At six, my baby boy is no longer a baby. Or so he reminds me every time I forget and call him "baby." While he's not my youngest, he will always be my baby.
He wasn't really planned, unless you count a drunken night of too long pent up passion even though we knew I was ovulating, planning. Not so much planned, but hoped for, once the hangover fog had lifted. My husband and I had been in a long term "Help a friend out" situation that involved a lot of physical labor and a camper. With lots of children. Have you ever spent extended time in an RV with your children? While it has its fun and exciting moments, passion is usually one of those things that quickly goes missing. So the one opportunity we had, while some generous friends kept the kiddoes, we took, and damn the consequences!
|Photo Credit: lou & magoo|
He was a bit different from the start. He was very clingy, huggy, touchy feely, whatever you want to call it, with me. With only me. I remember his second Thanksgiving, he was thirteen months old, and he cried every single time I went into the kitchen, despite having Daddy and a houseful of adoring siblings (really, they loved him passionately) vying for his attention. As he got older, he seemed to not understand when we said "No," and putting him in time out or taking away toys for bad behavior had zero affect on him. We brushed it off to stubbornness and kept plugging along, despite our frustrations, because we have always understood that consistency is key.
He was very schedule oriented. We attributed that to me being home with him and the other kids all being old enough to be in school. With it just being him and I, we quickly developed a routine, and stuck with it. But after he was about two, if his schedule varied, it caused major issues for him. If we went to the grocery store on a different day, or lunch was late, or any of the million and one things that can change for moms and kids during the day.
The way he showed affection was different. Oh, sure, he would come up and give you a hug, if you asked for one, but when he was being affectionate on his own, he would press his forehead against yours. He would climb up on my lap and put his forehead against mine, and he could probably have stayed that way for hours if I could have. He would put more and more pressure against my head as time went on, though, so I couldn't do it for long.
Our local school has a preschool program for three and four year olds. It's a wonderful program, and all of my children who have gone through it have come out as readers. So when my son was old enough, we started taking him to visit at recess and early in the mornings so he could see if he liked it. When the new school year started, he was eager to go.
I don't know if the tics started, because he started school, or if I just noticed them more because he was gone for part of the day. But that is when we noticed the tics. First, it was talking in a growly voice. Then it was making a "whoop" sound after every sentence. Then it was making a beatbox type sound after every word.
I talked to his teacher about it. In our small community, the preschool teacher with twenty four years of preschool teaching experience is a pretty good authority about children's behavior. Yes, she had noticed the tics, but no, she wasn't concerned. Remember that our oldest boy was stuttering when preschool started. Remember that one of our daughters wouldn't talk to anyone when preschool started. They both outgrew those, he'll outgrow the tics.
By December, he hadn't outgrown the tics, and we finally sought a diagnosis. And we got the news that we had both been dreading, and expecting. My son has Asperger's Syndrome.
And now, we live each day with that diagnosis. But at least we know what is going on in his head. Well, that's probably not quite accurate either, but we have an understanding. I am thankful every day that he doesn't need therapy, or medical intervention on a regular basis. Having a diagnosis means we know that he's not just being difficult for the sake of being difficult, which gives us more patience. It doesn't mean we don't work to correct his behaviors; it does mean we approach it very differently. It means we follow routines and have little rituals that many families probably do not.
|Photo Credit: Fabian Bromann|
But despite all of these things, he's still my baby boy. I still remember the days when I was pregnant with his younger sister and the only place that was comfortable was the fold out bed on our old couch, and how we would spend our days there, cuddling, watching Sesame Street, and playing "got your nose", and Fourth of July evenings spent watching fireworks displays with my hands over his ears. His diagnosis doesn't mean we love him any differently. It just is.