Saturday, January 23, 2010

A little hairstory

So, okay. As I promised yesterday, here is the back story on the Dierks Bentley Hair Crisis of 2007 (and if you don't know what I'm talking about, then you can either click that link and backtrack a bit or just skip this post and come back and rejoin us here tomorrow). I'm not sure why I've never told you this story before. It must have happened at a time when I wasn't blogging much.

Anyway, the solution to the mystery became clear sometime during the summer 0f 2008. At that time, Bud's communication skills had made some significant advances, allowing him to express more complex thoughts in more complex ways. Perhaps more importantly, he also had an increased desire to be understood - he could discern when I didn't understand what he was trying to say, and he was suddenly both more willing and better able to re-frame and rephrase until he knew that I'd received his message. (Even now, these are still emerging skills for Bud - but they are skills for him nonetheless.)

So it was that one evening during the summer of 2008, Bud asked me, "Remember when Dierks had long hair and he was a mean guy?"

I was stunned, so I started asking questions, and Bud started filling in the blanks.

In order to understand the rest of the story, you need to watch two videos. The first is the video for "Free and Easy (Down the Road I Go)," which was Dierks' single during the summer of 2007. That summer was a difficult time for our family, and Bud and I found solace - and a vehicle for connecting with each other - in country music. Country music was new to us and as we navigated through some rough waters in our life, it became our rudder - we could listen to it, learn about it, and talk about it together, and in so doing, remind ourselves that no matter what else was going on in our lives, we could always listen and learn and talk with each other. "Free and Easy" became an instant favorite for both of us, and we watched the video together a lot. And when I say "a lot, " I mean A LOT. Because we were new to country music, we were also new to Dierks Bentley, so the guy in this video was the only Dierks Bentley we knew. And he was already achieving hero status for Bud.

What I didn't realize until Bud explained it to me in the summer of 2008, is that the second Dierks Bentley video we watched in the summer of 2007 - and the one you need to watch all the way through right now if you want to understand the rest of the story - was the video for "Long Trip Alone." In Bud's mind, this video featured two people - the repentant, respectful, hard-working, kind-hearted, short-haired Dierks who was a GOOD guy, and the surly, angry, hard-drinking, bar-fighting, long-haired Dierks who was a MEAN guy. The video's story was confusing for Bud, because his linear mind didn't grasp the concept of flashback, but, more importantly, the meaning of the video was lost because he didn't understand the concept of acting. In his mind, after watching that video, it became clear that the short-haired "Free and Easy" Dierks was still a hero, but the long-haired "Long Trip Alone" beer-fighter was to be avoided at all cost.

Imagine his dismay, then, when we started watching other videos and he discovered that the long-haired mean guy sang all the other songs.

As time passed, and as Dierks reached out and showed Bud what a truly nice guy he was, Bud came around to the long hair, but it was really in the spirit of forgiving Dierks his past meanness. Once I understood Bud's confusion, though, I was able to explain to him what music videos are, what acting is, and how Dierks was just pretending to be in a fight. Bud was relieved to know that the men in the bar were really Dierks' friends, that none of it actually happened, and that Dierks is a nice guy no matter how long his hair is.

Bud still catalogues Dierks' music by hair length in the files of his mind - so, "Lot of Leaving Left To Do" is "old curly hair," "Sweet and Wild" is "short hair," "Sideways" is "new curly hair," and, I imagine, if my supposition regarding yesterday's photograph is correct, the bluegrass album Dierks is currently working on will become "new short hair." But it's all good.

It was an amazing feeling when things finally clicked - when Bud was able to explain to me what was bothering him and I was able to reconstruct reality in a way that allayed his fears. But it also made me wonder what other misperceptions and misunderstandings color his view of people, of places, of life? What other imaginary hurdles are standing in his way? And what are the questions I need to ask to get those conversations started?


kristina said...

Reading this (and having read the other postings in the 'Dierks' saga), I feel you've written a kind of primer for the very questions you pose, for those "imaginary hurdles." I don't know if these seems related but---do you remember how in Curious Incident of the Dog, Christopher decides whether it'll be a bad day based on his seeing certain combinations of various-colored cars on his bus trip to school? I thought of Bud deeming Dierks to be 'bad' or 'good' based on hair length to be something of the sort; as if he thought he'd found a sort of system, and a readily recognizable one at that, to judge Dierks by.

And on a completely unrelated note, it happens that Charlie got a haircut today---a buzz, and much shorter than usual.

pixiemama said...

Huh. It's amazing how our kids process what they see. Even with LOTS of explanation, my kids don't REALLY understand acting. What they see on TV looks real, so it MUST be real. I have to keep a pretty tight reign on the remote.

What's amazing to me in all of this is that Bud is so fascinated by a PERSON, and not a thing or concept. And, of course, it doesn't hurt a bit that the person he's fascinated with also seems to be a wonderful guy.


Island Mom said...

Acting, especially on film or video, is such an inherently weird thing to do, if you think about it -- I feel like our kids sometimes call attention to things that actually are not necessarily intuitive outside our cultural constructs. If you've come from a culture where film doesn't exist, what would you think when you saw a Dierks Bentley video?

My son is 5, and is very concerned and confused right now about who is a girl and who is a boy and why. He announced this week that he'll be a girl when he turns 6.

With humans and animals, it's pretty easy to explain the physical differences, but because he is a child with a whole world saturated with Thomas the Tank Engine characters, and all these other animated characters (Mr. Men series, anyone?), he's understandably confused -- because how do you explain WHY Thomas is a boy but Mavis is a girl??? Really, stop for a minute... ad think about it. You can't check the undercarriage of a train, can you?
How do I know that Diego is a boy and Dora is a girl? How EXACTLY do I explain that to him. What about the Teletubbies?

I studied deconstruction in college, but this is a real challenge here. I am hopeful that at some point it will all make sense, the way Dierk's hair does now.

Unknown said...

acting and "fake" (TV) seems a really hard concept to understand for my Gabriel as well...and talking of cartoons, he was really freaked out by the Higglytown Heros, they look like matrioska dolls and my son can't understand why they don't have hands and feet and their belly opens...

About the colors association: my son he really into superheros specially spiderman right now and hubby showed him the spiderman alter ego (venom) whom costume is black instead of blue and red. Right now every black for my son is BAD if makes any sense.
And also, he likes to comment on the weather every morning and in his mind Sunny is a good day and rainy is a bad day no matter what

jess said...

unravelling the mysteries


those days of clarity and understanding are still pretty rare around here. i treasure the few we've had and i hope upon hope for more.

Niksmom said...

I sure don't have any answers for you about what questions to ask or how to approach it when it comes up again; I'd say you've got that one pretty well covered anyway.

What fascinates and thrills me is that Bud is embracing the concept of fantasy/acting and reality and of diversity. I thinnk it will be very interesting to see how this plays out in other arenas.

Anonymous said...

Bud is lucky to have a mother who pays attention to the nuances and details.


Claire said...

For whatever it's worth, TYPICAL kids don't really know the difference between "real" and "not real" until around ages 8 and 9. Before then, they "play" imaginary games, but they're not sure if they're creating a new reality of not. Around 8 or 9 is when they really start playing with the concepts of "hiding" and "acting"- manipulating reality as it were. That's why magic, spy games, and mysteries are so interesting to typical kids at this age- they're beginning to feel pretty powerful about knowing what is "real" and what THEY can "pretend".

Since kids with autism aren't as aware of "another" world of imagination and are deeply rooted in the real and present, they can feel pretty challenged about this. But for Bud to be asking questions about acting and confusing it with reality is actually right on target! It's awesome that he is figuring out the world of "pretend" from such an analytical perspective!

And the whole "separating acting from reality" thing- it's something that adults don't always do well with either. Hence, my infatuation with George Clooney. I'm not sure I'd like HIM, but boy, the characters he plays- SWOON! :)

Stimey said...

Isn't that interesting to see what is behind some of these things that our kids come up with? Fascinating.

Lee Ann said...

I have so enjoyed your Bud-Dierks accounts. I'm a big Dierks Bentley fan, and other members of his fan club have posted your blogs on his website. Thank you for sharing your heartwarming stories with us!