learning to navigate the world, j-bear style

Tag: growth

A Complicated Dance

This year, particularly the past several months, have been a complicated dance for J. He has taken steps backward that have at times overwhelmed us, then taken steps forward that are major victories what feels like moments later.

The pattern has been there his whole life. It is currently amplified by loss and recovery from said loss, but it is the existing pattern that is how J grows. The gains make that clear, but the steps backward are sometimes quite scary to witness.

When J was 2, his main method of play was not play as most would recognize it in children. He lined up his toys across the room, sometimes attempting to do so across the entire apartment. There were trains, cars, whatever was around just got lined up. You did not mess with the lines. Lines were love, lines were good… We left them alone, and we let him find his peace and order in them. It took him a lot of time, encouragement and work to learn that letting lines go was okay. He could return to them whenever he needed their comfort, but they did not have to exist all the time. He built his confidence and his skills and slowly, lines were no longer a major part of our lives.

The lines have returned. They creep in slowly, created with boxes or trains with an odd other toy or two thrown in. There is no moving these lines without his involvement. The fearful rigidity is not there but the anxiety is still palpable. Now, they involve elaborate scenes invented in his own mine integrating beloved cartoons and songs, but the main purpose is the same: comfort and predictability.

The first time I noticed their return I have to admit I was sad. It is easy to take something that seems a deeper sign of regression as bad news. The longer I watch and listen, allowing him to show me what he is doing the more things are falling into place. I have to understand the framework for the behavior. This isn’t a loss of hard-fought skills but a return to a safe place, when life was different and there was no heartache. This is like him bringing out Miss Kitty or any other stuffie… it is just behavior rather than items.

He uses these behaviors as a safe place; a sanctuary in which he can recover his peace. When that peace is felt, he is able to reach out and work on new skills, new adventures and new strengths. He has learned to read not one but two words, “go” and “stop”. When at home, he is stringing more and more words together with increasing confidence. We are able to sometimes even work on simple abstracts like what we feel occasionally which is huge for a little boy who is very, very concrete in his thinking.

It has always been firmly believed by all of us that he knows more than he imparts easily to most people. This all reinforces this belief. The full comprehension of what has happened may not be there, but he understands enough of how he feels about it to cope. He understands that this half of the year has been a lot of change and some of it quite upsetting and scary, yet he sought out a way to cope and created his own calm. It is not always a lasting peace and we have a lot still to work on to help him make it last, but it is a start.

He, with the help of the world that surrounds him, is laying a strong foundation on which to build up from in the year(s) to come. He is taking that which was taught to him in his earliest days and applying it. It’s a wonder to behold and I feel very, very lucky to be a part of his winding, crazy adventure as it unfolds. Yes, our hearts were sorely and unfairly broken but most of all his sweet, determined spirit remains intact.

I am so, so proud of my boy.

My Sunbeam

May God grant you always a sunbeam to warm you  ~ Irish blessing

This post should be easy to write and yet is not. There is so much emotion that comes with discussing the past year of my son’s life. I do not know where to start, so why don’t we go back to the beginning. Birthdays are great for that.

J stormed into the world at 4:58pm after I had labored for days then struggled against what I know now to have been PTSD-related panic. My first memory of him is of him laying against my chest, clinging to my finger with his tiny fist as the world kind of went crazy around us. I promised him then and there we had one another and everything would be alright, no matter what.

It feels like we’ve been holding hands ever since.

When your child is born it’s like a blind date: You might know the gender, maybe even have a few hints about the person you’re about to meet but most is left to chance and fate. I knew I’d likely be having a little boy, and that he was going to be a chunky monkey but that was about it. The little boy I got didn’t look anything like any baby I might have ever imagined, but he was exactly who I was supposed to meet. Dark hair, grey eyes, chubby cheeks and a cheeky demeanor… He was perfect. He is perfect.

This past year I have watched J graduate from the care of Early Intervention, leaving the loving guidance of Virginia, Nicole, Jess, Catherine, Loretta, Dana and Nicole HB to move on to preschool. He took those first steps warily, fresh off having his tonsils and adenoids removed, but once he gained momentum he never looked back. He had everyone who loved him to guide him plus a whole new group of people who came to love him too. His therapists at Kioko remained a reassuring constant to us too, something that was instrumental to making this transition possible.

He broke his arm in late July and we learned a lot of good lessons, like AquaCasts are amazing and mama was wise to make sure Santa brought a trampoline to mitigate a little boy’s need for jumping and falling.

When school started in September I was nervous. The schedule is rigorous for him. 4 days of full day school, 1 half day of school, plus two private therapy sessions… When you’re a little mite, that’s a big schedule. He adapted and not only adapted but thrived under the guidance of amazing classroom staff. The foothold that his EI team had gained in terms of language allowed J to blow past his stated goals for the year in mere months! He uses speech simply but effectively. He follows simple instructions. He understands emotions. He identifies some needs and wants. He recognizes needs and wants in his peers and happily plays with other children.

That last phrase is huge. J had only fleeting interest in peers a year ago. Now, at the end of the day, he says bye to all his friends in class and they say bye to him. I get teary eyed every time it happens because there is little more beautiful to me. He has friends, and these little kids are amazing. I have watched them all grow so much this year and I am dopey but I am as proud of them as I am of J.

People pat me on the back and say “you did this”… but I didn’t. I drive him around. I make sure he gets where he needs to be and has the tools he needs. I help him, yes, but all this accomplishment is thanks to the support of remarkable professionals and his own determined will.

If the year between his third and fourth birthdays has been huge then the year between this birthday and the next is going to be borderline overwhelming. The strides he has made now will only continue, and hopefully expand further, as his dog comes home. It is you, internet, along with all our friends and family, that we have to thank for that blessing. You’ve helped to change his life even more, and all for the better.

He walks under the warmth of a sunbeam every day of his life, this boy. He has some tremendous guardian angels and tremendous family here around him. I am so amazed that he is my son and grateful every day for the blessing he is even when I am covered in snot and half deaf from a bad day. I am grateful for him exactly as he is and giddy to see exactly who he will become. He was born my sunshine boy with the storm cloud eyes and he will always be that boy, deep down inside, even when he’s 6’3 and able to bench press me.

babyfluffs

aww, baby fluffyhair

Happy birthday, baby boy.

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