By Guest Blogger Elizabeth Smith
The first question other moms typically ask me when I tell them that my son has behavior problems, is “How did you know”? In the beginning it used to upset me, for it somehow held an accusation that I didn’t really know there was a problem. Early on so many people were quick to minimize our struggles, with statements like, “That is just how boys are,” or “That is part of being two years old,” and “This is just your first child,” and so on. Then with time it became easier and I realized that the more moms I spoke to the more I realized that the question was not an act of judgement but a sincere desire to know. They either had a child, a niece, a friend or someone in their life whom they were concerned about and they wanted to know our story so they could help that someone. Now when someone asks me that question I jump at the opportunity to help them find the answer that had been so hard for me to find.
Some children are just harder than others, which is so true. There are strong willed children, anxious children, explosive children and children with diagnosed special needs. You don’t need anyone to tell you anything specific about your child to know these things. The question that does require a specific answer is how you know that you need help. How do you know that you need to seek out medical interventions? How do you know when your child requires things from you that go beyond parenting?
At first I thought I just had a harder child. One that required discipline techniques (like Love & Logic or 123 Magic) versus just a basic time out. I thought this parenting thing was just something I had to get better at, but then the techniques were not working and the calls started coming in from school. At first they also just thought that my child was a little harder. Maybe they just needed some more information from me on what to do. But I didn’t know what to tell them to do, we were hanging on by a thread at home. Everything was struggle, at school they must know what to do they have been doing this for years with hundreds of kids. At home it was just my fault, my issue, I needed to get better at this mom thing. But the calls didn’t stop and I didn’t know what to do. Everyone told me to call my pediatrician, so I did.
And bless her, she made me feel so much better. She didn’t see any early signs of Autism or ADHD, she didn’t see anything “major.” So I happily shoved my fears back in the box, and decided that the problem had to be me and the school. We needed to work harder, try more techniques, and give it more time. But the calls kept coming and the evenings after work left me so worn out, I wasn’t really sure how I could read another book, watch another DVD or troll another parenting forum for ideas. So upon his doctor’s recommendation we went for a hearing and speech check.
His hearing check was fine, but his speech check was where it all came toppling down on top of me. Up until this point, I still didn’t understand what the problem was. He was a wild boy, he was my first child, and I still had no bloody, freaking, stinking idea what was wrong and no one could tell me. But this one women finally made it clear to me in 10 short minutes what no one else had been able to say. My son refused to cooperate, tried to hit her, threw himself on the floor and cried, had a meltdown until he was a puddle at my feet and then finally refused to do another thing. Yes, these were all behaviors that a wild 2 year old boy might display, but most 2 year old boys do not display all of that behavior in 10 minutes. That is how I finally knew that something was wrong. So I broke, I broke harder than I had broken before. Because now I knew something was wrong. I knew how to describe what was wrong but I still didn’t know what was wrong.
Now that I knew and accepted that something was wrong I had to address it. I had to admit it, I had to gather it in my arms, rock it and tell it that everything was going to be ok. It wasn’t my son that I had to rock with comfort, it was myself. It was my idea what of my life as a mother would be. My idea of my child’s future and all of the uncertainty that life now held. What could this mean? Would it be autism? Did I even know what that was? Some children with autism were unable to ever leave their parent’s homes. Is that what my son’s life would be? I watched through the tears as my perfect child’s, perfect future slipped right through my fingers. And there was nothing I could do to keep it there. The path of motherhood was no longer clear and I was lost, but now I knew. I knew that something was wrong, and I could barely grasp what that would mean.
That was two years ago and the world is such a brighter place today. Through the help of multiple doctors, teachers and lots of hard work I now know what my child needs. We still do not have a diagnosis, and it is still best described as a behavior problem. But it is a problem that has virtually gone away for us, because early intervention is the key. So if you think that you might have a problem, try to get on the path to knowing because you will feel so much better once you do.