This post will sound negative, but I don't mean it that way. It's just that discovery and growth often involves a few bruises and some spectacular falls.
I truly don't know how to begin. This blank page is staring at me ready for me to de-stress by writing as I have done for years, but this time it's pretty personal. Pretty scary.
We've had a hard month, we Plavins. Some of it purely from strange, outside occurrences, so those I dismiss as one-time anomalies. But the rest has been a discovery that has been difficult to handle as a mother.
I would say it started when William started school and Elizabeth started gymnastics, but really, it started way before, I'm just now realizing that I need to stop wondering and start taking action.
William's first weeks of school were stressful for him. He was picked on by a bigger kid, ostracized by some boys he considered friends, and in a K-8 school, thrown into a world exponentially larger than Kindergarten. And despite the fact that he handled the bigger boy beautifully and neutralized the friend situation and is now making friends... he's a stress case. He panics and shuts down when he gets too hot. He gets nervous about the next day of school and doesn't eat dinner. His sentences frequently start with, "well what happens if I..." and he's constantly convinced he's getting sick. I fear that if we don't get a handle on this, he will grow up like I did - thinking something is wrong with him, labeled as weird or "too sensitive."
On top of this, enrolling Elizabeth in gymnastics has opened my eyes to other "issues" that I had been wondering about. She's always been my more difficult kid. She used to have such a problem eating different textures that we had to take her to eating therapy because she was vomiting all the time. We've had to work hard to desensitize her to noises like vacuums, fans, blenders, etc. lest she fall into a tantrum that is literally uncontrollable. But I saw in gymnastics that she also has trouble focusing. She can become so fearful that she completely shuts down. She'll go jelly-like and refuse to make eye contact with her teachers. Just like with William, I'm hoping to help her so that she doesn't spend her life hearing that she's "different," "weird," "needs to toughen up," etc.
So I did some research and emailed friends and relatives about the possibility of Sensory Processing Disorder and have now made appointments to talk to doctors further about it. It's been both heartbreaking and a relief. If there's something I can do with occupational therapy to help them "rewire" themselves so that William doesn't dissolve into tears when he's too hot and Elizabeth doesn't scream for over an hour over something minor, I will do it. I'm not that mom who sees symptoms and says, "oh no, that's not my kid." Nor am I the mom who wants to rush to medication just because my 3 year old doesn't sit still. Most 3 year olds don't. But I want to give them opportunities to succeed. They're both outrageously bright, but also VERY sensitive.
The hardest part for me in my research is that I also stumbled across information that made me wonder if I, too, have some sensory issues. I fit a frightening number of items on the checklist for "Adult SPD" and in turn, the childhood descriptions of it fit the child I was. They're all items I've learned to hide, suppress and fight against for the fear of standing out. For fear I'd be labeled weird. And I began to feel like those women who are Bipolar who feel guilty for having kids. Should I have had kids? Have my own issues made my kids small, neurotic, stress balls?
I guess I shall find out. And as a friend pointed out, perhaps, if my kiddos DO need some occupational therapy... their help will, in turn help me. I hope so, because I felt relief in just admitting to Mike and myself some of my "issues" that perhaps put me in the category of needing some sensory help myself. So judge if you will, call me weird if you will, but it's just me being me. You see, I'm often distressed by touch. Light touch, that is. Fans and air conditioning aren't just annoying... they actually hurt. It feels like sandpaper on my skin. I hated holding hands with boyfriends who felt the need to rub their thumb lightly over my hand because the touch was so irritating I LITERALLY wanted to hit them. I will often flinch at hugs or kisses, but I suppress that so I don't offend my husband and kids. I cannot STAND the sound of someone erasing pencil marks from a paper. I will often make another noise so I can't hear it. When I get too warm, I too get weepy and want to shut down. Shoes make me a little claustrophobic, so I am often bare foot. I hate tags, turtlenecks, elastic waists, and elastic on my sleeves.
The good news is... it didn't stop me. I was a good student, a capable athlete and somehow or another, this really cool and funny man fell in love with me. I have beautiful children and an adventurous life. But I hope, now, to make it a bit easier for my children. They are already proving to be academically and athletically gifted... but I hope to help them perhaps avoid the "weird" labels that come with being this sensitive. I hope, as all parents do, that they will have it better than I did.
So we'll see if occupational therapy or therapy of some sort will help us. And for now, if it makes you feel better, call us weird. We're all a little weird in one way or another, aren't we?