Emotions can be a minefield for anyone. But for Mr. Pants they are still pretty confusing. I don't talk about his sensory processing or development here on the blog much anymore. Not because his struggles are gone, but because they are just normal for us now. If you are new to reading this blog you may not know that hisexperience of his senses
is different from yours and mine. His processing and integration of them is different. Unique. Designed for him, by him. And I gotta say, he's kind of nailed it. He is mostly a very comfortable kid.
Recently, though, he has become increasingly stressed by new, loud or busy situations. The upside to his discomfort is that he is finding ways to deal with it. It's an upside because life is big and noisy and change-y. So he needs to discover for himself how best to cope with it. And as his parents we need to allow for him to explore the possibilities without pushing too hard. Instead we gently nudge him out of the comfort zone so that he can do the work he needs to do. We don't force him into uncomfortable situations that don't matter in the long run. Ya know, like a monster truck show. I'm not gonna take him to one of those. Because there are plenty of uncomfortable situations that he does have to figure out. Like gym class. Or coffee hour between church services (see below).
At his I.E.P. meeting
last week they once again told us that he is a solitary little guy and won't initiate play with the kids at school. And I know why. It all comes down to those pesky emotions. It's because he likes the predictability of playing alone. Playing alone allows for him to control the environment and for him to feel safe. Playing alone is not confusing. See he needs to be able to predict as much as possible especially if he is away from his comfort zone (our home). He is still trying to read our emotions and fully understand them so it's too much for him to try and read the kids at school all at once, too. Heck, he's still figuring out his own
emotional responses to life. He needs alone time and he takes it whenever he needs it. He's amazingly self aware for an almost 4 year-old.
But don't get me wrong, he is not disconnected at all. In fact he is all kinds of attached to his family. He expresses his emotions beautifully to us and others he is close with. I just think that he is not ready to share that part of himself with too many other people (and he may never be).
So emotion is still confusing for him. But he's on the case. He attempts to discover how our feelings are working several times a day. "Mama, you happy?"
he will say when he sees that I might not be. "Mama is frustrated right now, bud. But it's ok." "Mama, you be happy soon? You be happy tomorrow? You be fusstated now? You feel hot?"
If I'm reading something and I laugh out loud. "Why you be funny, Mama? You get tickle? You happy? Why, you be funny? Why?"
If he does something funny and I laugh. "No be funny at me, mama. You be happy. No funny!"
If I stub my toe and cry out he will come running (as long as it's not actual crying. That makes him run and hide. Hands over ears). "What happen? You get so mad?" "No bud, I hurt my toe. But I'm OK." "So you get happy now, mama? Oh, you sad? You not happy. You scared, mama?" He's not upset when he asks these questions
. He's even keel. He's almost clinical. Investigating. Like he is socking away reasons, gathering information on how long it takes to be happy again. Then he will go on his way, returning in a few minutes to see how I'm feeling and ask more questions. Often he even stays to quietly observe the change in emotion if it's a new emotion he has yet to get a handle on. It's kind of amazing to watch, really. I call him the research scientist. He is always thinking. Taking notes. Comparing outcomes.
This kid. I used to be afraid for him but I'm not anymore. He shows me every single day that he can figure this life out as it unfolds. It may take him longer. His methods may be unconventional. But hey, if coffee hour between church services is too loud and crowded, who am I to force him out from under that chair? He knows what he is doing.
Coffee hour is too busy and loud for this dude.
"Go away, mama, pweeeeese! No grabby me, Mama. No grabby me." ~Mr. Pants (today)
I wasn't trying to grab him. I was trying to hug him. To help him off the floor where he lay after falling. I wanted to hold him in my arms and kiss his boo-boo. But that's not what he needed. So I walked away but not until I told him I'd be in the next room if he wanted my help. Walking away is mega-tron hard for me. It almost feels like I'm trying to walk through a protection spell on Buffy. Every cell in my body is screaming at me to go scoop that baby off the floor and smother him with my love. But my brain pushes me forward reminding me that it isn't what that baby wants or needs. "There is no blood. There is no broken bone. He asked you to leave him be. Stop being an exposed nerve of weepy feelings and do what your kid needs you to do. Get gone, mama."
The trainer becomes the trainee...
Before I was a mom, I worked with moms and their kids. I also trained staff on how to interact with children. So, if I had a dollar for every time I said the words "Every kid is different", I'd be living in a penthouse overlooking Central Park. It's so very true and logical and obvious and all that. But you know what? I could kick myself in the shins for not developing that idea further. But that knowledge would have come from experience. An experience I was yet to have. Until now.
My kids couldn't be more different. Plum, a social butterfly. Pants, a solitary man. This in and of itself is no trouble at all. I want my kids to be who they are. I respect them for who they are and I actually love that they are so very different yet care so much for each other. So what's the problem? Well, it's me.
I'm an extrovert. I'm huggy and touchy and feely. I talk a lot. Even to people I don't know. I'm a hasher-outer when things get tricky. I wanna discuss and get to the bottom and take care of things. And if my words can't help crate a solution, well, then my loving arms will start a-hugging and I will kiss it all away. Closeness and soft whispers of my love for you will help us both feel better. Right? Right???
For Plum, the answer is an easy and comfortable "Yes! Hug me! Love me with closeness! I feel better!!" But for Pants? Oh hell no. Hell to the OH. HELL. NO. And it makes me nervous and weird and uncomfortable. It goes against my skill set. It makes me have to think of how to parent him all the time. I am always thinking. Always considering tone and eye contact when he gets hurt or in trouble or fights with his sister, over stimulated or is hungry etc etc etc.
Shit, it gets harder...
As a baby this came fairly easy. He was our first and we knew no different so we were able to roll with the punches because we didn't know that it wasn't this hard for everyone. We thought we were just earning our parenting street cred and that eventually we would "get it" and it would all fall into place and we'd hit a stride that made sense. But the more he grows and the more independent he becomes, the more I am challenged to change me. Not him. It should have tipped us off that he was at his most comfortable floating in a bathtub with our hand placed just under his head and no other contact.
He is who he is. And he is just fine being who he is. It's how we parent him that needs adjusting. I need to keep in check my extrovert Loud-y McLoud shorts while trying to parent this amazing and foreign (to me), introverted personality that needs space. He needs room to feel. To be alone. To process the shifts and changes that hit him harder than the rest of us. To relax, center and regulate without my grabby-grabby "come to mama" arms trying to kidnap him. So I have been doing just that. pulling myself back from the instinct to run to him and help. It's face-numbing at times that my version of helping doesn't help him. My way, is not his way. So I am learning. Day to day. I am adjusting and trying new things that feel weird to me but seem to be working for him.
It's a waiting game...
I hate waiting. But this kid makes me wait. Of course he does, right? But if I wait, if I let him process his stress the way he chooses to, he will eventually come to me for that hug. But only if I wait. Only if I respect his needs first. It's funny because I have always believed in listening to and watching your baby for cues. That babies know what they need and that they communicate those needs to you. It is then up to you to pay attention. It is how I mothered both of these babies when they where without words. When I didn't know what they were communicating, I remember thinking that I wished they could just give me a few words to tell me where it hurt or to tell me why they were sad. Well, they have them now. And they tell me all the time. It is still my job to listen. Even when the words are not the ones I want to hear. It's not easy being told to "pweese leave me alone". It smacks me in the heart sometimes. But he's telling me and I wouldn't be doing my job letting him be his own person if I didn't respect that. I might have to glue myself to the chair, but I am learning to wait it out.
In conclusion, I have no idea....
So these days of almost four years old and all the independence it brings are filled with fine lines and constant reminders that even though I grew these two in the same body and they live in the same house with the same parents, it isn't fair to them if we streamline our parenting and force them both to be parented the same. Sure, the basics are the same. The rules are the rules, man. But it's important that we remember that their needs are not same. And shouldn't be treated as such. Now if I could just learn how to predict the future, I could tell you how this all turns out. But alas, that the fun of parenting right? It keeps you on your toes.
To be continued...
image source-linked: digitalmomblog.com
image source-linked: digitalmomblog.com
Are your kids introverts? Extroverts? Both?
Quick break to look cool and consider her next adventure
As I watch her teeter over the edge of the couch I think to myself, "Not too fast, Mama. Don't let her see you sweat". She will go all bonkers and try to jump before I get to her. She is becoming quite the fearless little girl. Sadly, her body isn't as agile as her mind would have her believe. Her bumps and bruises are more than I can count. It doesn't faze her to be tackled or knocked down. Instead she returns the favor and Pants is quickly realizing that she is a worthy opponent. She has been watching her brother navigate the furniture with the grace of a ninja for a year now. This has caused her to believe it is possible for her to do the same. Even if her bravery is several years in advance of her skill set. But you know what? Her gumption is off the charts. She is nuts. She is the second baby. She is awesome. And fearless.
We are in trouble, dudes. Big big trouble. We have been blessed with two gymnasts. So with Mama behind her and Daddy in front, we do our best to minimize the fallout. And we do that with lots and lots of pillows, strategic furniture placement, a prayer and a celebratory glass of wine at the end of the day. Wish us luck, friends. We're gonna need it. Because it is on. You know, like Donkey Kong.
Do have the honor of parenting a future X-Games competitor, too?
What heart-stopping things do yours do?
| || |
Linking up with the wonderful Greta and Julie for some #iPPP love.
<- Check out other #iPPP posts by
clicking that button.
My meeting with his teacher was at 4:15. I was so nervous; I got into some nice jeans (read: clean), put on a sweater and some sassy black boots. I showered, too.
I'm fifteen minutes early so I take a look around. The school is so sweetly small. And that's because it is for miniature people. I stop in the library. It's the cutest library you've ever seen.
I look at the artwork on the walls. I find Mr. Pants' pumpkin hanging among the patch. I get a bit weepy about it.
So I head to the ladies room to freshen up. And I am too tall for it. It's all too adorable.
Making my way back to begin our conference, I am eager to talk about my kid. There is a question nagging at me but I'm afraid to ask it. I received his progress report last week. It basically said he is smart as a whip. It also said he is quiet. Now a lot of people have quiet kids. It's a very natural and normal way to be. There is nothing wrong with it. But my kid is not quiet. Not by anyone's definition of the word. I read that part over and over. "He keeps to himself". "He's observant and quiet". "Always well behaved". And I panicked. That's not my kid. My kid is loud and insane. Laughs in guffaws and yell talks. He is demanding and assertive to a fault. But it seems he doesn't rule the pre-school kingdom yet. And a part of me is freaking out while the other half is saying be calm. He's adjusting still. That's when the question came to me. And it never left.
His teacher Mrs. K has a bubbly personality. I like her. She tells me all about the routine of the class. She explained the surprise piece of candy in his back pack the other day. She told me that Mr. Pants is becoming more and more comfortable in class. Not talking very much, but still. He is doing well. She tells me that she doesn't push him to interact with other kids because she thinks that will send him backwards. I agree. She goes on and on and I begin to tune it all out. Because that question is trying to jump out of my mouth and I don't know if I want the answer yet.
She finishes talking. She seems to genuinely like my kid and that makes me happy. She asks if I have any questions. I pause. "Do, um.." I begin trying to think of something else to ask but I have nothing. I start to fumble for my words to stall but they come anyway. "Do they, um, the other kids..." Gulp. I'm trying not to tear up. "Do they like him? Are they nice to him?" and a tear broke through but I kept it in the eye. I felt stupid. I'm such an emotional blob sometimes and I didn't want to do this here. I look down and shuffle the papers in front of me as a diversion. She smiles and says, "I know why that worries you. Yes, they do. He keeps to himself but there is a little girl named K that always eats lunch with him. She's older and she kind of took to him early on and helps him to transition. It's very sweet. And W loves to run with him on the playground. They run laps the whole time. It's so funny. They just laugh and laugh." I thank her and get up to leave.
When I get to my car, I let the tears come. Relief. I head home to my kid who has two friends. Two whole friends. And I cry happy tears about it all the way home.
Linking up for the weekly #iPPP with the amazing Greta and Julie.
I feel lost as a mother.
For the last several weeks Mr. Pants has been an anxious and over-loaded tornado. He is more often than not, a wreck. Uncontrolled. Devestated. Unwound.
His stims have come roaring back. He is side-eyeing, hulking and repeating. Life is so very difficult for him right now.
I have been floundering. Grabbing at straws. Drowning. Daddy too.
Sensory kids are never predictable. Just when you think you have it down, the game changes. Just when you think you have worked through the hardest parts, the parts change. Just when you think you know the score, well, you don't.
I am humbled. I am sad. I am hopeful. I appreciate the fact that we will never have all the answers. Even though I'd like them. Especially during weeks like these.
We are not sure why. We have some ideas.
We are not sure how to work through this. Again, with the ideas.
The old solutions are not working. New ones are met with resistance or escalation.
We will not stay lost. He will not stay in this intense place. And this is how I know...
For weeks he has struggled to be with her. She has been desperate for his company. He has ignored her. Yelled at her. Hurt her. Isolated himself from her. He hasn't been able to deal with her crying or her singing or her dancing. It would send him into a tailspin. I do not know why. Other than it feels like, it's not her. It's not personal. It's any noise or distress or change or anything but quiet solitary being is too much right now. I think.
But not today. Today he loved her. Today he played trains with her. They danced to music together. They read books. And when Mama gave them each a box of raisins to eat while they waited for dinner, this is what happened. He sat with her. His body relaxed. He wanted to be with her. And her little foot drifted onto his leg. I think she was making sure to keep him there.
We will be ok. Mr. Pants will be ok. This sensory shit won't rule this child.
I know because he's already done it. We created a comfortable space for him and he figured out how to move his body through space at the ripe old age of 13 months. And he will again. Only this time, he has a new backer. His baby sister who seems to only grow more and more in love with her big brother everyday.
We will be alright. We will get there. We just need some new ideas. New strategies.
And more raisins.
Dear Mr. President,
Mama said you were in town yesterday. That's pretty cool. When she woke up yesterday she said to me, "Hey Bud! Do you want to see some presents today?" and I was all, "YEAH!!" and gave her the double index finger to show how jazzed I was. Then she walked into the kitchen for her morning coppee.
I was so excited to be getting presents that I started to tear through all the closets and the laundry room looking for them.
You and I both know that I was mistaken. There were no presents, Mr. President. She was talking about you. It seems she had no intention of showering me with new trains and cars, but rather standing outside in the rain and then in a giant sports annex waiting for hours to see you. So you can see how I would be confused. Because um, booooring.
Mr. Presents, my Mama is no dummy. It occured to her when I lost my ever loving mind over lunch (don't judge me. I was promised presents!) that this was not going to work out for us. I could see her harken back to a recent super fun time were it took a giant leaf hypnotizing me
to bring me back from sensory overload town. That's when the light bulb went off over her head. I totally saw it, Mr. Presents. She realized it would be ridic to try and cart Plum and I out into that kind of madness. So instead we stayed home and made a fort.
She told me that someday we will meet you. So that's pretty cool. I like trains.
Hope you had a nice time in my hometown. Those are some impressive cranes in the downtown area, no? The bulldozers are the best part of the whole town. I hope you got a chance to see them. They will blow your mind.
Peace out, man.
Mr. Presents [Image Source: © C. Walter]
He is fast. He is so fast. People say it to me all the time. Nine times out of ten their first observation of Mr. Pants is "he's fast". Which I love. Because it means I am partially justified in playing mind games with him when I think he's going to run from me. Especially in public. Remember that ENT visit where he channeled Forrest Gump
and led all the children in some laps? One by one they joined him like the miniature Pied Piper. They couldn't help themselves. He's magic.
He's a runner. And a climber. And a swimmer.
And a jumper. A daredevil. A complete crazeball.
He has been most of these since before he could actually walk. So it should come as no surprise to me or anyone else that he is built like a mini tank. A brick shithouse, if you will. He has definition that grown men envy. He is cut. CUT. His little body carries not an ounce of fat. You could bounce a quarter off of his calves. And he's strong
. Unnaturally strong. He's a three year old Atlas. It is possible he was bitten by a radioactive grasshopper.
But don't take my word for it. See for yourself. He finally did some running with actual clothing on and
when I had my phone to document it. Exhibit A. The leg. Aka: Spiderman's leg.
Exhibit B. Back and shoulders.
Exhibit C. The biceps and abs.
This post really has no other point than to say, see? See what's going on here? He's got superpowers. There is a reason I must use The Force when I'm alone with him. It's because I have no other choice. If a foot race breaks out, I'm finished. I'd have to resort to begging passersby to trip my own son or I'd have to start throwing things at him to slow him down. He runs. He needs to. And it fills him with a happiness reserved only for running. He's just so damn happy. And since I cannot take that from him, I have to start being able to keep pace with him. Otherwise I'm screwed. Consider yourself warned, Mr. Pants.
Mama started excercising today and it's all your fault.
Yesterday, Mr. Pants had a straight up heart exploding panic attack. Yesterday, my heart went through the ringer. Yesterday, Ms. Plum showed her brother just how much she loved him. Oh man, yesterday was hard.
His heart was racing. He repeated the same phrase upwards of a thousand times. He held his wubby and rubbed his face. Nothing I did was helping. It was her. All her.
She sat with him. She cried with him. When she saw the opportunity, she leaned in to him. He let her. She kissed him. And then she kissed him again. Each kiss bringing a moment of calm. She kept kissing him. He wanted her to lie under his comforter, but she didn't understand. She ran away. His panic returned. So she did too. Her body and soft kisses, telling him, "It's ok, brother. I am here".
I have never seen a child experience such panic. I was at a loss. Such a loss. Everything I tried, failed. When it was over I spent some time crying it out in the bathroom. When I came out, they were together. Sitting quietly in their tent. Just being.
Then Grandma Pants stopped by for a little story time. Still dipping into a panic every few minutes, Grandma drew him out with a dolphin impression that made him laugh.
Becoming more and more comfortable, he took a moment to contain himself. The worst was over and we were heading towards normal. But he still didn't want his mama to hold him. And I'd be a big fat liar if I said that didn't sting. But he needed to choose how he came back to us. And he was choosing. He chose the green bucket.
The day trudged on. He was not himself and she knew it. It is normal in our house for Plum to want to be where Pants is at all times. What is not normal is that yesterday he wanted her with him all of that time. And so she was. By his side every moment of the day until she knew he was ok. No booster seat across the table for snack. She was going to sit right next to him. She wasn't going anywhere. Which was a good thing because I hadn't cleaned her booster tray after breakfast.
He's ok. He got through it. So did Plum. But it wasn't until he came to me and asked, "Ah shirt, Mama?", that I was alright. It's been months since he needed squish box a la Mama
. And this time, he wasn't the only one that needed it. So as he climbed on in, we watched some Thomas & Friends. Mama and Pants. I finally exhaled and my heart began beating at a normal pace. His did too. I stopped feeling as though I could cry at any moment. He did too. I finally released the pain I felt for him. And he let go of the pain too. We sat still together and just breathed in and out. It was completely over. Relief.
And Plum? Well, with the opportunity to tag out, she promptly went into Pants' room and played with all of his favorite toys.
Just like a baby sister should.
A Kleenex. A cottonball. Some tea.
I dropped you off this morning and I didn't get a picture. It wasn't going well. You were scared. My heart was breaking. I reminded you that Mama always comes back and you knew I was going to leave this time. You told me, "No, Mama!". I told you that I love you and would see you soon. I walked out but not before your teacher promised me that she would call if you were upset for too long. I waited in the hallway where I knew you couldn't see me. So that I could hear when you stopped crying out for me. It felt like an act of mercy when you did after just a minute. It's funny, that's when I started to cry myself. As I walked down the hall toward the exit, I cried for my big boy, who is still very much my baby. My guy. Today was your first day of pre-school.
I looked down and in my hands was a little baggie. Inside was a cotton ball, a kleenex and a bag of blackberry tea. There was a note.
Dear Preschool Parents,
Here is a little gift for you as you leave your precious one with me on the first day of school. As you hold this cotton ball in your hand, the softness will help you to remember the gentle spirit of your child. After you've gone home and dried your tears, make yourself a hot cup of tea. Put your feet up and relax. Remember that together you and I will work for your child to be the best they can be.
Thank you for entrusting your child to me for the coming school year. I will do my very best every day to be your child's guide in learning and exploring this bright, new world they've just stepped into.
Sincerely, Mrs. K
Dreaming of brother
Well, I think you've probably guessed that mama was a complete mess. It wasn't pretty, dude. I worry about how you will do. I want to know for certain that you will never get your feelings hurt and that no one will ever be mean to you. I want to stand in front of you throughout your whole life and take any pain that comes near you. Any discomfort. And most of all, I want to take every single bit of fear that stirs inside you. But I can't. I have to let you grow. I have to let you get big. I have to drop you off at school and trust that your teacher will care about those things too. I think she does, bud. And that relieves my heart a little.
When I got home today, I couldn't stop thinking about you. I missed you. And someone else did too. I know sometimes she gets into your stuff and that makes you mad, but it's because she just wants to be with you wherever you are. She did today too. She kept looking for you. That made your mama sad too. So I snuggled in close to take a nap with her. Just like I used to with you when it was just the two of us.
When we woke up, I was itching to come pick you up. I wanted to wrap my arms around you and hug you the kind of hug that makes you yell at me for smothering you. "Calm down, Mama!" you would say. "I OK". And we'd head home. I replayed that in my head over and over until it was time to go.
When I got there, I saw you before you saw me. You looked tired. Dog tired. Your teacher was holding your hand and I could tell you felt safe with her. I choked back my tears and moved to where you could see me. You smiled and opened your arms. For a moment it was just us. "Hi, mama" you whispered in my ear. "Hi baby. Did you have fun at school?" "Ah fun ah school! Ah go home, Mama?" You squeezed my neck. My heart almost couldn't take it. I started to think of how fast you were growing as we walked away together. "Can Mama take a picture of you, bud?" You let me. But only one.
Let's go home, mama
We walked to the car. The High School band was playing in the field and you thought that was really cool. I strapped you into the seat. You asked for music. I had it ready
. And I unzipped your bag to see what you had to bring home. They had taken a picture of you. You gave them your best cheese face. And I knew right then that you would be ok. Maybe not next time, but it would come. Because you only give cheese face when you are being silly. And this face? Oh yeah, that's cheese face.
You were in bed by seven tonight, Mr. Pants. Wiped out. It was a big day. I am so proud of you. You are so brave. And you help your mama be brave too. It was your first day of school today, little man. And you nailed it. I love you.
Getting it right.
No matter how many times you fail.
Just keep taking your sensational kid on adventures to try again.
And yes, grocery stores count.
They will never learn how to experience the world,
if you don't let them practice.
Watching the world go by.
You need it too.
You are a team.
You are learning just as much as he is.
You learn what works. And what doesn't.
If you stay home, you'll never get it right.
And getting it right feels really good.
So just keep trying.
You can do it.