Tuesday, June 26, 2007

If you could go back in time, who would you visit?

It amazes me sometimes what I find myself YELLING OUT LOUD...today? I actually yelled out the phrase

How many times do I have to repeat myself? "Rock, paper, scissors" is a verbal contract! Once you play it, you HAVE to stand by the result! Otherwise you have just LIED!!!

Absolutely yelled it. Had a sore throat afterwards. Families all over the neighborhood can now understand, define and put in a sentence the words SOCIAL CONTRACT!!!!

I am NOT the patient mother that I envisioned pre-parent-hood--some fabulous combination of Maria VonTrapp and Annie Sullivan with just a dash of Mother Theresa thrown in. This seemed a reasonable possibility in my 20's: all I had to do was learn how to play classical guitar and, maybe, take a vow of poverty. Regarding the latter...hey, I was well on my way!

There were times when Ben was little where I would just close him in his room, lock myself in the bathroom and SCREAM! I figured that the screaming was better than hurting him--I was capable of that much rational thought. These were the days when I was ON all of the time, those first three years. When...

  • his sleep schedule was to fall asleep at midnight, up at 8, with a a 2-hour nap from 4-6 pm--on good days;
  • if he got sick (often in the toddler years), he'd cut his sleep IN HALF;
  • he was phobic of blood, darkness, shoe stores, hair cuts, doctor's offices, large spaces, small spaces, loud noises, nail clippers, baths, crowds, bowel movements [um, his], stomach viruses (which he seemed prone to, and which always resulted in me ultimately walking stiffly away to shower out a hair and chest-full of vomitus)... and being alone--like, for instance, when his mother was taking a shower;
  • phobias were expressed through terrified, hysterical crying--for hours, often taking the place of sleep periods;
  • he was hyperactive and accident-prone (I mentioned the blood phobia, right?)
  • he narrowed his diet to grapes, peanut butter crackers, cereal bars, milk, apple juice, hamburger and ice cream for an entire year--FYI: seedless grapes in February will run you $7.99/pound;
  • his father was in the Navy--crummy health insurance, low pay AND a complete lack of family values? YES, PLEASE!!!
  • his father was also going to graduate school full-time...
  • oh, OH! AAaaaaaaaaand: I'd given birth in a military hospital 3,000 miles from anyone that I knew and then moved across the country to another town (albeit, a pleasant one) where I had no friends.
So, sometimes? I went in the bathroom and screamed. Scrunched up my eyes, put my head between my legs and bellowed. Probably akin to the sounds I made during childbirth--definitely the same position. To this day, I do not know what the neighbor on the other side of the wall might have thought of this behavior. God willing, she was at work and not sitting in her kitchen, checking her calendar and muttering, "yup: day 22 of the cycle. Again."

I was pretty sure, however, that this type of behavior would not qualify as the requisite miracle the Vatican seeks out in all its petitions for sainthood...

After my personal pity parties, though, I would go back to my little boy, who would no doubt be hysterical in my absence, standing at the gate I had in his bedroom door, looking like the littlest, most unhappy inmate at Alcatraz: face red and wet, body hot from crying, nose running copiously, arms outstretched and jittering for me to hold him.

And I would take him and hold him. And sometimes we'd both cry some more. The reasons I was able to keep any sanity at that point were pretty simple: he was mine. I loved him. He was made more miserable by his senses, his whacky sleep schedule, the way the world crashed in on him, than I was. He loved me. He needed me...

What I realize now, in retrospect, is that I created my own "therapy" for him, on the fly, out of a need to survive. We read together because it was something that we both found soothing. For hours, most days. Bedtime began at ten in the evening and didn't end until midnight. Book after book after book. And then three more readings of THE POLAR EXPRESS. That Van Allsburg draws AMAZING pictures...but his text is for crap...

Nap time would also be preceded by an hour or more of reading. What we didn't spend on grapes or Thomas the Tank Engine trains, we spent on books. (So, it floored me, down the line, when the child with the professorial vocabulary had such a HARD TIME learning how to read...)

There was the language therapy the child should have been eligible for, if anyone could have diagnosed him at that point...

When we weren't reading, we played together. At two and a half, the child could tell the difference between an isosceles and an equilateral triangle, an octagon and a hexagon. He liked the Tupperware shape sorter, so by golly, THAT'S WHAT WE PLAYED WITH!

That is: when I wasn't setting up lavish train layouts with wooden track. Those train layouts taught a great deal: accidents happen, problems are solveable--not scary, tipped bridges can be turned upright, magnets go front to back, everyone makes mistakes--even mommy...

There were our beginnings of life skills and parallel play...what Dr. Stanley Greenspan now calls "floor time" and what many progressive educators are beginning to prefer to the rigid therapy of ABA...and we definitely did it the prescribed 30 or 40 hours a week...

What I realize now is that I wasn't a saint--absolutely not. But I did do a good job. I wish I could go back and tell that younger mom, "Hey! What you're doing is really, really hard! You're not crazy to be exhausted and scared. But he's gonna be amazing."

Absolutely amazing.

I'd probably wind up screaming it at her, though. My days are easier but I'm still no paragon of patience.

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