Tuesday, December 15, 2009

What the Hell IS Normal Anyway?

**My Christmas Party/ Customer No Service post has been delayed due to a need to rant a bit.**

For those of you who are new to my blog, you may not be familiar with the super fun times that my middle child has given me over the past four years. He is one of the sweetest and most lovable kids ever, but boy is he a handful. He has given me trouble since the day he was born... colic, reflux, sleep issues, behavior issues, walking late, sensory problems and speech disabilities have all combined into one giant anxiety ball for me. I have struggled to figure out exactly how to handle all of his issues and make decisions on whether to push for a diagnosis or let things ride, tried to back off and let him find his way in school and social settings, tried not to be defensive and irritated when people treat him differently or look at us as if we are bad parents because of his behaviors and have truly tried my best to teach him, love him and raise him to be who he is.

This is an ongoing struggle for me every day.

We used to be part of a play group here in our area. I used to try to take the boys to meetups and to play with other children, do crafts and have little trips. I kept trying even though it was not working very well. I wanted, maybe NEEDED, to have them in a "normal" social setting. To act like and play with other "normal" children. And I wanted to be able to make friends with other Mothers. Mothers of "normal" children.

And one day, I was sitting at a table, watching my child wander apart from the other children and spend the next 15 - 20 minutes lining up cars along the edge of a bed, when I realized.... I was totally alone. Alone in the middle of all of these women. Not one of them had any clue what I was thinking. What I was feeling.

Just like Braeden was alone in the middle of all of the other children. And no one (including me) had any idea what he was thinking or feeling either.

And I realized that by trying to push him to act "normal" and play with "normal" kids... I was just pushing him into more aloneness. Even in the middle of a crowd, he was still separate. Still different. He didn't know HOW to play with these kids. And when they reacted badly to his overtures, he went off by himself and went back to what he knew made him feel better. Lining up cars.

So, I stopped taking him to the play dates. It was a relief in many ways. There were no more screaming fits when we went to a new home. No more screaming and fighting when it was time to leave. No more wondering if the other kids, and Mothers, really wanted us there.

When Braeden started school I worried about how he would interact with the other kids. But, he has done really well in some ways. I think it is because he is in a structured environment where he knows exactly what is expected out of him. When they go out of those normal areas, that is when he has problems.

When I picked him up today, he was in the middle of a full blown crying fit. One of the other boys had hit him. He was all blotchy and snotty. He really had his feelings hurt more than anything, he had no idea why this boy had hit him. And I think, honestly, the little boy had no idea why he did it.

And as I watched his teacher comfort him and wipe his face, I started to get angry. Not at the teacher. Not at the other kids. Not at Braeden. But at myself.

Here was my sensitive and loving little boy, crying his eyes out and so heartbroken.... and I was just wondering if it was "normal" for him to be such a big cryer. Was it "normal" for him to react that way. Or was this another sign that he was not "normal".

His teacher told me this morning that the school's behavior specialist had decided to implement some new things with Braeden. But she did not give me any details. So, I called and left a message for her to call me back. Because I have no idea what she is planning.

I am in the process of setting up more testing and evaluations for him to see what steps we need to take next.

And I really just want to cancel it all and say STOP! I just want my little boy to be happy. Is all of this really necessary? What is "normal"? Really? And why is it so important to me all of a sudden? Since when?

I used to tell my daughter that the only normal people in the world were really abnormal because nobody was really "normal". Everybody was weird in their own way. I used to revel in being different. But I guess the difference, for me, is choosing to be different and odd versus being that way and having no control over it. I want my son to be able to fit in if he wants to. I want him to be able to choose to be different. Does that make sense?

So, I am spending my afternoon feeling lost and scared. How do you parent a child when you have no idea what to do? How do you decide when to get help and when to stop? How do you know if pushing for more "normal" behavior is just making your child into someone they should not be? I told his therapist that I did not want to lose who HE is in the middle of treating his behaviors.

I don't want to wonder who he might have been and what he might have been like if I had done things differently. Being a parent is so hard.


faerwillow said...

~greetings, normal IS your child...remember that each and everyday...he is whom he is suppose to be...do not ponder astray feeling lost and alone...you, your son...so very similar to us. mine..a child from little sweetpea onto toddler years, did no wrong, played...yet shall i say what i thought was playing (lined up toys, ordered things repeatedly) quietly, did not like to be sticky...just clean, a clean child...well quiet little private school for a couple years, no more than 8 in class w~ 2 teachers, then kindergarten..30 kids 1 teacher and thats when everything unraveled before our eyes...our child became miserable, dreading each new day to come...in a long story short...sensory therpay disorder...we hoped on board, scared of the complete unknown, sensory therapy for almost a year and we are now almost 4 years from that stage and you would never know there was any difference between our child or the one next door...embrace your child, love him, nourish him and all i have learned through all of this is everyone has an opinion, a thought, only you know what is best for your child and don't give him a label to live by...no one likes to feel any different from the rest...a label...he is who he is and just has different wants and needs in life to get by..sorry for the rambling...brightest of blessings & best wishes~

Alissa said...

I'm so glad I made it through school before things got too insane with labels and treatments, and what not. My second grade teacher did try to get my parents to take me to a psychologist because I was "too quiet" but lucky for me they decided not to. I don't think I've ever been normal, but the last thing on earth I want to be is normal. Still, I am a pretty well-adjusted adult.

Mother's Moon's Message said...

I loved your post... you are a good mother if that was the only post i ever read... your concern, your worry, your desire to do what is best for your son, not necessarlily what is told to you by teachers therapists etc... labels are too freely given in this day, love him... help him when he needs it, guide him when you should and love him always... which seems to be exactly what you already are doing... By the way... there is no normal....

Michelle said...

Your post was great. Isn't it great to have a blog to turn to when we just need to let it out?

I will pray you find peace with your daily struggles. Anything is easier said than done; but YOU know how wonderful your son is and at the end of the day...that's all that matters.

I want to say something but you can totally take it or leave it. I was a behavior specialist working with individuals with disabilities (adults) a few years back. Behavior modification is very difficult to use on humans. Somethings may work on some individuals, but at the end of the day...he/she is still a person that can make choices. Behavior modification works best in residential facilities where all factors can be controlled. You have the best life to offer your son...it may just take some time to figure out works best for you as a family. I apologize if I said more than you care to hear. And again, I will pray for your peace of mind. HUGS!

Anonymous said...

Oh...you poor sweet thing!

If there is one thing I have learned in this rather odd life that I have led...it's never ever want to be "Normal"...the very word makes my teeth itch!

Your little boy sounds like a beautiful little soul...okay so he lines things up...lots of folks do...so he likes his own company...many, many people are just like that.

We all beat to our own drum...we all sing our own song...some sing like a nightingale...others play a melody so beautiful and moving...it can break your heart to hear it...just because they don't always sing out loud...doesn't mean their song is any less beautiful...

Lots of Old Souls find it hard to adjust in this "modern" world...maybe all we need to give them is the time to just be...

I send him a special faery kiss...just for him!

Anonymous said...

Your post hit so close to home with me. Sounds just like my 10 year old son. He has had problems since he was born. He had a hernia surgery when he was 4 weeks old, another when he was 1. Ear infections after ear infections. Late walking, talking, potty training. We found out he had hearing problems and he finally got his hearing aides at the end of last school year. When he is with a group of other children, he will play by himself. He does have a few close friends this year that I have seen him hanging out with at school. He is very sensitive, I could say something and it will either make him cry or make him very mad. I'm glad I found this blogging world where I can find other mother's going through the same things.

Ang said...

Oh girl, I could have written most of your post. We received the results for my 6 and 8 year olds and I am glad I have the diagnosis (Natalee has severe ADHD along with some other stuff and Blake has ADD along with some other stuff), but it does not change a darn thing with how we do things here at home.
I feel for you and even though I am not standing right next to you, know that I am always with you and you are never alone.

Ann said...

love your blog and I am going to follow it...

mxtodis123 said...

Your son could be my could be my youngest son...the colic, he banged his head on the floor to get his way, temper tantrums, the calls from the teachers, behavioral problems, not getting along with the other children. And yes, they did label him. They put him into a special ed class where he only got worse. One of this teachers told me he was far too bright to be in those classes and he was bored, so he acted out, but no matter what I did, the school wouldn't change him. This is my first time here, but you are a good mother. I was a good mother. Some children are harder to raise than others, but in those cases, we must look for the good for they all have good in them. By the way, my son is a grown 27 year old man now...and living a perfectly normal life...job, girlfriend...There are no labels now. We've spoken about his school years and he told me how he hated being in special ed because special meant different, and he didn't feel different than the others. Blessings to you and yours.

mrsb said...

Just found your blog this morning and was so touched by this post!

I have a boy who will be 13 next month, and is on the mild end of the autism spectrum. He's struggled his whole life to "fit in", and has been picked on, bullied, beaten up, etc. at school and in our neighborhood (we recently just had to press charges on 2 boys that live down the street).

Because he's on the mild end, people just see him as "weird". It's frustrating, infuriating and yes, it's really, really hard to be a parent.

But, we keep plugging away, taking it day by day and working to help him find a mix between being who he is, and being someone who can fit into society and live on his own. It's hard, but every step forward is a celebration.

Hang in there!

ONe PiNK FiSH said...

I have two boys. Both have been a blessing and I would not change a thing about them. My youngest is obviously different from most. His skin does not shed so it looks kind of reptilian or severely burnt. he gets stared at daily. Kids do not want to play with him because they are afraid they can "get it". Adults are just ignorant most of the time and actually question his condition right there in front of him. He just turned four and is beginning to notice others' reactions to him. he has cried several times letting me know he hates his skin. he says it is bad and ugly because it does not look like mommy's. I asked him why he felt that way and he said because when people look at him they look mad or like they see something gross. it breaks your heart. Honestly, other than the skin, my youngest is just like other kids. Many will never get to know that or experience how wonderful he is because they see him and shy away.

Now, my oldest looks like a typical kid. in my option is a typical kid. (I am a teacher and have seen man differences in children throughout my career.) He just has some quirks. He is for the most part okay at home. His issues are mainly at school. He acts out in inappropraite ways... gets frustrated with his work and crawls under the desk, constantly needs redirection to stay focused, gets angry at things that other children would dismiss, needs constant postive reinforcement to do what other children do naturally. His ideas on fun are doing multiplication in his head, writting plans to create a full size boat (with the intent of actually building it), asking you to name an animal and he will name everything there is know about the animal, etc. This is definitely not how most kids have fun.

I often wonder as you have if I am doing "right" by children. Am I helping them to be positive, loving kiddos that can grow up and be positive, loving adults. I say... YES!

Whatever you have found that works for your son is what is best for him. The school will have to accomadate for his needs to help make his days successful. As long as your son is happy, then things are really okay. I have learned that what others preceive as normal isn't the case. Normal is whatever you are as long as you are happy.

I wish you the best on your journey. I am on a very similar one trying to find out if there is anything "wrong" or better yet RIGHT about my oldest so I can help him to find strategies that work for him in various areas of his life. I have found that the quirkest kiddos with the most differences are generally very bright and gifted. They have something very special about them. I truly believe these kiddos are sent to us for some greater good or purpose. I like to think that they just need guidnace to figure out for themselves what that great gift is.

Happy holidays. I wish you the best.

Juniper said...

Wow, do I relate to this post. When my daughter was diagnosed at 4 with Asperger Syndrome, I was lost. It took a lot of crying, soul-searching, and discussion with my husband to come to terms with the fact that her *diagnosis* was not *her*.

I am of the opinion that it is always better to have information than to not have information. Testing and analysis are not ends of themselves, but they can help you to narrow down your research into what types of interventions/accommodations your child may need and may be available.

That said, every child is different. What works for one is not guaranteed to work for another. If play dates or forced socialization don't work for your son, stop them and find another way. There are social skills groups for children who need help decoding the "unwritten rules" of social interaction, and they work well for lots of kids. Check with your local hospital, psychologist, or speech therapist for such a group, as this might be a better alternative for Braeden.

As for school, depending on your district, there are a wide variety of services available to a child who undergoes testing and classification. My feeling is that you take advantage of whatever you can get when it comes to your kid. I had to convince my husband of that when it came time to classify my daughter as "autistic" (he kept insisting that, since she *wasn't*, he didn't want her labeled that way). I had to remind him over and over again that, without that classification, she wouldn't be able to receive the speech, physical, and occupational therapy she needed in school, as well as the modifications to the curriculum that help develop and accurately reflect her true academic abilities.

Sorry to ramble on so long, but I really hope this helps you. My heart goes out to you, as I can empathize completely with your situation. Brightest blessings and rightest outcomes to you and your family.