My issues with my son started in the womb. When I was pregnant, one of the prenatal measurements were “off”. Because I refused an amniocentesis to “find out what the problem was”, I had to sign a piece of paper saying that I refused the test, the genetic counselor, and that I wouldn’t hold that against the hospital later. Why have the test when I wasn’t going to abort? I already had a friend whose daughter was born with Down Syndrome and if my son was born deaf I’d love him just as much. Those were two things they speculated that the measurement could represent. I also refused to join a “study”. I didn’t want to feel like a lab rat and I didn’t want to take the risk of harming him. Little did I know that I’d be fighting for him from that moment on.
When my son was a toddler, he threw a fit in the grocery store and I walked away from a full cart, leaving the store with him. I wasn’t going to be one of “those parents”. An hour’s worth of work down the drain, and with a child that age everything is work…so what was the problem? Everyone has that happen, right? My teeth were grinding, he was screaming bloody murder, and my head was hung with shame because people were staring at us, some even shaking their heads with disapproval. I can’t even remember now why he was screaming. Probably because I wouldn’t let him have something he saw on the shelf. It wasn’t the first fit, nor that last, and I didn’t take him to the grocery store with me again for two years.
When my son was in kindergarten (before he was diagnosed with ADHD, ODD, a visual processing disorder and, now that he’s in the upper grades, depression) he used to refuse to get dressed for school. I argued, bribed, threatened, pleaded, begged, gave consequences…nothing worked. One time I got him in the car dressed, but without shoes. (He also had a tactile dysfunction when he was little, so the seam in his sock could drive him crazy.) I was at the end of my rope. That day I gave up the fight and drug him into the office in his bare feet, he by the hand, his toddling sister on my hip, his shoes under one arm. I marched him in and said, “He’s late because he refuses to put on his shoes.” The school secretary, bless her heart, took one look at me and read him the riot act. She told him if he ever did that to me again he’d sit in her office in the chair every day at recess. He sat down and put on his shoes immediately. I couldn’t decide if I wanted to cry, marry her, or both. I was so grateful for some help and someone who could see that I needed it so badly that I sat in the car and sobbed. He never refused to put his shoes on for school again.
My son’s first year of elementary school he was suspended 7 times because of their “No Tolerance” policy and his inability to control his impulses. One suspension was for kicking another student square in the back for sitting on ‘his’ colored square on the rug. Another was that he touched another child’s forehead with his pointer finger. THAT one got me riled up, I can tell you. He was already labelled as, “The Bad Kid.”, at age 6. They told me if he got suspended once more, he’d be kicked out of school. Between that and my daughter being born, who was calm and didn’t bounce off the ceiling every moment of the day, I started taking him to doctors, family therapists, and psychologists.
I once danced in front of my son’s school because he refused to get out of the car. Another time I rolled down the window in front of the school and shouted, “I love you!”, because he was being rude to me. (Weeks later when he got tired of me doing that, he started shouting, “Chicken poop!”, right after I shouted I love you. That one caused us both to collapse into fits of giggles. My kids can dish it out too.)
My son is 14 now and I’ve heard many people sing his praises. (As well as my daughter’s, who is 11 and does not have a diagnosis.) I’ve heard about his tenderness with animals and younger kids (as long as it’s not his sister), his kindness and generosity, his sense of humor, and his manners. I look at him like the body snatchers have replaced him every time. He just smiles back, angelically. Stinker. But I’d rather him fight with me at home, then misbehave out in the world.
I’m not going to win parent of the year award, but I might win the, “Love Them With Humor Until It Drives Them Crazy”, one. If I can get them laughing while I’m disciplining them, I’ve won half the battle. He still occasionally hugs me and tells me he loves me, so I can’t be doing too badly. I also no longer care what strangers think, and that helps me immensely with my kids and with my life.
I have struggled for 14 years to be my son’s loudest advocate and I am his biggest fan. I have reads books, case studies, and talked with experts on every subject from potty training to behavior modifications for high school. His AND mine. My being an introvert has made it a long, painful process. But I’ll tell you what: I wouldn’t change him because I love him just the way he is. He’s helped shaped me into a strong, independent, self-confident person. One shy smile from him and I’d walk through fire without batting an eyelash. If you had watched this shy, beautiful, good-hearted, old soul for the last 14 years like I have, you would too. All he wants is to be accepted and loved, and to make people laugh. He shines like the sun when he does.
Wait, I lied. I would change one thing: I’d give him back the self confidence he had as a little boy when he didn’t care what people thought about him. He has been crushed over and over by peers, uneducated teachers, and people who don’t understand him and what he struggles with every day. That’s where his depression comes in.
So the next time you see some poor parent struggling with an unruly child, please be patient. This may be the eleventy-billionth time they’ve had this same argument with their child. A little help never hurts: an understanding smile, an offer to help, a small joke…all these things are appreciated.”