I don’t give her enough credit. Elizabeth. I don’t. I’ve forgotten that the sensory stuff is really such a small piece. I will teach her to not fear the toilets. I can teach her to find the foods that don’t bother her. I can teach her to calm herself and curb her destructive tendencies. But what I can’t teach, I forget to credit her. I forget how WELL she does. Truly well. Not just for a 4 year old, not for a “sensory kid”… but for anyone.
We had to get to LAX 2 hours early, only to find that it was 4 hours early due to a sizable delay to our flight. This could be torture to parents with children who DON’T have sensory issues. Who don’t have “motion seekers” with an oral fixation and auditory sensory issues. But it wasn’t hard. Not really. Nor was the two hour flight after 4 hours of waiting. She played with her sticker book until it was okay to use the iPad. She NEATLY drank a cup of soda on the plane filled WAY TOO FULL of soda and ice to be balanced precariously on those sad little airplane tables. Didn’t spill a drop. When it was time to find a restaurant in busy LAX, she put down her iPad and went willingly. When her brother had to go to the bathroom for the umpteenth time, she didn’t care. When she and I had to squeeze into the smaller of the handicapped bathrooms so she could stay in her stroller while I used her nemesis (the automatic toilet), she was wonderful.
Did she get edgy when we were waiting for our zone to board to be called? Yes, but it wasn’t out of control. Just a 4 year old girl who was a little tired. Did she and her brother have a moment about how much light to let in the window on the plane? Yep, but it was a sibling moment not out of the ordinary. She did well.
I was so looking forward to this vacation. And fearing it. We’ve just started Occupational Therapy to help her with her sensory issues. She sometimes yells when she thinks people are looking at her. I have to watch her eat food she really likes carefully, because she will overeat to the point of vomiting. She can’t handle standing in even the shortest of lines without touching everything in sight or collapsing onto the floor. She doesn’t make friends easily because she will yell at other kids to go away in public places. Strange places and strange smells can bother her. She can reach a tantrum level where all she can do is scream, “I CAN’T CALM DOWN!” over and over. And over.
Had I known how amazing she’d be, I would have slept better the night before we left. But this trip was full of the pitfalls for a girl like her. Strange public bathrooms. Frequent changes (my mom’s house, my dad’s house, Palm Springs hotel and back to my mom’s). My absence as I met up with old friends. Sharing public space like the wading pool at the hotel. And, of course, the delays.
She handled it all. And beautifully. I actually teared-up at the pool when two little girls climbed in with her and instead of her usual bossy or screaming or angry demeanor, she turned to them and said, “Hi. My name is Elizabeth. What’s your name?”. My mom and I stared at each other in disbelief. And I turned away so Elizabeth wouldn’t see me get teary-eyed in pride.
When her beautiful little blonde head fell against the plane window because she was exhausted after trying SO HARD in the airport during our delay and during the flight, I looked over and felt the most immense love and pride, I let my hair fall around my bent head so her brother wouldn’t see me tear up again.
The first night in Palm Springs, when she declared the hotel room too small and that she needed a house to “have room to run”, a short walk around the grounds and pointing out the “fun” of hotel rooms like a TV in the room, a little fridge stocked with goodies thanks to her Oma (my mom), etc. adjusted her mood almost immediately.
When faced with her nemesis, the automatic toilet, she started to panic, but took her deep breaths, put on her headphones, worked to stop her shaking and declared, “I can do it mom”. I couldn’t hide the tears that time. I hugged her tight and told her I was SO, SO proud of her.
I want her to be different from me. I want her to be fearless and try everything. I want her to be tough, so bullies never hurt her. I want her to be uninhibited, so she can enjoy being different, rather than fighting to fit in. I want her to be comfortable in her own skin, so she never fights anxiety or depression.
So far… she’s WAY ahead of me. Dammit, here come the tears again. It sure is nice when they’re from pride though.