Kiedis tried to cut his own hair last week.
He only got a section of it, kind of by the crown over towards his forehead in a very thin, flat, lateral move that is easily disguisable by the rest of his mop, but I was shocked to find eight inch tendrils of golden locks strewn about my bathroom floor after getting out of the shower one afternoon.
He was startled when I asked him about it and became upset -- I can only assume he thought he was in trouble though I at no point expressed that to him. He'd found a pair of cuticle scissors that I thought were too dull to anything and apparently just went to town before giving up and running away, forgetting to clean up the evidence behind him.
I mean, I know all kids do this. I did this in first or second grade, a solid chunk right out of my Zooey-esque bangs smack in the center during a video at school. Nearly everyone I talked to said that yes, this is a thing that happens with children and many had done it themselves.
But when I asked Kiedis why he did this, as he's just begun to answer "Why?" questions with "Because ..." often ending with some echolalic response (but at least it means he's getting question and response patterns down!), he swiftly and deftly broke my heart.
"Because," he lilted, drawing out the central soft vowel sound, "Kiedis is stupid. Kiedis look like a girl. Kiedis is stupid."
I asked him if someone said this to him at school and he hung his sweet head, chin trembling as he nodded. My heart shattered into a million pieces for my sweet, sensitive boy as I swept him up into a hug and he released pained sobs that I knew all too well, from my own childhood taunting, clinging to me in a way he so rarely does.
"Oh, Buddy, you are absolutely not stupid. You are so bright and smart and creative. You are great at puzzles and Legos and making things playing pretend and you are not at all stupid, honey, I promise you that."
He continued to wail into my shoulder as his hand sunk into the wet tangle of hair at the nape of my neck, gently twirling the strands between his miniature fingers.
"Did someone call you that because of your hair?"
He nodded, his forehead gently rapping into my collarbone as I brushed some of the thick, wavy strands behind his ear.
We've never forced him to have long hair -- it has always been his choice, one I actually check with him often, having to trust that when he answers he understands what I'm talking about and that I'm comprehending his answers correctly.
Kiedis, do you want short hair like Daddy?
NO! NO WANT HAIR LIKE DADDY! HAIR LIKE KIEDIS!
But now ... I wasn't ready for this, for this kind of hurt to reach him for something so trivial.
He was too upset to answer more questions -- everything was with a "NO!" or "I don't want it!" as is typical when he melts down, so I hugged him as long as he'd let me and tried to curb my momma bear anger.
I already haven't been happy with this school for the majority of the year, but for some reason I kept giving it another shot, thinking pulling him out would be one change too many and he'd backslide. But he's backslid anyway, losing some skills he once had, his speech not progressing at the rate it once was, the cycling return of his violent outbursts, started having near daily accidents, and the battle every single morning when I tell him it's time to wake up for school and he begins to cry, saying I don't wanna school, Kiedis stay home.
And now this, being bullied.
Especially after the call I got from his teacher the week before, about his "sudden" violent outbursts (which if any one had taken the time to read his IEP, they'd know there's nothing "sudden" about them) and basically accused me of fostering his issues by beginning to work out of the home.
I was standing in the middle of TJMaxx with both kids, trying to pick out birthday presents for the two parties we'd be attending that weekend, and I was so livid my voice went flat and cold as I informed her of my family's situation with terse, curt facts sans my usual storytelling attention to detail and emotional investment.
The audible gasp, awkward pause, and stumbling attempt at recovery were my momentary victories.
But now, I had to call them and give my most polite WTEVERLOVINGF because no sir, no child was going to break my kid's heart.
I had been trying. I have indulged his sudden interests in the things I knew his classmates were into -- superheroes, Ninja Turtles, mostly -- doing a 180 on my stance on licensed clothes and such because I knew what it felt like to grow up without those things, the things that made it seem more possible to someday fit in. They would give him a common denominator, a discussion topic to share with his peers, a bridge to making friends where I feared his words might fail him.
So a superhero birthday party at school? You got it. You want a Superman shirt and DC comics unders? Awesome. You'll only wear shirts with known characters on them now? Okay, I'll step up my laundry game. I would enable and facilitate because I can see, already, how much he craves friendship, how his kind heart hopes to identify with almost every single human that crosses his path in this world, how much love he wants to give even if he's not really sure how.
So I called. And I listened to the teacher flounder and backpedal and assure me that it's not in their classroom, but maybe the bus? So I talked to the bus drivers, with kindness as that while I have been side-eyeing his school all year, his bus drivers have been amazing and I've been so grateful for them. They all looked surprised and hurt for him, assuring me that he usually sits by himself and no one really talks to each other (as it's a special needs bus), but that they've been having issues with some particular circumstances and I need to watch out for that.
I have watched my sweet boy struggle all year, saw how he seemed to lose his bearings and his love of school. I have worried (and repeatedly inquired) about his having friends, kids he gravitates to who also play with him because he used to be able to tell me his friends' names but now can or does not. I have gone in to the class and watched and interacted and tried to discern the underlying patterns masked by the excitement and scramble of me suddenly being in presence.
And now, with two weeks left in the year, I am facing this hurdle, a completely unexpected angle to this whole scenario.
My heart is shattered, because I failed to protect him from the very horrors I endured as a child. And he is so hurt that he feels the need to change himself to make it better, because how can I explain to him that only hurt people hurt people and it really has nothing to do with him?
He asks for Hiccup hair, now, and aside from a complete lack of ability when it comes to that kind of bathroom cosmetology, I hate everything about this situation. I will always let my kids be their own people as long as it is safe and within reason so it's not so much about the hair as it is the logic behind it for him.
I have some more phone calls to make.