hear you cry. I did. Once. I'm sure I made my ex-wife cry many times during our marriage. But nothing will compare to the tears she cried when she saw the results after I'd cut her son's hair. I am to hairdressing what Katie Price is to the sanctity of marriage.
So, there is only one Barber we go to. George, the Greek Cypriot. He is an old, gentle man who has been cutting hair for years. Nobody under the age of seventy goes near him. He is slapdash, has bad breath and is grumpy. He has no patience with children whatsoever. He is however, the fastest Barber I know. Oh, and he's seven quid. And there's never a queue.
George greets the sight of me and The Boy walking in like an illegal hot dog seller might greet a Food and Hygiene Inspector. Hiding his scowl, in one movement he removes The Boy's coat and whips out the gown and bundles The Boy into it like a straightjacket. George knows getting in there early is key. He gets The Boy in the chair and spins the chair away from the mirror so The Boy can look out of the window. We learnt four years ago not to bother with the mirror.
Then George attacks with the scissors.
The dexterity of this old man's fingers as the scissors dance over the The Boy's hair leave me stunned every time. All the time he repeats constantly "Look at the big dog. Look at the big dog." while gesturing through the window with his elbow. We have never seen the big dog.
The entire haircut lasts approximately three minutes. No water sprayed, no noisy clippers used. George is a good man. The Boy climbs down from the barber's chair and most of the hair that has been removed from his head is stuck to his face and neck with his own saliva. But he's smiling. The battle is over, and he knows that Hairwash Day will be quicker than ever.
George retires to the till in the corner, battle weary. The relief that this day will be over for another six months. I hand him a tenner. He knows not to bother with the change. Danger money.
Me and The Boy leave through the door. "I'm really good at getting my haircut now, aren't I Daddy?"
Yes, mate. You're just fine.
"Daddy, how do you break water?"
"You can't break water, son. Eat your breakfast."
"You can. I heard it. It was on Primeval. There was a fat lady and they said her water had broken."
Two shows done in Margate. And lovely they both were. My love affair with the Tom Thumb Theatre is well documented elsewhere in this blog and on my twitter feed, and I am pleased to say it continues to blossom as ever! To the people I shared a stage with, and to the audiences that came, thank you all. And to the three special people who were due to perform on Friday but couldn't make it due to the weather, we will have our day at the seaside...
The highlight of the two nights was probably meeting other parents of children with special needs in the audience. And knowing they enjoyed the show meant more than anything. When you write something new, you're never really sure how it will go down until you test it out. And when it's a subject as sensitive as disability, it adds an extra doubt that it will cause offence in some way. But bringing up a child with special needs isn't humourless. It has moments of sheer lunacy and absolute joy. And a healthy dose of love too. That's all I ever wanted the show to be about.
I always said 'My Son's Not Rainman' was the story of me and The Boy. And that may well be so. But along the way we have met so many people whose paths we might never have crossed. Other children and adults with special needs, their parents and carers, teachers and professionals. And as the show evolves each time it is performed, each one of those people play their part in shaping the story. In that sense, it's the story of all of us. So thank you Margate, you played a blinder.
Right. Snow angels. Apparently I make quite a big one. Who'd have thought it?
The Boy still doesn't go to a school. We're getting closer, but not there yet. I am confident he will be in school full-time by the time he is 37 years old.
In the meantime I am still "teaching" him at home. I am so completely, utterly shit at this. Here's an example. Every day, for PE, we go "tree-climbing" in the park. The Boy tells everyone about our tree climbing lessons, and how good he is at it. This is what tree climbing actually entails:
We walk to the tree. It takes about six minutes. The same tree. Every day. The picture above is the actual tree. The Boy will then ask me to lift him into position:
And that's it. He will then tell me what a good climber he is, and what hard work it is climbing trees. He will sit there for twenty minutes watching ninja cat videos on youtube on my mobile phone while eating a Wagon Wheel.
And then he asks me to lift him down and we go home. PE done for another day.
Got to dash, I've got a Young's Fish Pie in the microwave. This Home Economics won't teach itself.
I first performed at the Tom Thumb Theatre in Margate around two years ago. It's one of those venues you just can't help falling in love with. And so I'm delighted it's the first venue for 'My Son's Not Rainman' this year.
I can't put my finger on what it is that makes the Tom Thumb Theatre so special. It might be its quaintness, the reminder of a bygone era. It might be the chill that always permeates the air no matter how warm it is outside. It might be the never-ending enthusiasm, dedication and friendliness of the family team that runs it. It could be the 'bar' - the serving hatch next to the stage, where you can peek out to the audience through a hole in the wall, hidden by a small flap of carpet nailed to the wall. Or it could be the low ceiling meaning when it's full the laughter from the audience rolls off it feeling like a venue ten, twenty times its size. There's just something unique about the place that gets under your skin. And when I first envisaged writing 'My Son's Not Rainman', and started to think about how it might work on stage, the Tom Thumb Theatre was never far from my mind.
So, I'm really excited about January 18th. In some strange, over-sentimental way it feels like coming home. I'm bringing some friends down to perform on the night too. Sion James, MC of Benicassim Festival Spain and Hop Farm Festival, ('utterly charming... loveable giant' - Time Out) will be holding proceedings together in his irrepressible fashion. The brilliant Haiste and Lawrence ('...perhaps the funniest show I've seen in 25 years of fringe-going' - Love Fringe) are coming down to Margate for the first time, together with talented newcomer Amanda Dawson.
Tickets are on sale here. It all starts at 8pm. Do come down. If nothing else, you'll experience one of the most amazing theatres around.
For further information on the Tom Thumb Theatre, click here.
The boy woke up at 4.30am on Christmas Day.
"Dad!", he called from my bedroom door, "Can I come in with you? I'm scared." The poor thing was white as a sheet. "I've had a really bad nightmare."
"What is it matey?"
"I dreamt that I only got one present."
Happy New Year to all! Let's make 2013 a brilliant one! May all your dreams co..... you get the idea.
This blog is about bringing up The Boy. He's 12 years old and autistic. It's written by The Dad. It's my words, my view. Other people will think differently and have different opinions. Good.