All of us begin, before even our first sonogram, imagining how perfect our children, and our lives as parents will be. We’ll have the nursery in these colors, He’ll play sports, or be intellectual. She will take after mommy, and have poise and grace. We will be loving, considerate, kind parents, who teach our kids the way of the world with a stern but soft voice, as we remember being yelled at and not liking it. We will not give into the frustrations, we will be awesome parents who can be a multitude of things. Teacher, supporter, shoulder to cry on, a friend, someone to laugh with. Someone for our children to look up to and admire. And we will be proud of our children, all the time, twenty-four-seven. This was what we imagine. These are our dreams.
Unfortunately, life does not always give us the information we need for these dreams to come true. Nine years ago, when Chris was born, I had problems from the start. Spotting during the pregnancy, even after the first trimester, trouble eating through most of the pregnancy, especially eggs. rapid weight loss followed by an astronomical (to me) weight gain. Then came the big day! Excitement coursed through us as we went to the doctor, and then were told to go to the hospital. Dialated, without the water being broken. It was felt to be in the best interests of both myself and chris to induce labor. insufficient Cervix, I believe they called it. Now, don’t get me wrong, I was extremely blessed with the pregnancy. I didn’t have any of the scary complications like preeclampsia, or gestational diabetes, or low amniotic fluid. I got healthier in my eating, stopped the smoking and drinking and party girl life that I had with my then fiancee. But when the time came, my son was stubborn. After several hours of a pitocin drip, walking, and generally feeling fine, I was contracting, but my amniotic sac still hadn’t ruptured. At this point, I was in very little pain. My doctor decided to take the biggest freakin’ crochet hook I’d ever seen at that point and break my water.
After that, it was very scary. My body didn’t stretch the way it was supposed to. I had severe complications, and quite a bit of blood loss. I had to be sedated again after delivery, so that I could be stitched back together. I was on a liquid diet, then soft foods, before being able to return to normal. And the milk of magnesia and mineral oil taken several times a day after was the nastiest things I ever had to ingest. But, for the sake of my health and my child, I sucked it up, and did as the doctor said.
Fast forward several months. Looking back, I realize that many of the things I thought were just little oddities specific to my child, could actually have been signs of an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). He couldn’t stand to be put on grass without something covering the grass. He didn’t like to get dirty. He couldn’t stand loud noises. He hated taking baths (and still does). What child doesn’t like to play in water? It was all told to me that these were things he would likely outgrow. He began to talk, and it was amazing. He didn’t want people to read to him, but he wanted to do it on his own, in his own way. He laughed, and cried, and for a long time, I couldn’t have asked for a more perfect child.
Now this is not to say he didn’t go through stages as every child does, of biting, or hitting… But overall, he was well behaved. He did not like regular baby food. Sure, he would eat it, but he’d rather have something like what mommy and daddy had. He didn’t like sauces of any kind. Ketchup, mustard, mayo… If you used any of these things, he would refuse to eat. Even spaghetti had to be plain. We made do with it. We made him try new things, and eventually spaghetti sauce was handled, but if he can have it plain, he still prefers it that way.
Kindergarten was amazing. I had just had his sisters, our twins who are four, and We could afford daycare for them, so I went and began to volunteer at school. We had some issues, such as wetting his pants (though he had been potty trained for a long time) when things got overwhelming for him. But there were no real fights, though there were conversations of “Why can we not show our affection by hugging people?” or “Why is kissing someone so bad? We do it at home all the time!” Because the school had a strict no touching policy. And it wasn’t because they did not want children to touch or interact… but at five, it’s hard to understand that not everyone wants to be as touchy-feely as your family is. Overall, a great first year, right?
Then we had to move. We timed it in such a way that the kids would have a chance to settle in, make their rooms their own, and get adjusted over the summer. We started a new school. That is when we started realizing something was wrong. There were constant fights. He started lighting things on fire. He was constantly angry or withdrawn. We chalked most of it up to Daddy working far away (he kept his job back in the old city) And Mommy all of the sudden having a job that kept her away for basically three days straight. There were days off school, suspensions, talking back. He refused to want to go anywhere with us at times, and other times where we couldn’t pry him away from me. To him, nothing was ever his fault. The other kids picked on him. He was bored in school (which wasn’t surprising, given that he was reading at least one, if not two, grades higher than the rest of his class) He was clumsy, and always hurting someone else because of it, or hurting himself.
For the first time in my life, in the five years I had been a parent… I felt like I was failing my son. Eventually, I was given information for a therapist. I had people telling me that my son’s actions were because I was not a parent who spanked. Eventually, I gave in to peer pressure, and started to spank my children. It may work for some, but I am a person who doesn’t believe that fear equals respect or love. And eventually my kids started begging me to stop hanging around with certain people. They wanted to go visit their friends who were the children of the parents, but they didn’t want me to leave them alone with these parents, for even a short amount of time. Seeing that affect on my children was a life changer. I saw something was wrong when they finally spoke up. After going against my instincts, and leaving my kids with a parent for an hour, to return to the youngest twin crying as if she was just beaten within an inch of her life (though there were no marks on her) nothing mattered more than my kids. If I couldn’t work for whatever reason, I called in sick. My focus left my friends, leaving me fairly alone. In the process of all this, We got therapy for my son, more for his anger and lack of communication than for anything else.
During all this, my fiancee, who was now my husband, had found a new job. It was 500 miles away from home. We only got to see him once a month. It was stressful for all of us. I stopped inviting friends over. I stopped going to things, unless my parents made me. Looking back, I was severely depressed, and couldn’t figure out what to do to change it. I began seeing a therapist. She suggested I start a journal, which I was good with initially, and then would just feel too tired to do after a few weeks, and slacked off. But between my own therapist and my son’s, we began to communicate more. And his behavior at school seemed to improve.
Eventually, we could not afford two households any more. Unfortunately, this move had to be made near the end of a school year. I was not about to leave my son in the hands of anyone who thought spanking was a good idea. I’m sure it was fine for their kids, but for my son, who couldn’t stand loud noises, to be yelled at and spanked, I had found was a recipe for disaster. And now being eight, he did not understand why he could not sleep on the couch at a friend’s house until the end of the year, or live with grandma and grandpa (who had just moved an hour away) and still go to his school. Once again, we saw anger and frustration from him, but it was at home. Sure, he’d come home from school and ask when we were going home, but he wasn’t hitting random people who upset him. I thought that perhaps things had changed, he’d gotten better with the therapy. A good summer, then off to school again. But the winds of life changed, and then my son was back into old habits.
This school year alone, he has been sent home a few times, been in the office countless times. Suspended once. The “I am being bullied” excuse he was so fond of no longer works, because his teacher is extremely anti-bullying, and is very careful with that. I know he doesn’t see things this way, but I believed this school would be best for him. I actually still do, despite some frustrations I have had.
Two months ago, we started him up with mental health services, after a few weeks of constant fights, We developed a Student Success Team(SST). I did not know that this is a precursor to an Individualized Education Plan (IEP). I have no problems with my child being on any of these… as long as it is for his own good. Why label things as more than they are? I shall talk more about SST’s, 504′s, and IEP’s in the future.) The second visit we had, we finally began to see a road to recovery, and whereas after researching behavior problems I had an idea, it was still a bit of a shock. MY son had Asperger’s Syndrome….