The wisdom (or not) of revisiting hard times
Grant went grocery shopping with me last night. As far as shopping company goes, I actually prefer my oldest son, Ethan. We chat, catch up on things, laugh, and generally enjoy each other’s company. But, Ethan is also valuable at home, and most often, my hubby prefers Ethan to stay and help out when I go on errands, and I don’t blame him. I’ve told Ethan that when he eventually gets a job for himself, he’ll likely think, “This is a BREEZE!” because we work him so hard. I felt (maybe still do feel) a little badly about that, until talking with a dear friend from church — a man in his late 60s — who praised this approach; he’s a fan of teaching boys to WORK, and was convinced we are doing Ethan a great service. That made me feel much better.
At one point, something occurred when shopping with Grant. I had the cart headed in one direction, and for one reason or another, decided to reverse course 180 degrees. Grant saw what my intentions were, and moved himself out of the way to allow me to move, on his own, without me prodding him verbally or on the arm or in any other way. That may not sound like a big deal — but him anticipating the event, being aware of what I was trying to do, being aware of his need to move out of the way… that was all MAJOR to me. Huge deal. Huge growth. Huge maturity.
I came home very encouraged.
Late last night, I was catching up a bit on blog reading, and came upon this honest and meaty post from Laura at LaFianzoo. It brought me back to little-bittyhood with Grant, who is now 10. Laura talked about her 5yo daughter, who has sensory processing disorder, or SPD, and who screamed for pretty much years at pretty much anything and everything, and who still has significant struggles. Opposite of Laura’s concerns, I knew something was wrong with Grant because he was lump-on-a-log for his whole first year, almost completely non-responsive. He didn’t cry when he was hungry, even. He did stare out at the world, seeming to take it all in, but he was very much in his own world. He did have some major sensory processing problems, and ended up being diagnosed with something called nonverbal learning disorder.
NLD is difficult to explain — basically he was not processing correctly anything that was NOT verbal — if it wasn’t WORDS, he wasn’t getting it, and you’d be AMAZED at how much you learn and communicate nonverbally until you’re face to face with a child who cannot nonverbally communicate at all, nor understand others’ nonverbal communication. NLD also affects/affected his motor skills both fine and gross. Though it’s not “officially” classified as such, our developmental pediatrician considers NLD to be a form of high-functioning autism, very similar to Asperger’s Syndrome (but with more motor problems and less-intense fixations).
Grant was 4yo when we got that diagnosis. Previously, I had been one of those parents who used to say that I hate labels because I didn’t want my kid put in a “box”. However, after Grant’s dx, I TOTALLY changed my mind. Having a name for NLD gave me a window into the heart and mind of a child who was totally unknowable, and who (literally) did not know that I loved him, who would stiffen up when I tried to hug him. Additionally, it helped me understand why he was bruised from head to toe. Understanding the process of cause and effect comes from NONVERBAL learning. Grant would just walk into things instead of around them. Even BASIC cause-and-effect like, “If I put out my arms, it will break my fall, and I will be less-injured” was beyond him. He also had sensory processing difficulties; among other things, he went through quadruple the clothes that everyone else did, because if he got a spot of water on it, it came off and he’d put on new clothes…
BUT, in some ways he was brilliant — taught himself to read at age 3yr 2mo, and no one could believe he has a learning DISORDER, so even to this day I’ve told very few people, because they just don’t understand, and it’s too hard to explain briefly.
Reading Laura’s post brought me back to the most difficult of times with Grant. In some ways, that was a really good thing, because I can recognize how far he’s come, and how much I’ve learned as Grant’s mother. It reminded me that GOD KNOWS that Grant needs my husband Martin and me; Grant was created for our family. I was also reminded that all the things I’m sowing into him now WILL BEAR FRUIT.
We have probably 75% fewer problems with Grant than we used to. Maybe 80%. I still get caught in moments of despair over him and fear for his future. In a number of ways, he has less maturity than my 3yo. There are still things about him that bring myself and my husband to great frustration. HOWEVER, there are also many times when Grant seems 98% normal (“neuro-typical”) and I can totally see the light at the end of the tunnel, like that five-second Episode of Hope at the grocery store last night.
Still, reading Laura’s story also reminded me of some tough things: I still lack joy in being Grant’s mother 95% of the time. It’s still a challenge for me to appreciate him; it’s not spontaneous in my heart like it is for my other kids — I have to remind myself to appreciate his good qualities, I have to remind myself to hug him, I have to remind myself to tell him kind things and tell him I love him — because there is such a hard history (and very often a hard day-to-day) with him.
BUT, I am still convinced that he is a supernaturally, God-gifted, amazing child who will be an amazing man of God and do something fabulous that this world hasn’t seen before — he’s so outside the box, and the world needs people like that, even if it’s hard on their mother’s heart.