A New Haircut

I was that mom who waited way too long to cut her son’s curly locks. In fact, this photo, taken when Henry was 18 months old, was what shamed me into getting his fist haircut.

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Henry, in need of his first haircut, two years and two days before his T1D diagnosis.

You see it right? That not-so-cute blonde Bozo the Clown hairstyle.

So we got his hair cut. No big drama. He ate a sucker while the stylist cut his hair. She put a few curls in an envelope for me to keep. About every eight weeks we’d repeat the same steps: sucker, haircut, not much drama. Then Henry was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes.

Immediately after his T1D diagnosis it dawned on me that some things, like eating in a restaurant, are possible, but more difficult. But other times, suddenly, we’d be in a situation where I didn’t think T1D would be an issue (like getting a haircut), and it was.

At Henry’s first haircut after diagnosis, he wanted a sucker before climbing in the chair. I scrambled for a piece of sugar-free gum to give Henry while gesturing to the stylist not to give Henry a sucker. But Henry was insistent, he wanted a sucker. I said not now, maybe later. The stylist told me that the sucker was just “a little one” and he could “pick his flavor.” I told her Henry has type 1 diabetes and he probably shouldn’t have a sucker right now, but we’d take it for later.

The short of it is that Henry left with two balloons, several stickers, and a rapidly rising blood sugar well over 200. I left with a lot of guilt. This would be the first of many times I’d have to refuse or accept a sweet treat offered at the bank or post office. There’s no easy way to casually disclose to a well-meaning stranger that your child has a chronic condition, so the sugar treat is not a good idea in the moment. And then there’s the kid, the one with the chronic condition, listening to everything that’s said.

Now, I run those errands before I pick Henry up at preschool so I don’t have to explain anything to anyone.

These days, I let Henry’s hair get a little longer than it should (but not Bozo style) before we get it cut. Last week, I took Henry for a haircut. After the haircut, the stylist asked Henry if he’d like a sucker. I didn’t say anything. He picked out a mystery flavor for himself, and then asked if he could pick one for his sister.

As we were walking out, he handed me both suckers and said, “Give this blue one to Ava, and save mine for me when I’m low.”

Crossing a parking lot with my five-year-old, who’d just given up his treat for a future medical emergency, I felt pride and a familiar sadness. All the sudden, I realized not only will T1D always be with him, but it is shaping who he is.

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