A Lot Like Love
This is me at the end of an ordinary day as I try to find my equilibrium on the predictably unpredictable roller coaster ride that is mothering a son with SPD. So few people know about SPD nor how it affects the behavior of the children who have it.
Even though Satch has done remarkably well and has been discharged from occupational therapy, the part of the brain that controls the way he receives data is still playing catch-up. He still senses things differently than the rest of us and thus behaves differently than one would expect in some situations. It's painful to witness my beautiful son continue to struggle with finding a way to fit in this world. He struggles to focus, struggles to remember boundaries, struggles to understand body language, struggles to remember the rules of conduct.
It's painful to watch him act the fool because in his mind, laughter is good, laughter means happiness. He struggles to understand when laughter is appropriate and when it's not. I once saw him drop trou because the child he was playing with was terribly upset and crying and it caused him such anxiety that he was willing to do anything to make her laugh, to make her "happy". Laughter = Happy in his world. It took some work to help him understand that his friend was entitled to her sad feelings and that it is not his job to make everyone laugh. I explained that sometimes just listening and being present for sad feelings is the best gift we can give. (Satch has an aversion to hugging anyone other than his family because of his sensory issues, so offering a hug is out of the question for him).
It seems that no matter how many times I explain things, no matter the consequences, the message is not retained. He still gets his wires crossed, so to speak. Satch describes it as feeling like "his gears get stuck". The bottom line is that he is like a spirited impulsive toddler living in a 5 year old body with an intellect more than twice his physical age. We guide our toddlers with grace knowing that they will outgrow certain behaviors, and impulsivity. It's hard not to have greater expectations from such an articulate and intelligent 5 year old.
What my son needs is simply the grace of time. I have to remind myself continuously, and try not to get wrung out by emotion when he is misunderstood.
He can be perceived as bossy or controlling and this is true on the surface, but beneath that is the reality that he is so confused by all the data that the rest of us so naturally process, he struggles to maintain his own sense of balance and grapples for things that he can control. Imagine how powerless you would feel if you were at a business convention and everyone there seemed to know what was going on, what to do, where to go, and how to act. Imagine that you kept getting lost, kept doing things wrong, and made people angry because you didn't get the memo. That is what it's like for my son - he didn't get the memo - and he goes through all the same emotions that we would in trying to deal with that. He gets embarrassed, he pretends it doesn't bother him, he gets angry at himself, he gets angry at the world. He struggles and it hurts. He's not misbehaving, he's misunderstanding.
There are times when I think that I lack the patience and fortitude it takes to mother him the way he deserves and then after the whirlpool of emotions rips me wide open, I come full circle into knowing that I have more patience than I give myself credit for, that I'm stronger than I know, that my capacity for love and understanding grows in direct relation to the extent I feel depleted.
I trust that my boy who is disruptively uncomfortable in groups will grow to be the man who prefers to spend time with his family and close friends rather than at a party or at noisy crowded events. My boy who tries to ignite laughter at inappropriate times will grow to be the man who skillfully uses humor to diffuse difficult situations. My boy whose senses are so heightened that he perceives the world around him differently, more slowly than others will grow into a man who has fine tuned his perceptions in a way that can only be seen as a gift .