Wednesday, October 31, 2012

What a Treat


Partially obstructed views
I will be using this picture for YEARS to come.


This will be quick.  Particularly because I should be doing other things like preparing for my in-laws to arrive and writing a post for BeTween Books.  Hint:  only one of those things is going to happen tonight.  My in-laws arrive tomorrow so I bet you know which one I'll finish.  But I wanted to write this while it was still warm and fuzzy and full of goodness.

Happy Bee dance
Tonight was a great night.  Scratch that.  It was a fabulous night.  Traffic was horrible getting home from work and we shoved gluten free cheese-less Domino's (thank you for that, by the way, Domino's) pizza in Sweet Girl and Little Man's faces immediately upon arrival home, but tonight was wonderful.  Halloween has been a bit of a mixed bag for us.  Sweet Girl vehemently disdained costumes the first two years of her life.  She also didn't think it was a good idea to talk to people.  Or be around people.  Even if there was candy involved.  She would cry when the costume went on.  She would cry when we ushered her up to people's doors.  She didn't have any kind of fun, and what's the point in forcing a kid to participate in Halloween?  Then she was in pre-school and they did Storybook Character day.  I dressed her as Olivia - a very awesome pig if you haven't had the pleasure - which involved her favorite red twirly dress and some black and white striped tights with a headband with pig ears that lasted approximately 30 seconds.  Twirly dress huh?  Maybe Halloween's not so bad.  AND there are Skittles and lollipops?!  Halloween might be kind of cool.

I should have prepared you for the cuteness.
Last year was even more exciting for her.  She was Ladybug Girl.  Ladybugs are on a short list of acceptable insects.  Little Man was the world's cutest cow, even if he thought the hood was the pits and all these people talking to him was perplexing.  Not to mention he was on round two of croup and spent most of the night huddled into Aunt Carrie's shoulder.  But still I got to experience Halloween with my girl, who had progressed from screaming and crying to initiating contact with strangers....in an appropriate manner!  So often I think those of us who have been on a different parenting trajectory compare our experiences to what we think would be "normal."  I used to imagine that Sweet Girl would be excited about Halloween and choose a costume.  She would be excited to walk around the neighborhood and collect candy.  All the other parents would notice that she was poised and polite and she would revel in all the fun to be had.  That didn't happen.  I'm not going to lie.  It hurt more than a little that it didn't happen.  And it hurt even more that it probably wasn't ever going to happen.  What I had compared to "normal" was hard to accept.

But, tonight.  Tonight was different.  Tonight my ears know how to hear better.  My eyes leaked a bit more because of it, but my ears heard what they had been wanting to hear for years.  They heard "Trick or Treat!"  They heard "Hi!  Happy Halloween!" They heard "Come on, Brother!" They heard "Hey! Wait, Sissy!" They heard "Thank you!"  They heard "Oh, I love my costume!" They heard "Mommy, I having so much fun on Halloween!"  And even without all those words, the smiles and giggles would have let my ears hear what I've been hoping for.  Tonight, as my kids ran around the neighborhood getting candy they can't eat in costumes they'll never wear again, my ears heard happy.  What a treat that was to hear.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Climbing Trees



“Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.” ~ Albert Einstein


Not everyone can rock pumpkin
glasses, you know.
There's a lot that goes into the background of this post.  Those of you that read about our family here at our little blog, know us personally.  Those of you who don't are kind enough to return and listen to me prattle on about my kids and how we go about our lives.  I appreciate that.  It's nice to know that there are people who are listening to what I have to say.  It's comforting to think that I can put words to a page and other people will know what my intentions were through this kind of communication.  So it's become a way for me to vent, express worries, sing praises, dance happy dances, show my angry eyes, and discuss the frustrations of yard work.  I know that you read these words, my communications with you, and you understand them.  Then my mother made the mistake of encouraging me and so I write more.  But what if you didn't understand this? What if you pulled up this page and the words were seemingly nonsensical?  What if it seemed to be written in a foreign language that Babble Fish couldn't translate?  How long would you try to read this before you moved on?  Would you ask me to repeat myself, looking for clarification?  Would my mother encourage me to write more?

For the record, yes, Binnie would encourage me.  She's a good mother.  But I know that until I became Sweet Girl's mother, I didn't know how to listen.  Until I became her mother, I took communication for granted.  Until I became her mother, words were easy and given away freely.  Until I became her mother, I never fought to make someone understood.  Then I became her mother and my heart grew, my eyes got leaky, and my ears slowly learned how to listen differently than before.  I became Sweet Girl's mother and I became a little broken so that I could heal stronger than before.  I became her mother and I learned a million things while rarely knowing the answer to anything.  I became her mother five years ago and I'm still learning how to listen the right way.

When Sweet Girl was weeks old, she was a wailer.  She would scream and howl for hours on end.  Nothing helped.  The doctors called it colic.  I thought it was one of the worst times in my life.  Ha.  I look back and I wish I knew how to listen.  She usually cried after eating.  I thought she couldn't get enough.  Now I think if I would listen with my evolving ears, I would understand that she was sensitive to the gluten and casein in my diet and her own.  I didn't know how to listen when she was trying to tell me she was hurting.

When Sweet Girl was months old she wanted to be in her jump-a-roo or to be pushing or pulling something constantly.  I would put her on the floor with mass quantities of toys and she would eschew them to pull up on the table.  She loved putting her older cousins in their big dump truck and pushing them around.  She pushed herself away from me when I would pick her up to hold her.  She would cry when I laid her down to change her diaper unless she had one foot pushed into me at all times.  I thought she was difficult to please.  The doctors didn't notice anything out of the ordinary.  If my ears listened the way they do today, they would have heard Sweet Girl telling me that something was wonky with her sensory processing.  That she needed deep pressure to process input.  That she couldn't understand where her body was in space when I laid her down, and that's scary to feel like you're falling out of control.  My ears would tell me that some occupational therapy would help her process the constant stream of stimuli coming at her all day everyday.

When Sweet Girl was nearly two she stopped sleeping through the night.  She would wake up giggling and be awake.  She wouldn't fall back asleep.  She wouldn't nap.  She would go days on very little sleep.  Sometimes she would fall asleep in her high chair at dinner.  The high chair forced her to be still and then she would fall asleep.  My tired ears thought she was saying that she had two-year molars coming in and that she was going through a phase.  My new ears would have thought that something was going wrong somewhere in her regulatory system.

There are a lot of things my old ears got wrong.  I don't blame them.  They weren't taught to listen in any other way.  Of course I regret not realizing some things earlier when it comes to Sweet Girl's autism.  I don't think there's a mother on the planet that looks at their children's lives and thinks: "Nailed it! Couldn't have done it any more perfectly!"  Raising children is a messing learning process, and it just so happened that my learning curve took me to a different place than some other learning curves.  So, no, I don't blame my old ears.  But that just makes me appreciate my new ears even more.

See.  Lowercase i.  It's quite obvious, really.
My new ears helped me understand how brilliant Sweet Girl is when she said "Mommy, shut the bedroom door.  Look at the little is."  Turns out the back of the door is painted so that the panels look like lowercase eyes if you look at them in a certain manner.  My new ears helped me realize how far Sweet Girl has come with her sensory issues when the only thing they heard while I clipped her nails was the sound of the nail clippers coming together.  Whoever said "Silence is golden." must have had a kid with sensory issues.  My new ears told me that she is processing time and routines and is comfortable with both when they heard Sweet Girl tell me: "No, we're not playing with the pink iPad now. (I was singing a theme song from one of her favorite shows that she watches on Netflix on her iPad.  Yes, I understand the iPad should be more than a portable television.  Yes, she has approximately one thousand educational apps that her time would be better spent mastering.  No, I don't care.)  Now we're playing 'Go to Bed.'"  She was right.  We were putting on her pajamas.  My new ears told me that she is getting more and more comfortable discussing her environment when Sweet Girl told me: "The 1 is missing in my bedroom!  There's a 2, 3, 4, 5, but the 1 is missing.  Hmmm.  Brother is 2, but where's that 1?"  My new ears understood that the numbers were on her growth chart.  The growth chart doesn't include 1, but measures from 2 feet up.  Little Man is a bit on the wee side, and he is much closer to that 2 feet designation than other kids his age.  Sweet Girl is tracking that and my new ears picked up on it.  My new ears heard laughter from me and Sweet Girl when she told me that her "butt hurt."  She frequently gets what doctors call contact dermatitis. (I think it's something else entirely.  It comes and goes and we haven't changed her diet or our laundry routine in three years.  It usually shows up when she has a sinus flare-up.  I think it's immuno-related.  But what do I know?  It took me five years to evolve new ears!).  So we put some "booty cream" on it and her butt didn't hurt so much.

Sweet Girl and I (and her father and her therapists and her teachers and her extended family and countless others) have worked hard to get me these new ears.  She's been trying to tell me things her whole life.  How frustrating it must have been to look to someone for help and not have them understand you. How lonely she must have felt when her own mother misunderstood her attempts at communication.  How hard my fish was working to climb a tree.  How lucky I am that she has not given up on me.  How grateful I am that after five years she still tries out my ears to see if they get it yet.  How far she can go if other people are willing to grow new ears.  What about your ears?

*Tomorrow is Halloween.  Sweet Girl and Little Man are excited.  But it hasn't always been that way.  We are a few years removed from: meltdowns over costumes- sensory issues, rude looks and silence- communication delays mean no "Trick or Treat!" or "Thank you!", high anxiety - a lot of people milling about and constant interaction.  Please keep that in mind if you have a child visit you that doesn't say much or isn't in costume.  Halloween isn't always easy for everyone, but everyone deserves a chance to try.  Keep your ears open.