There are typical developmental milestones or things that kids "just do". But my big kid? He has a harder time just doing. He doesn't trust the world the way typical kids do. It takes him longer to decide that the time is right to try. He holds the world in his palm, like all kids, but there is a fear present for him. A beating fear that stops him in his tracks and can press on my heart. I see the panic set on his face and that has been known to place me behind a closed door crying. His brain tricks him. He feels the things that we don't. He senses the world around him deeply. And all at once. His body strives to control the input but it often overwhelms him. I believe that one day this will be an amazing asset to him. But while he is little, it is just freaking hard, man.
At four years old, Mr. Pants is still troubled to have his hair washed. We have designed the best possible routine for getting it done but it's so hard for him. Last year it became so much easier when he began trusting the act of tilting his head back after his occupational therapist spent hours and hours and hours with him in a therapy pool teaching him that he would remain safe if he floated on his back. She showed him that he would not drown. That he would not lose control of his body. That he could trust her to care for him. That trusting her was a good thing. That trusting himself was even better. It helped us immensely with hair washing but there was something else that panicked our boy. Water on his face.
We purchased a special cup that protected his face from the water. It didn't work. We used towels. They didn't work. Every bath held the glee of bubbles and the dread of hair washing. It's been so hard for him. And for us. Even just washing his face with a cloth is upsetting. A few summers ago we were encouraged that he enjoyed spritzing his face with a water bottle. But it never developed beyond that. He never trusted more than that.
He loves to swim. He has always been at home in the water. We've known that for almost the whole of his life. But the face has always been off limits. If I had to guess, it's the complete surrender of one's senses to the unknown of submerging in water that he just could not give in to. Surrender is so very difficult for sensory kids. In all of its forms. But with water, I imagine that the liquid flowing into his ears and over his eyes was painful. The loss of control, terrifying.
But then, today.
Today we went to the lake. Today my sweet boy spent some time in the deep end with his daddy. Like we have done for years. This is his fifth summer spent at the lake. We have always shown him that he is safe by going under ourselves. "Look, Mama comes back up!" and "Ahh, Daddy is going to cool off a bit. See! Daddy is ok!" Reminding him that we will not let him get hurt and that when we put our face in the water, we are unharmed. At every bath time and for three summers now we have encouraged him to try and get his face wet. But never forcing. And today as he floated back to me and Plum, on the shoulders of his daddy, he said to me, "Mama, wook at dis!" and he plunged himself beneath the water. My heart stopped. Daddy's face beaming with love. With pride. With relief. And as Mr. Pants jumped through the surface of the water he screamed out, "I did it, mama! MAMA! I DID IT!" My face morphed from shock to elation. He did it. He conquered a fear. He conquered his senses again. My boy. My amazing boy.
And with that moment, he was charged. Charged with the electricity of confidence. And he plunged himself again and again under the water. A little girl floating by was told to "Watch DIS!" as he forced himself down. She didn't realize how big of a deal this was and sure, he was trying to show-off but damn, he earned it! Because this was big. And I want to give him every bit of the spotlight for it that he desires. His vestibular sense is conquered. This may not seem huge but, friends, it is. It really is. Oh my God, it is!
And yeah, I'm ugly crying again just typing the whole thing out. This kid. I suspect he will never stop amazing me. And I suspect I will cry about it every time.
Mr. Pants, When you read this someday I want you to know that you took today by the horns. Today you tackled a HUGE fear of yours. You did it, Bud. You did it. And Mama and Daddy are so freaking proud of you. We cannot wait to see what ass you kick next.