What a Difference a Year Makes

We took a family trip for Easter weekend to explore and do nothing Easter-related. Sound odd? Last Easter was the start of dark days for us, a horrendous weekend that left us on shaky ground for months. I was determined we would recover and find a way to mark how far we’d come.

Every parenting journey has its highs and lows. You don’t know what’s ahead—you just keep moving the boat forward. Some days, you cover miles, with the wind in your sails and the sun on your face. Some days, you drift, seemingly staying in one place. And then there are the days that you’re not sure the boat will make it. You’re in a squall that becomes the perfect storm. The sails are gone, you’re taking on water, you have no idea which way to row, and there are no life jackets. That’s where we were last spring. And Easter almost sank the boat.

Our sometimes sensitive child was prickly about everything. Nothing we did was right, and everything he did was wrong. His behavior regressed with us—in school, in general. Tantrums—the kind you see in movies—hit daily. Our sweet boy was acting out, throwing chairs at his teacher, hitting people in the classroom, screaming and crying inconsolably. At home, he would be fine one minute, then resemble something from The Exorcist. Every day, every task, became a battle. We had no clue what was going on, what triggered the behavior, or what to do the comfort him and make it stop.

Easter Sunday was the pit of the valley, the lowest of the low. I still can’t tell you what set him off, but after 45 minutes of crying, screaming, and throwing things around his room, any holiday spirit was drained from us all. Easter baskets were put away and some bunny gifts just disappeared. Me, the mom who loves holidays, and him, the child who adores traditions, just weren’t in the mood, and Daddy, well, he was just happy that the storm had subsided. We bumbled through the day, my mind churning about what was going on.

I realized that we’d seen patterns but were ignoring them. I started a mental list, then starting scribbling notes. We weren’t just seeing tantrums. We were seeing so many things: behaviors, triggers, responses. Together, they helped form a picture. After we put my son to bed, I started online research, Googling and reading until my eyes glazed over.

They say not to self-diagnose, but the web became my counselor. It helped me understand the array of behaviors and what they might mean. I researched everything, learning about the sensitivities and patterns that can be indicative of any number of issues. I learned a new language: terminology that was foreign to me, but descriptions that were all too familiar. We then decided that it was time to talk to his doctor and determine a path forward.

Flash forward through months of appointments and evaluations, mentions of ADHD, spectrum issues, sensory processing disorder, twice gifted children, and more. Answering the same questions time and time again, and watching every little thing for a sign, a clue, a key to unlock the mystery. It’s amazing what bubbles to the surface when you start to investigate a child’s behavior. I wanted an easy answer, but that’s not how this works.

There were no easy answers, no easy pills to swallow to make things normal. What is normal, anyway? Normal for one child is not normal for another, but we’re quick to judge when something seems out of place. We opened our minds to whatever might help things make sense. We were moving the boat forward, slowly charting a better course.

We changed schools. We changed our schedules. We tried different approaches to things, willing to take a chance that something might click. And we talked to a variety of professionals again and again and again. In the midst of it all, I finally felt comfortable talking to other moms, opening the door to world of information, support, guidance, and insight. And I realized that we were far from alone in navigating the dizzying world of what makes a child tick, especially when things don’t seem to click the same for that child as they do for others.

Flash forward a year. From where we are not, it’s hard to believe where we were. And so we ventured out for our holiday getaway—a trip I couldn’t begin to imagine when I was hurriedly putting away the decorations last year. We enjoyed a terrific weekend together, having adventures, making memories, and just being us.

A year later, the storms are gone. We still can’t tell you what caused it all and probably never will. Thanks to evaluations and some testing, we can tell you what it wasn’t/isn’t, but we’re still searching for answers and checking the charts to know which way to row our boat.

I’m not sure any parents ever get all of the answers they want. But we have an amazing boy who has grown by leaps and bounds. He’s truly come into his own and, like most kids, astounds his parents daily.

We still have lows, but they ebb and flow and get washed away quickly. Most days, our boat is clipping along too quickly, and I, as the mom who doesn’t want him to grow up too soon, try to drop the sails in a vain attempt to slow things down. We spend a fun weekend together to gather memories while we try to let other memories—the bad ones—fade away.

Our weekend was declared “the best Easter EVER” by our littlest traveler, and Mom and Dad happen to agree. It’s nice to have the boat on a good course again. When things are good, can’t we just drift, stretch out the journey, and enjoy these days a bit longer? There’s no telling where we’ll be this time next year, but we’ll take these highs, enjoy the wind in our sails, and treasure the journey, no matter what.

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2 Responses to What a Difference a Year Makes

  1. Laura Nivin April 7, 2016 at 1:46 pm #

    Great words. I hope you figure it out. In the meantime, you discovered that all we ever really need is acceptance for who we are regardless of a label.

    • Dawn
      Dawn April 7, 2016 at 3:39 pm #

      Thank you! I’m not sure there’s a label that fits, but I know we’re on the right path and things are moving in the right direction. He’s happier. Our family is stronger. And that’s enough for this mom!