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Dim the Lights

Fiddledaddy arrived back home late Monday night.  Armed with gifts.  When we piled into the van to whisk him away from the airport, he produced a nerf football for Emme, Mermaid Squinkies for Cailey (right up there with Silly Bands, and I don’t get the draw of those either), and Jensen scored some Mario figurines.  And thank you to everyone who suggested that Toys-R-Us is the place to do our Mario shopping from now on.

Jensen looked up with shining eyes as he ripped open his new set of guys, and asked, “But what did Mommy get?” Mommy replied, “Daddy.”

I have the girls enrolled in Music Camp this week (the divide and conquer method of parenting that I adhere to) so I decided to set up a little date with my boy so that Fiddledaddy could get caught up on work.  Since free is good, I opted to take him to see the free showing of Marmaduke at our local stadium seating theater.  The plan was to meet my good friend, the mother of Jensen’s betrothed, E, and her identical twin sister, K.  As a side note, I am only just now able to tell E and K apart.  Jensen has absolutely no idea which one is which, and generally he simply pours his affection out onto the closest twin.  If she rebuffs him, he has the wrong sister.  He now relies on me to tell him who is who.

So in summary, this was kind of like his first date.  In a theatre.  But with an entourage.

We arrived early to procure good seating way up high.  E and her family had not arrived, so we staked out comfy chairs for all of us.  I had purchased a much needed blended coffee drink, and placed it in the cup holder attached to my plush seat.  I settled back, ready to enjoy an hour and a half of SITTING.  IN AIR CONDITIONING. SLOWLY SIPPING MY COFFEE DRINK.  It shouldn’t surprise you that I really could care less what movie was scheduled.

The theater was beginning to fill.  Jensen leaned over to me and said in a stage whisper, “It’s time, mom.”

Translated, this meant that we had 20 minutes to kill before the show began, and I brought his Mario DS game in my purse to that he could keep himself occupied.  He had been looking forward to this more than the movie.

Maybe even more than the thought of sitting in the dark with E by his side.

He’s only a mortal boy, y’all.

I took a sip from my drink and began to hoist my foot up onto the empty seat in front of me, enjoying ALL THE PEACE.  When I heard a startling gasp coming from my right side, followed by a loud and frantic,  “OH NO, THE CARTRIDGE IS NOT IN MY DS!”  I had completely forgotten that his sister had borrowed it.

Thinking quickly, and trying to avert disaster, I offered him a sip from my caffeinated coffee drink.  Which is generally forbidden contraband for a small boy with anxiety issues.  Not even the sight of the frothy whipped topping could distract him from his very obvious dismay.

All eyes in the front of the theater we’re beginning to turn in our general direction.  I calmly told him that E would soon be there, and they could play together, watch the movie together, and then when we got home, I would let him have 30 whole minutes on his DS.

Nothing doing.  He was in full melt down.  And drawing an audience.

Let me stop to say a couple of things.  Before I had children, I would have been appalled at what I was witnessing, and would have passed much judgment.  And a few sneering glances.

This is why I think that God chose to bless me with a boy like Jensen.

I evidently needed to be humbled.  And nearly every day of the 6 years that he’s been on this earth, I experience The Humble.

Which may be the driving force behind this little blog.

From the time he was very small, Jensen has dealt with sensory issues.  On top of his Atopic Dermatitis. Like that wasn’t enough. If we were in a confined space, such as, say, a grocery store, he would scream at the top of his little lungs, from the time we entered, until we safely passed through the automatic doors.

I became very adept at speed shopping.

It has only been this year that I’ve attempted the movie theatre.  But the issue that we’re dealing with now is that he cannot handle when things change.  If he has set in his mind that something is going to happen, and something goes awry, he melts down.  And not only does the boy speak in ALL CAPS, he yells in ALL CAPS WITH A VERY LARGE FONT SIZE.

It looks horribly like a temper tantrum from a spoiled little boy.

But honestly, that isn’t the issue.  Pinky swear.  I’d own up to it, believe me.

We’re trying to work on preemptive scenarios, so that we can talk him through things BEFORE they happen, so he’s not caught off guard.

This morning at the theater, I simply gathered up my son, my coffee drink, an empty DS game, and what was left of my pride, and exited as quickly as I could.  Calling my friend and telling her that Jensen was standing E up.

In the midst of his fit, Jensen did ask me if he could still play the DS when he got home.  I told him no.  Whenever he loses his self control, there are consequences.  Which is SO HARD, since I know that giving in would bring momentary peace.

But I don’t cave.  But sometimes I think about it.  So things got much worse before they got better.  And better was punctuated with a pitifully tearful apology.  Which just rips my heart out.  Every. Single. Time.

And no, we haven’t had him evaluated for this issue.  But likely we should.  I even hesitate to google it, for fear of what conclusion I’ll jump to.

My rose colored glasses, they are pretty.

And to all those moms that I may or may not have passed judgment on in my time before children, I offer my most sincerest apology.  When I see you now out in public dealing with all that you’re dealing with, I want to run up and hug you.

But since that would likely get me decked, I’ll offer you a great big cyber hug.  Hang in there.  You’re not alone.

30 Responses to Dim the Lights

  • DeeDee, I too has those all to judgemental stares at other parents that could not “keep their children under control” and I too was dealt a humbling child with melt downs that could bring a super Target to a stand still. I must have been feeling a little to big for my britches (seeing has how he lived and is not turning 13 in a few weeks) and the Lord blessed me with another slice of humble pie three years ago with the birth of our surprise child. I sure hope the next 10 years go quickly and he has a favorable outcome like his brother. We can pray for each other.

  • Asperger’s? Maybe? I’ve thought so before when you talk of Jenson… I hope you don’t want to deck me because I am stating this.

    I have a kid with AS… so I am only going by my experience.

    Good job at following thru. So many parents cave.

  • I think Jensen makes up for like 5 boys all crammed into 1. I remember when my boys were little and would pull stuff, I would freak out, call my mom who said gosh you and your brother never did that. Only to have same conversation with my MIL who said my Hubby did that like ALL THE TIME when he was a kid. Needless to say when Hubs got home, he got smacked upside the head for making me suffer so.

    Remember: revenge will be yours, the boy just doesn’t know it yet. (insert evil laughter) 😉

  • DeeDee, you handled the situation beautifully. My middle son (aka Capt Destructo) is a force to be reckoned with when things don’t go his way. I have five brothers, each with a different personality though and luckily, my challenging child is exactly like one of them. So, often, he will look at me a certain way or challenge something and I will flash back to childhood and recall seeing this before.

    I remind myself daily (sometimes hourly) that each day is a fresh start and sometimes we start the day more than once. I’ve been incredibly blessed with a best friend that can relate to my struggles with him. I don’t know anyone else in my immediate circles that has a child anywhere near as challenging. I parent him so actively in comparison to the way I parent his siblings. It is impossibly to describe to others, unless they too have a challenging child.

    All this rambling is just to say that you are an awesome mama. Here is my two cents: Try not to stress what possible diagnosis there might be. Do not Google or even talk to a doctor unless you truly feel that there is a medical solution to something you are dealing with at the moment. The best advice I was ever given was to wait and see. There have been many times I wondered if going to a doctor might help. There has not been one time when in hindsight I wished I had gone.

    For now, my path is in front of me and thankfully, I only need to follow it a single day at a time. Often, I only look to get through the next 20 minutes. You can do this. The tears and the emotions are a roller coaster ride some days, but you will get through it and so will he.

    • Deedee and barefeet,
      I have a challenging one, too! What a great way of putting it! My sister (best friend) and I were having a conversation about him just a little while ago.
      He has sensory issues (like shirt tags and belts, etc.) and a migrating tic that are his obvious issues. But otherwise, you wouldn’t know he was different than most other eleven year olds. The reason is that I have homeschooled him always. He hasn’t had to be compared with other kids, except at church, and all his teachers tell me how exceptional he is.
      He doesn’t understand boundaries well, and when he sits beside me, he’s almost in my lap. every. time.
      When he’s playing with a grown up who doesn’t understand him, the play can escalate into play fighting, then into actual hitting, as he slips into anger. He has been known to be kind of a bully, because he never stops. He doesn’t get when people are done.
      I have recently considered having him evaluated professionally, because I don’t want my current wait-and-see attitude to hinder him from being the best Caleb he can be, but I like your approach. It has kept him from thinking something is wrong with him thus far. And that is good. He is well loved, and that is better. He loves well, which is fabulous, and he is learning to be a man of God, which is best.

  • My eighteen year old and I were at the Publix, also known as my happy place, a few weeks ago, when a little boy about five or six blew a gasket. This child, he passed go without collecting $200.00; off the charts. My son, an only child, rolled his eyes and said, “Really?” As we stood in line next to the distraught child and his mortified mother, I averted my eyes after mouthing to the mother, “Been there, done that. It’s okay, really…” My child continued to question her parenting skills and the boys behavior under his breath. When he looked to me, begging me, with his big, beautiful, brown eyes, to join him in the criticism and judgement I simply wagged my finger in his face and said, “DON’T! There isn’t a mother in the world who hasn’t had a child behave like that at one point or another INCLUDING YOURS.” The boy was shocked at my candor and the calling of his bluff and decided to change the subject to something much less controversial; did I know that chips were BOGO this week? Did I buy any?

    We need to be kind to each other. If we are honest, we have to admit that we’ve all been there. Kids come in different sizes and shapes, but they are all the same; they are all naughty and they are all nice. And … they all need love, discipline, and boundaries.

    And us mama’s, we need some love too. Sending you some, Dee-Dee.

  • I like how you limit his Nintendo and TV and all that because it would be so easy just to let him rely on these things all the time .
    I think you are doing the very best that you can and one day he will start to use the logical outlooks that you and your husband present him with in his own self talk.
    My nephew is a similar sort of boy(he is 10) and I have heard him reasoning with people in the same way he was reasoned with by his parents and sisters.

  • You did the perfect thing! Good for you. I never had a son like yours but I did have 2 sick children who were in the hospital – a lot – like we were on a first name basis with all the staff. I know the look as we went shopping with sick small kids and would hear the others talking to there families about “US”. Hang in there, it does get better. Really it does.

  • DeeDee, My son Nick has Sensory Integration Dysfunction, so I understand completely. They get overwhelmed by things and can’t process a “typical” response. It gets easier as they get older….Nick is now almost 8 and will leave a situation (often crying) and go somewhere quiet to re group.
    I had to learn that I couldn’t fix his tantrums, or change his issues, we just had to try to see them coming and do what we could to diffuse the stimulation around him! You’re doing a great job! Don’t let any one tell you otherwise!!

  • Henson sounds just like my son Alex, who has recently been diagnosed with ADHD, and also has two genetic conditions called Kallmans syndrome and x-linked icthyosis. You sound like you are doing a great job! He seems to understand that when he loses control he is wrong, which is a major step in the right direction. I have also been blessed with a iron-willed daughter who I am told is exactly like me. So I feel your pain and frustration. Good luck and keep up the good work.

  • Sorry about misspelling Jenson’s name. Gotta love autocorrect!

  • I can add my two cents because my boy is much like Jensen in the overreaction to things. Every so often I look at him and think, well, it’s better than it was last year. And it really is. He’s also always been the kind of kid that didn’t take sudden, unexpected change well. So that often produced a meltdown. We dealt with it the same way you are, by trying to prepare all of us for any situation and talking him through it.
    He’s only a few years older than Jensen, but he’s so much better now. I see the light at the end of the tunnel, but still worry all the time because with his personality of diving into things, he still can’t see consequences and I can just picture all manner of horrendous things going on when he’s a teen……(won’t even continue that thought!)
    Wanted to also say that another mother suggested mine had Aspergers. Maybe he does, maybe he doesn’t. If he does, it’s apparently such a mild case that there is no point in working all of us up for the maybe. My attitude is mostly that he’s like so many other little boys out there. He’s still learning about himself and his response to things and he still has a lot of growing up to do.
    One other thing: he’s my more affectionate child. He loves his mama like no one else and I can’t get enough of the love he gives me. It’s the times that he’s showing me the love that I think about, and dread, the day that he’ll be moving on with a life of his own. So already at those times I tend to play down the tough times he’s given me so far and focus on the good. Please continue to do that with Jensen. You do a great job with follow through and dealing with him. Don’t change a thing!!!!

  • DeeDee, thank you for sharing this. I know how hard it is to not reward the poor behavior when all you want is a moment of peace and quiet!

  • Jensen is a 6 year old, strong willed, little guy destined for GREAT things!!!! He does everything in CAPS which will continue to develop into a huuuuge asset!!! You guys are doing an AWESOMELY FANTASTIC job parenting and your children are incredibly blessed to have you!!!
    The only Rx : Momma needs to get “off time” with her girlfriends =) to refuel! <3

  • You are an awesome Momma. You handle things just right- with desperate prayer! What other way is there?!? Also, if you need an OT that at one time was an expert with sensory issues, I know one. Although now that she has her own kids, she claims she knows nothing. And prayers desperately.

  • Y’all. You’re making me weep. This is why I blog. I am a part of such an amazing and supportive community. Both in real life and in the blogosphere. Thank you!

  • My husband has Asperger’s but he is also a savant, he loves math/science and has his PhD. We talk about his childhood sometimes and some of the things were that he walked on his toes, has to eat things in a certain order, could not deal with change very well (and still can’t), had to have his back to a wall, got upset when he was doing something and got interrupted and had to change gears (even thought), among a few other things. He is now a very well adjusted, wonderful husband and daddy.

    He still has episodes sometimes where he gets a little overwhelmed from sensory stimulation. I take precautions, down to purchasing him a certain kind of sheet and blanket.

    My husband just found out 3 years ago that he has Asperger’s. Things made a lot of sense to him when he read up on it and went to his physician. He found some comfort in it.

    Best of luck to you 🙂 I’m glad Fiddledaddy is back home so you can get some much needed relief.

  • I don’t have kids. Blessing either way sometimes. I enjoy reading your blog and how much you care about your family. You are a great mom. Fiddledaddy hit the jackpot getting you! Tell him I said so!

    You took the hard route. If you had taken the easy one, it would have multiplied the issues and you knew that. I can only hope that I would have been as good a parent as you are.

    Years ago I saw a kid really melting down and the parent made a comment that the kid was autistic. I realized then that we don’t know everything. When I see kids acting out and connect with the parent’s eyes, I mouth “Hang in there!” I don’t know their situation. I sometimes will tell the parents to keep up the good work when I see them standing firm against the candy display, or when I’ve seen them correct their children and they are expecting criticism.

    And when I come across good behavior, I thank/compliment the kid and tell them to thank their parent for raising them well. When I can, I find the parent and compliment the kid to them in front of the kid.

    We all need positive reinforcement. Especially you parents! God bless you and keep up the good work.

    Something that’s my own personal issue is make sure all of your kids’ eyes are checked. Mine didn’t get checked until 9th grade and things would have been so much better if my poor eyesight had been detected much, much earlier.

    • Good for you Joanie! I do the same thing when I can too. Everyone wants to complain when someone’s child is misbehaving but there is not near enough people complimenting parents and kids when they are being good. When I used to work as a waitress I would make it a point to stop by tables where the kids were well behaved and tell them and their parents. 🙂

  • Bless you…been there, done that. My 16 year old stepdaughter didn’t quite make the Asperger’s diagnosis but were told we should treat it as if she did have it(??). Also dx’d with ADHD & OCD at 6.
    I have a 7 year old son who is very spirited and, as his 1st grade teacher referred to kids like him, “driven” (LOVE that teacher and wish she taught him every year – my son loved her, too). I have read and learned a lot.
    I also was one of those single with no kids people who thought for sure my kid would NEVER act like that kid over there at the store laying on the floor thrashing around or throwing a fit that surely could be heard down the street.
    Although mine haven’t been so much the screaming/crying ones in the store (oh, but it has happened), they have been the very animated, zipping here and there & talking LOUD kids you see…or my son, who loves making sounds and noises..sometimes I can tune it out, other times it’s just time to leave. We chose to put him on ADHD meds about a month ago and it has made a huge difference. I feared he would become zombie-ish like my stepaughter, who takes the same meds. But, he hasn’t. (She has a myriad of other issues, too, including a rotten mother who has played psychological games with her and even beat her up a couple of times) He is still his silly, goofy, fun-loving sweet self…just a little more chilled out. The biggest difference we’ve noticed is he doesn’t make the “noises” all the time anymore.

    Sounds to me like God knew what He was doing when He gave you Jensen. You’re the best! 🙂

  • ‘As the Mom of a boy with Sensory Processing Disorder I can attest to the fact that it is hard sometimes. Having a child with an invisible disorder like that (one you cannot see physically) people do tend to just judge and assume “oh what a spoiled brat” so it is frustrating. But either way I just remind myself that their kids are not perfect either. WTG for sticking to your rules and following through. I personally think that is the hardest part of Motherhood.

  • DeeDee, I tip my hat to you! I too must apologize for ever passing judgement on anyone for their parenting skills. Being a teacher, it’s sometimes REALLY hard though, when I see how my students behave for ME, then how they act the second their parents pick them up.
    I try to remember that everyone has a back-story. Something that they are working through, and most of the time it helps me be more gracious. Honestly, those meltdowns I see from other people’s kids don’t bother me. As long as I’m personally not responisible for the child, I’m good.
    This week at our home we’re dealing with a massive dose of hormones. 3 daughters is SUCH a pleasure. There are times when I think it would be best if I just chucked a Hershey bar in their room and ran like the chicken I am, instead of talking to them.
    Praying we ALL make it through whatever season we’re in!

  • I think like Amanda. But I will say that even though I think I have a father and at least one son with Aspergers, I think it is very high functioning, and not at all “classic” in it’s presentation. Which presents a challenge in the evaluation process, to say the least! ~sigh~ when I read your stories I can completely understand and commiserate when the melting begins, or the all caps start flying. You are not alone, friend. Not at all!

  • Anyone who has kids has lived through a similar situation. Anyone who denies it is lying. You did great! It is very hard, I know. I speak from experience. But I will say, now that mine are older, the rewards are there. It is so much easier in the short term to give in just to stop the behavior, but in the long run it does not help the child. You are teaching him how to control himself and that actions have consequences! Hang in there, it gets better!

  • Kudos to you for sticking to your guns and walking out of the movie theater! It is so hard and I know that because I have had to do it many times and in many places with a wailing, screaming child (often at church). My son has some “interesting” personality traits and from 18 months through about age 6 he had a tremendously difficult time dealing with any kind of unexpected change or having to transition from from one place or activity to another. I read all the books and followed all the rules and still every time something changed and or we had to leave an event he would howl and scream like I was taking him home to throw him in the dungeon. (He taught his little sister how to do it, too. That was fun.) Please remember that boys often don’t mature emotionally as fast as girls do and that this may get better over time. Having friends with loud, rambunctious boys my son’s age helped a lot. Another mother who had four boys suggested that I look up behaviors related to young children who are on the gifted and talented spectrum and bingo-I saw my son. (Please note: ALL of God’s children are given gifts by God Almighty himself. My son’s gifts just happen to show up on standardized tests.) His behaviors closely mirrored Asperger’s Syndrome but often that is intertwined with kids on the gifted and talented spectrum. What I found out through trial and error was beautifully laid out on that web site: these kids have “very hungry brains” and as long as you keep their heads happy-the rest of them does better too. The site said there was little I could do but stick to my guns and wait for him to mature. By age 6 the symptoms lessened and as a nine year old he is much more self-aware of his moods and triggers. His tantrums used to be a daily occurence, then weekly and now he has a blowout about once a month. (The last one was this past Sunday, at church, of course.)

    I wish I could send you a cyber hug as you endure this phase. I’m certainly not able to venture a guess as to the causes or motivations for your wonderful son’s behavior but please know this: his is immeasurably lucky to have you and Fiddledaddy as parents. I work part-time for a social service agency that specializes in the mential health and social needs of youth and families and I can tell you that Jensen is so incredibly blessed to live in a stable, functional, loving home with appropriate boundaries and two parents who love him desperately and are willing and able to figure out how to make this situation better. The kid is gonna get through this and so will you. I’ll bet you’re doing a lot better than you think you are!

    Blessings (and endurance!) to you,


  • Hi, Dee Dee

    I feel for you, sister. I have a friend who has a son with Aspergers and this sounds exactly like that. I’ve been with her when “N” has a melt down, and my heart ached for her like it does for you. People who don’t know, just don’t understand. I had “N” in one of my classes at our homeschool co-op, and believe me I learned a lot. I have to say that the co-op has helped him tremendously, and they are now at the point he is in Boy Scouts. This is progress. I’m praying for you, and I encourage you to check into it. I’d be happy to put you in contact with my friend if you have any questions, or would like any advice. What you’re doing so far sounds like things she does. 🙂 God bless you, my friend.

  • I am positive my son had sensory processing issues, but he is now 22 and way back when he was little no one thought of it.
    There were a lot of comments about Aspbergers. I have some experience and I am not a diagnostician, but it does not sound like he has it. But, if there are sensory processing issues I would encourage you to think about getting an evaluation. Only because a good Occupational Therapist can work with it as well as give you things to do at home that can prevent some of the sensory overload (or underload in some kids) meltdowns–making for a much happier child and parents. I have seen amazing things happen. I had a preschool student in my program who had some very challenging behaviors–a summer of therapy and a mother who learned to apply deep pressure a few times a day brought a calm and ready to learn and play child in the Fall. I have kids who, when they are beginning to get in that overload space, we have them push against a wall–we tell them to try and move it. Works wonders.
    Back to my 22 yr old–still has plenty of issues, but can handle transitions, the unexpected, and disappointments much better now. It took time and hard work (and for him and us, a lot of therapy) but it is so worth it.

    • I forgot to say what I really wanted to say–it is wonderful that you are really paying attention to what your child needs. We had to learn to give up on the idea of how we thought we would raise kids and go with raising them the way they needed to be raised.

  • I decided deliberately not to have my son evaluated for his issues. Now that he is almost twelve, things are MUCH, MUCH better. I have experimented with nutritional supplements, and found a combo that helps him stay more or less sane most of the time. I think that that by helping Jensen work through his issues instead of medicating them, you are helping him so much. He has to live in that body for the rest of his life–might as well learn how to deal with it.

  • I heard Dianne Craft speak at a homeschool convention and what she said really resonated with me regarding my own son’s issues. You might find her Biology of Behavior cd helpful. http://www.diannecraft.org.

    Hang in there!