Friday, May 17, 2013

Within the realm of normal and hazy parenting filters

From my own personal experience, I know there is a fine line between quirky and mental illness, and I suspect the same can be said of behavior disorders.

G has his share of quirks but most of the time the odder ones happen every few months which is just enough time in between for me to forget the previous one.  Recently, though, he had two episodes within a 24-hour-period.

He has issues with museums or anyplace that has 1. dark spaces and 2. life-style statues.  We have learned to adjust.  Either G closes his eyes and allows us to guide him through or he calmly refuses to go and either D or I goes with the kid(s) who want to continue.  A few weeks ago he did the closed eyes/guide "dog" routine at a national park's visitor center.

The following day, however, he really and truly freaked out when I took him, N and one of her friends to the movie theater.  By the time we got there, the previews were on.  We started climbing the steps to the stadium-like seats and G freaked out--screaming, covering his ears with his hands, squinching his eyes tightly shut.  He has seen movies in a theater before but never after the lights dimmed and the images were on the screen.  I got N and her friend settled and then removed G.  He was perfectly fine once we were in the lobby.

I informed N' friend's mom of the incident because I didn't want the girl saying something on the order of, "N's mom left us in the movie alone," or something of that nature and the girl's mom worrying.  To make a long story short, the mom asked if I had ever considered getting G evaluated for a sensory processing disorder.

G certainly has his fair share of sensory issues (demands seamless socks, must have tennis shoes extremely tight on his feet, has texture issues with food, etc), so I began a short period of worry over whether G needs occupational therapy.  Fortunately my worry was short-lived.  Talking with his preschool teacher and an OT specialist at the public school system helped me feel better that, despite his peculiarities, G is within the realm of normal.

To be sure, about a month into kindergarten, an OT will come to G's classroom to observe him and consult with his teacher to ensure everything is ok, but I feel better after hearing someone who deals with a large number of children tell me G sounds like a normal kid with normal fears and relatively minor sensory issues.

A few days ago I attended a parenting seminar at N's school, and this too, helped me see G through a slightly different and hopefully clearer lens.  What the child psychologist said wasn't anything I haven't already heard or read before, but something just clicked for me while listening to him speak, as well we the experiences of some of the other parents.

Of the three kids, at this point in time, G is my challenge, and in all honesty he has been for a number of years. I think that this has caused me to have a "Difficult Child Filter" that comes over my vision whenever G does anything.  Even if he is not being challenging or difficult, I tend to think whatever he is doing is more challenging and difficult just because it is G doing it.

Aside from causing me a lot of angst, this filter is unfair to G because it taints my experiences with him and how I view him in the grand scheme of our family life.

Listening to some of the other parents discuss their children's "issues," such as a child throwing such loud and disruptive tantrums in elementary class that she has to be removed almost every day, helped me see that while G can be annoying, he is not a "problem" child in the least.  The biggest problem for awhile, I think, has been my perception of G.

I have felt relief at these "revelations" about G and myself, even though I also feel like a bit of a turd for having been wearing such a filter.  Of course I didn't intentionally wear it or even understand that I was wearing it, but momma guilt is gonna have its way with me regardless.

Perhaps it was this relief that made G's "graduation" from preschool last night so meaningful to me.  He was SUCH a corker, smiling with a mile-wide grin on the stage, waving to me and M and N during the performance, wearing his blue tie and looking like such a handsome little man.  I cannot help but adore all the strange little quirks that make him the interesting, funny and sometimes annoying little boy he is.

I was (and am) so immensely proud of him.

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