Okay, here goes. This is going to be long, but I have to get this off my chest and I thank you now for taking the time to read this post. I have known for a long time that I am much better at expressing my thoughts and feelings through writing rather than in a face to face situation. Amy thought this blog would be the perfect place to express myself. Tuesday night I got home from a very exhausting and (we'll just say) interesting day. I checked our blog and found a wonderful surprise. Amy had written a very moving tribute about me...ME! I was feeling pretty down and it was exactly what I needed. It wasn't so much what she wrote (which was all so nice), but that she wrote it on that day to let me know she was thinking of me and was there for me.
You see, I came home from an exhausting trip to San Francisco with my son. I know you're thinking what could be the problem with going to the "big city" as Liam called it? It was actually a rare sunny day in San Fran. Liam was fascinated by all the hustle and bustle, we saw the Golden Gate Bridge, and he loved the little go-cart type vehicle that the parking ticket cops drove. Yes, we are hicks that live in a very small town, and our hick status was accentuated as I walked with my husband and son through the UC San Francisco campus carrying a toy John Deere tractor and grain planter. The fact that my son takes at least two of his JD tractors and some kind of implement along with him everywhere he goes is just one of the many reasons we were at UCSF that day.
We were taking our son to spend the day with a team of doctors and students (learning to be doctors) to determine if he has an Autism Spectrum Disorder.
What I thought and hoped would be a day of definitive answers, ended up being a day filled with more questions and left me feeling completely frustrated. Liam, I found out is "an interesting case". I felt like saying, "Duh, I didn't need a psychologist to tell me that!" I am a teacher and I have worked with children for the last five years. Although I am no expert by any stretch of the imagination, I certainly have learned enough about child development and what is considered "typical" and what is not. Not to mention the fact, that from the depths of my soul I know that Liam is different. He has always been a challenging child with a lot of "quirks" and eccentricities. I don't even know which examples to start with. Let's see...he is obsessed (I mean OBSESSED) with tractors, he has very rigid routines and rituals that MUST be done, he sounds like an adult when he speaks but acts with the maturity of a 4 year old, he is VERY literal. Forget joking or using sarcasm on this kid. It will either be completely over his head or he'll get angry. He gets along well with adults and younger children but has a horrible time in social situations with children his own age. These are just a few of the things that are "different" about my son. They only stand out more as he gets older.
On the flip side, Liam has some amazing strengths. He has an extremely good memory (darn near photographic). He is an amazing speller and reader. He can figure almost anything out just by watching. This is not always a good thing when the then two year old has figured out how to record his favorite shows and you end up with ump-teen episodes of Wow Wow Wubbzy on the DVR, or the now six year old tries to start the car with a standard transmission. I say "tries" because the only reason he wasn't successful was because I caught him in time. If you want a "think outside the box" answer, Liam is your guy. One time (I think he was 3 almost 4) I asked Liam if he wanted some juice and he said, "Nueve (the number nine in Spanish)". I was perplexed and said, "Excuse Me?". He replied again, "Nueve." He explained that "nein" in German meant "no" (thank you, Baby Einstein) and since "nine" in English is a number, he concluded (he didn't use that word exactly) that he could say "nueve" which is the number 9 to say "no" in answer to my question. Yeah...Liam and I have many of these kinds of conversations. His pre-school teacher once told me I bet you have a lot of funny stories, and I do!!
So, to make a long story even longer, the doctor's big conclusion is that Liam is essentially in a "gray area". There are some tests that she wants Liam to get in the next 4 to 6 months and she wants us to take him back to the center at UCSF if things stay the same or get more severe in the next year or two. I'm not saying it was a waste of time. Trying to figure out what the deal is with Liam and wondering if I am just the biggest F_up parent has been hard. My husband and I don't see eye to eye on what we believe Liam needs as far as discipline and things of that nature. He is from the old school of parenting, which doesn't work for most children, and clearly doesn't work on Liam. Needless to say, there has been a lot of stress on my part in trying to do the best by my child. However, the doctors gave us some ideas and suggestions to help Liam's issues. Cognitive behavioral therapy is in Liam's future as well as other strategies like using visual boards, and swim lessons (since he doesn't like group sports). Going to the doctor and hearing what she had to say did confirm my son's issues and hopefully my husband will start to come around and accept that his boy is not exactly like a typical six year old. I know it's hard and it hurts to see your child struggling. For me it was a "no brainer" when that light bulb moment finally hit me that maybe my son was not growing out of his little "quirks". I realized his "quirks" were not quirks at all, they are who he is. He wouldn't be Liam without them. I love them even if it means I have to listen to Spanish music (no kidding) every night at 7 p.m. (that's when our local station turns into the Spanish station). I just accept my son for who he is and hope that I (and his dad, although that's a whole other post) can be the parent he needs me to be.
**Okay...big sigh, that was a lot and to be honest I am nervous because this is not an easy subject to share like this. But, I am tired of feeling like I can't or shouldn't talk about this. I am tired of feeling like I am a bad parent that has royally screwed up her kid. I know we all feel like that at some point in our careers as mothers, however, I sometimes feel that way on a daily basis. I am now hopeful that I can get past and let go of all the negative feelings. I am shifting my focus and energy into making positive changes. I found a quote by Ghandi that I like, "You must be the change you wish to see." That summed it up for me. I know I can't bury my head in the sand, and pretend everything is all right or whine about what I want to be right in my life. I have to make a plan and put it in action in order to get the things I want, which include doing the best for Liam and all my children.
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