I’m not sure what gave me the idea, really. Maybe it was the constant reminder that I like the little pink steak that the girl, on the cover of my smoothie book, has in her hair. She’s such a bad influence. First the kale. Now, the streak. If she put meth in her smoothie recipes, I’d probably be selling myself on the streets for ingredients.
Nonetheless, I kind of always wanted one, anyway. So, yesterday, I decided on a whim, to put a streak in my hair, without any appropriate tools, dye or materials. That’s not true, entirely: I did have rubber gloves.
So, I bought some Kool-Aid.
The best part? Because it’s summer and I have been spending so much time with Collin, he decided that he wanted one too. For real. I wonder what he’ll decide to do, to be like mommy, next? I hope it’s not menstruate. Just because I don’t want to deal with bitchy-PMS’y-Collin.
Despite Collin’s autism, and this immeasurable, indescribable gulf that sits between us, and between him and others, we’ve always understood one another. He’s the person I’ve waited for my whole life, the person that I know needs me; loves me; and most importantly, wants me. As much as I have my husband, there’s a sliver, that grows every smaller over the years, of me that will always be wary of trusting the promise of unconditional love that he offers, just because of how I was raised. With Collin, the deep and true knowledge of unconditional love is profound. Because of that, I let myself bask in it, and we are the best of friends, as well as mother and son. I’d be lost without him, in a way that I don’t know how to describe, and would be afraid to imagine.
Sappy description of our relationship aside, we had this silly idea to dye our hair, and to surprise Daddy with it. We thought, wouldn’t it be funny to have Bryon walk in from work, and see us each with a streak in our hair? We wanted to see how long it would take for him to notice, especially since Collin was doing such a small piece, and I was doing a piece underneath.
This “let’s see how long it takes Daddy to notice,” thing is a game we play a lot. The most recent iteration was with a pair of those fake chicken-cutlet-type boobs I got for a specific costume. I put them in my regular bra, and greeted Bryon at the door, with my chest out, as if I were so front heavy, I might fall over. They only add one cup size. I claimed that Bryon would notice immediately; Collin claimed it would take a while. Collin called foul (ha! Chicken-cutlet boobs!), however, for greeting him at the door, chest first. I have to agree that it was cheating; still, I stand by the fact that Bryon would’ve noticed within seconds, anyway.
Anyway, I’ve discovered that there is nothing more silly than a little boy, picking out Kool-Aid, as a hair dye, at Von’s. You’d have thought he was a secret agent. He was all sly and secretive, as if he were doing something ultra silly, but also, ultra important, kneeling in front of the packets. He was giggling, but also acting like he didn’t want to let on to anyone in the aisle that his mission was very important. He hovered over the shelf like his life depended on protecting the secrets of Tropical Punch.
These are the moments that I live for with him, because they are so fleeting, and not all that common. Collin lives in a bubble of his own design. He plays near us, but rarely with us; he always has. His games always include only himself; his life is a series of events that mean we are with him, but not with him. So, when he does decide to let me be with him, I hold onto the moment as long as possible. People think that autism is all hand-flapping, noises or meltdowns. Collin, as long as I’ve known him, has never counted toothpicks, a-la Rain Man, while wailing about The People’s Court. Instead, for us, autism is a lot of waiting for your child to come to you, for them to open the door and let you in. It’s a lot of watching for an opportunity to be allowed, to be included, to be invited to his world. It seems like we are always together; but we are rarely together.
I couldn’t stop staring at my beautiful boy, while his hair was in a clip and Saran wrap. I was holding onto every laugh, every bit of conversation that we had, where he talked with me about the topic at-hand, instead of something else he was fixated on. And then, I secretly mourned how fast it was slipping away. The other thing about autism, that people don’t realize, is that it breaks your heart, hundreds of times a day, as you watch them disappear, back into their own world. I’m “lucky,” a word I use loosely, because my boy is high-functioning, and lets me close; but his world is still so far away.
Before I could even tear open the packaging for the brownie mix we’d also bought, which he’d promised to help me with, he’d skittered off to his room to get his container of snap toys, because he needed to build a castle. And poof. That was it. He was gone. He needed to do “just this one thing.” That’s Collin-Code for, “see you/talk to you in a few hours.” Because he’s got visions of things he needs to build or do. He’s going to draw something, build something, do something, and that “something” doesn’t include me. I’m not necessary in this world; but, don’t worry, I’m world-adjacent.
He may still talk to me, but it’s going to be repetitive conversation only about whatever he’s doing. He’s still going to be in the room, but it’s a different version of him. He’s not a little boy standing next to his mommy at the counter, helping with brownies. That moment has passed, or never would’ve existed. Now, he’s a machine, building castles out of snap toys, probably for hours, over and over, and over again. The most important part though, which Bryon and I have to work hard to remember, is that both of those little boys are equally Collin, and equally perfect.
So, I made Collin’s brownies “alone.” At least I got to look over at my sweet boy, with his little Saran-wrapped head, and know that I got to be with him today. It’s a gift that I don’t often get.
I’d like to say that I cherished it, and held it in my heart for the whole day. But, I didn’t. I got greedy. I tried to push harder, for more. It ended in disaster and tears from both of us. I was broken-hearted that he didn’t want to spend more time with me; and he was broken-hearted that he didn’t understand what I meant, and why I was sad. To him, he was in the room, we were together. Autism is hard. Some days it’s harder than others.
Everyone thinks they have the solution. Send him outside! Put him in a club! Make him do Karate (or other sport)! It’s not so simple as any of that. He has a panic attack if you even mention half of that stuff. Asking him to play in his driveway, if we aren’t with him, makes him clammy. But sure, I’ll enroll him in The Boy Scouts, because that will solve everything; maybe, crippling social anxiety, and poor social skills will disappear if he goes camping.
Oh, and the dye? It didn’t take! We tried a method that included combining the Kool-Aid with conditioner, because that way I could “paint” it onto Collin’s hair, instead of dipping, like the usual method. Collin’s hair is so short; how am I supposed to dip his hair in a cup? So, it didn’t take when we rinsed it off. He was so disappointed when he pulled off the plastic wrap. I’m not sure of any other nine-year-old boys, on the planet, that were disappointed about not having a pink streak in their hair. By the way, we wanted a different color, but that’s all Von’s had.
I did mine again with the traditional dip method. I’ve got a big pinkish-red streak underneath. I love it! And, I smell like Tropical Punch. Kidding. I rinsed it out. The color stayed and the smell is gone.
If anyone has any ideas for Kool-Aid dye for a little kid…let me know. He’s really disappointed, and wants a streak, really badly! I just can’t figure out the logistics!