Thank you all for your comments in my previous post. I spent the weekend carefully reading them, holding each sentence close and letting the words wrap themselves around me like a protective cocoon. I appreciate your concern, your honesty, your stories. Your words were outstretched arms helping me to pull myself out of that dark hole of inadequacy, embarrassment and shame.
As a teenager, I would have been one of those people staring in disgust at a screaming child and a parent who couldn’t shut that kid up right away. Can’t be that hard, I’d think to myself. Oh, how fate can put you on the other side of the situation and shame you into realizing your prior mistakes. Never – never - would I now think of questioning a parent who was trying to calm an out-of-control child. As long as they’re not beating the child, my only thoughts are of sympathy for both parent and child.
When I was pregnant with Cordy, I remember wishing for a child who was intelligent and healthy. Very little else mattered to me at the time. I told Aaron that I hoped she was of normal or above average intelligence, because otherwise I wouldn’t know how to handle her. My reasoning was that I was a smart child – placed in gifted ed programs, always ahead of the rest of the class – and I knew how to deal with it. A child who was “slow” or “special needs” was something I couldn’t identify with, and therefore would struggle to understand. Seems shallow and petty, I know. I’m embarrassed just writing it out.
The funny thing is that Cordy is intelligent. She’s so smart – I got what I asked for. But her emotions, her reactions, and it seems life itself are so intense that she can’t cope. This age is a double-edged sword: toddlers have no mental filters, so their thoughts are right at the surface and they are open books. You can see exactly what is going on in that little head. But they also have a lot of emotions with little understanding of those feelings, so the briefest flash of anger or sadness or confusion can erupt into a meltdown as they try to understand what’s going on.
Most toddlers learn to cope with the world around them, labeling and harnessing those emotions as they grow into preschoolers. Cordy has a lot of trouble with this. The smallest obstacles end in fits that last beyond 15 minutes, with her often ending up unable to remember why she was upset. But the tantrum feeds into itself so she can’t stop.
So I got the smart child I wanted, but she’s an emotional H-bomb. And I don’t know how to handle her. I guess this is what happens when you aren’t specific in what you ask the universe for, right? (note: totally joking here)
Her final evaluation is September 5, but that week and a half seems so far away. I want some professional with a clipboard and letters after her name to tell me exactly what the problem is and how to fix it. Because until that point, I’m still left to wonder if she’s a normal kid and I’m just a bad parent. Were I in another situation like Friday, I can’t even shout at the onlookers, “What’s your problem? She has [insert official diagnosis here]! Do you know how to handle it?” The best I can do for now would be, “What are you looking at? She may or may not have sensory integration difficulties, or maybe just problems with transitions, but we can’t really be sure…” and that simply isn’t a very strong position.
Thank you again for holding my hand through this. I’ve never felt more alone in my life than when I was in that parking lot, and I haven’t felt as much concern and comfort as I do now. You are my virtual playgroup, and I appreciate your advice and support. I can only hope those other parents there that day will someday be placed in a situation where they can understand what I was going through, and will then be more compassionate towards other parents they see. Like so many of you said, it takes just one major tantrum in public to know how it feels – so many of us now understand and would never judge a parent harshly when coming across a similar scene.
And finally, because I can’t have two completely dour posts in a row, I have to add this: today Miranda is three months old. No longer colicky, her personality is emerging and we’re enjoying the antics of our little diva who can’t stand to be alone for even a moment. Not one second. But the smile she flashes when you hold her is totally worth it.