Tuesday, January 17, 2006

History pt. 3

Although I left "History pt. 2" off with B starting preschool, I've been thinking about pieces of the story that I'd left out & that need to be told...

Something that we heard a lot from family & friends when B was very young was that things would get easier as he got older, especially after he learned to talk. B learned to talk right on time, developmentally, & was speaking clearly & eloquently at an early age... but things did not get better. He seemed to have 2-3 week phases where he was impossible, then just when I was at my wits' end, things would calm down a bit, but he always moved back into challenging phase after a couple weeks of calm. He never was a "terrible two", but moved in & out of his "phases" like ocean waves. There were times when he was almost oblivious to anything but what was going on in his head, & he is only now -at age 9- being able to articulate some of what's going on in there. He became overstimulated very quickly & I had to be extraordinarily sensitive to his mood in order to prevent melt-downs. Needless to say I was not as successful as I hoped to be at keeping him on an even keel. It was a great burden to have him so dependant on me while everyone was telling me that it was supposed to be getting better. If it had been only me raising this kid I'm sure I wouldn't have survived it. Fortunately, C was not only supportive, but reliable. As a physician, he works 12-hour days, but unlike many physicians, he doesn't work on his day off during the week (although he worked 2 Saturdays a month when B was little, less often now) so I could depend on C being home in the middle of the week & ready to take over & give me breathing space. I remember times when I just held on till Wednesday & cursed Saturday! I was pretty militant about my free time, too, but I realise now that it was this B-free time that allowed me to recharge so I could survive the rest of the time with him, so I understand why I took that attitude. The problem then was that one of us was always with B & the other doing something else, so we had little time together to reconnect as a couple. After I re-entered therapy (more on that in a bit) we were encouraged by my therapist to find a sitter & go out at least twice a month, & thankfully we were able to find a few lovely young people who could/would stay with our challenging kid, although most of them couldn't put him to bed. It did the trick, though, & we still do our best to set-aside time for us as B gets older & his needs change. I tend to get lost in the day-to-day living of life & am lucky that C is much better at finding fun things for us to do & for arranging sitters. He looks ahead much better than I do, too, & is the main reason we ever get organised enough to take vacations!

One of the places B & I would visit quite often when he was little was the local children's museum. It had a baby area for crawling around & way-cool, hands-on activities for kids as they got older. The museum had rescued an old diner & got it back in running order, so it was a lovely day out for both of us with play time in the morning & then lunch before we went home. I enjoyed getting out & at least seeing other adults, too. When B was around 2 1/2 or 3 he began having terrible difficulty when we would leave the museum. He'd start to scream when we were leaving & literally scream the whole way home. The first time he did this he ran in circles in the living room until he collapsed, after we got home. This shocked me so badly that I felt my emotions shutting down, something that hadn't happened since I was in Survivor recovery. I remember holding him after he collapsed & feeling absolutely nothing. After he fell asleep for his nap, I called my former (I thought) therapist & made an appointment for the following Wednesday... I also stopped taking him to the museum when it kept happening, & after he melted down in a toy store, stopped going there, too. I found that I had to rigidly plan any trips out of the house to accomodate his tolerance levels. Luckily I rarely took him grocery shopping since I could do that on blessed Wednesdays. Now I could only make 2 or 3 short stops when we went out or life would become hellish. Sometimes I could tack-on a stop by daddy's office to cheer us both up (& show everyone there how he was growing up), which also gave me some adult human contact- I found it where I could! Church was our major social outlet, with the added bonus that B was in the nursery during the service & we only had to help-out in there every few weeks. Both C & I have sung in the choir for years, as we both find music & music performance uplifting & restorative (we'd put B in the baby sling & perform with him when he was an infant :), & it was extremely helpful to our mental health to be able to continue this. Church was also a time for C & I to be able to be together without B sucking the energy out of us, for a little while at least, & a place where many people had known us before B & could remember who we were before we became parents. Finding times & ways to communicate was not easy, & my therapist's recommendation to find a sitter & go out was an important step in reclaiming our "couple-ness". It also helped us to get in the habit of communicating clearly about B to each other. A few weeks after I had stopped taking B to the children's museum, C mentioned that he thought he'd take him the next Wednesday... I looked askance at him & asked if he knew what he was getting himself into... he seemed confident that all would be well. I had a nice quiet morning & lunch... then C carried the screaming child into the house with a plaintive "I didn't realise that when you said he screamed all the way home, you meant all the way home...!" It was a bonding moment for us. Since I was the home-front person, C didn't always experience the extreme ranges of B's behaviours. It was really helpful & although we have different perspectives & approaches to coping with B (usually a good thing), I rarely feel like C doesn't empathise with or appreciate what I experience with B.


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